GAP ADDS MARKETING MUSCLE TO BANANA REPUBLIC CHAIN: PRINT, OUTDOOR ADS, NEW CATALOG SUPPORT EFFORT TO REBRAND ITS UPSCALE STORES

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Banana Republic, long neglected on the marketing front by parent the Gap, this fall breaks its first such major push with new print and outdoor ads, the relaunch of its catalog and possibly its first TV work.

The marketing effort, the centerpiece of a Banana Republic rebranding campaign, centers on luxurious fabrics, starting with suede, which will be featured in ads in September issues of magazines.

Photographs will feature clothing made of suede or other products with suede details, such as pillows. Other fabrics will be featured in coming seasons, including cashmere for the holidays.

The print ads feature everyday people, such as a schoolteacher, in addition to fashion models. They will appear in 10 magazines, including GQ and Vanity Fair. An extensive outdoor effort is planned in Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco and Washington.

TV advertising is also being considered, possibly first in test markets, a spokeswoman said. All ads are being handled in-house.

EARLIER SPENDING SMALL

Spending on the campaign was undisclosed. Banana Republic spent just under $5 million in media advertising in 1997, up 36% from 1996, according to Competitive Media Reporting. CMR recorded no measured media advertising for the chain in this year's first quarter.

Returning to its roots, Banana Republic will mail some 800,000 copies of its new catalog Sept. 4; its original catalog was discontinued in 1989.

Since acquiring the chain in 1983, the Gap has transformed it from one centered on a safari theme to an upscale apparel and home furnishings store for upscale baby boomers.

DISTINGUISH PROPERTIES

"What they are really trying to do is establish a direct distinction between the Gap and Banana Republic," said Kurt Barnard, president, Barnard's Retail Trend Report. "Banana Republic . . . has really not been marketed particularly well. . . . By injecting [the luxury concept, it is] making a distinction worth the added price."

The Gap last year had sales of $6.5 billion, up 23% from 1996. Banana Republic's share of sales went from $895 million in 1996 to $1.1 billion in 1997, according to CIBC Oppenheimer Corp. Banana Republic has 262 stores in North America.

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