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No Slacks Till Brooklyn

Banana Republic Rolls Out Ambitious, City-Themed Music Campaign

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- With its new spring line, Banana Republic is looking to assert its urban credentials. But don't expect to see Kanye West and Lil Wayne modeling loose-fitting khakis. The Gap Inc. brand is projecting metropolitan diversity with a mix of rock, pop-folk, classical and jazz musicians set against Manhattan and Brooklyn backdrops.

OK Go in new Banana Repbulic campaign
OK Go in new Banana Repbulic campaign

OK Go and eight other musicians will be featured in Banana Republic's 'City Stories' campaign.

For this spring's "City Stories" campaign, which will debut in stores Feb. 18 and in March issues of print publications, Banana Republic has recruited nine artists, from unknowns to Grammy award-winners to model clothes and contribute a host of multimedia content, including unreleased material, original songs and videos. Sara Bareilles, Liz Phair, OK Go, Tommy Torres, David Snchez, Ayo, Esperanza Spalding, David Garrett and Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional will all be featured across print, outdoor, direct mail and a microsite where consumers can watch unplugged performances and download free music.

"We definitely leveraged our brand filters and thought about them, knowing who our customers are and what they're thinking as men and women across the country and on a global basis," Peter DeLuca, chief marketing officer, said. "What we tried to do is identify artists that appealed to [our customers] and the stories that would emotionally connect the artists back to the city."

For many, the main draw will be two gift-with-purchase compilation albums by the nine artists, set to launch three months apart. Customers who buy something between Feb. 17-26 will receive an iTunes coupon for the first, a nine-song compilation of unreleased tracks and singles. The second, available with purchase May 12-26, will rely heavily on original content with nine more songs, most of which were written specifically for the campaign and curated with city themes in mind. Sara Bareilles and Chris Carraba both contributed urban-themed tracks that were unreleased but not created specifically for the campaign.

It's a big splash for recently low-key Banana Republic, but North American year-over-year sales in January were down 22%, compared to a 5% gain last year, and fourth-quarter 2008 results weren't much better. Like many marketers at the moment, the outfitter seems to be tapping musicians for an emotional uplift.

New York-based Starworks helped pick out the musicians, and music-branding shop Rock River Music in San Francisco has been curating and producing the songs. Rock River President Jeff Daniel, who estimated the total number of tracks in the campaign at around 50, said the artists were given some guidance on the concept for the original tracks, and all of them "got it right away."

"Musicians are very well-suited to speak about this because they're used to touring, and they've experienced more cities than most of us would," Mr. Daniel said. "The fashions, lifestyles and the people of these cities certainly inspire their art and their music."

Mr. Daniel and his company have been working with Gap brands since 1995, but he said he's never worked on a project of this scope with any of them before. "This is the first really integrated campaign for Banana," Mr. Daniel said. "This one is really pushing it even further than Gap has done. It really crosses into a number of different places."

This sort of musical campaign isn't so unusual for Gap, which most recently created a series of star-studded Christmas tunes for a holiday push last November. But Mr. DeLuca says he's not borrowing from his sibling's wardrobe. "We've looked to Gap to understand what they've done, but we've tried to approach from our own filters and what our brand represents," he said.

Beyond music, Banana Republic has never made such an extensive digital effort before. Beginning Friday, its microsite, bananarepublic.com/citystories, will host a swath of multimedia content, most of it designed to be shareable. Users can embed the videos, send them to their friends and post them on their Facebook profiles. There will also be video podcasts on iTunes, and much of the content will also appear on Red, Virgin America's in-flight entertainment system, making Banana Republic the first marketer to tap into the platform with a branded channel.

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For more on music-branding, visit Ad Age's blog, Songs for Soap.
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