Banana Republic – the brand I hate to love

I’ve been a Gap, Inc. girl for as long as I can remember. As an adult, I quickly found my home with @BananaRepublic. But while I love Banana Republic, I almost hate them at the same time.

Before I go into why I have this love-hate relationship, I first want to say that I think @Marissa_Webb_ has done a great job changing things up at the brand. I’m looking forward to the new lines and stopping by the stores more often since she took over; kudos.

Ok back to business. I’m a Banana Republic Luxe card holder (think frequent flier but for shopping) and a Banana Republic Insider (think focus group). I shop at BR and the other Gap Inc. brands at least once a month. These are the BR emails I’ve gotten in the last two weeks, I don’t even open them anymore:

BR email

You’ll notice on several days I received two emails. I don’t feel like a loyal customer, but a prospective click. In addition to the emails, they also offer surveys after your purchase and have a mobile application with rewards. Last year, I received a BR Visa card in the mail after I thought I had opted out each time it was presented. Just this week, I logged into my account and it asked me to activate it again :(. When I reached out to the card company via phone and asked them to cancel it, they could not. When I reached out via Twitter, I was redirected back to the 800 number on the card.

BR tweet


This is a classic example of working in silos… you can’t have a beautiful new line of clothes and not have an integrated marketing plan.

So what do I think they should have done differently? They have a ton of data about me and my shopping habits; credit card, my online account, email click rates, the application, as well as Insider surveys. Use that data and tailor offers to me…here are just a few examples:

  • The time of day and months I shop the most, e.g. by season and late at night.
    • Action: Only send me seasonal emails; I might actually read them and tell me what time (make it late) the new line will be available.
  • I am a Banana Republic Insider and fill out 95% of the surveys they send me.
    • Action: Send me an Insider email when the products surveyed are offered, but not in addition to the ones I’m already getting.
  • I’m a mom and if you’re really smart, I order two coordinating items of everything Gap. I’m the mom of twins.
    • Action: Send me a specific email on what coordinates for kids.
  • I own a ton of your clothes and regularly invest in new ones.
    • Action: Use my information, I’ve given you the right, tell me what items in the fall collection coordinate with things I bought from other collections.

I can’t finish this post without one far reaching idea… we all know that mobile is here and in some parts of the world, more prevalent than using an old-fashioned computer. I think Banana Republic (BR) should add a feature to its application that automatically indexes all of your new purchases into a wardrobe. You can take pictures of other wardrobe items and enter them into the application, if you so choose. From there, you are able to create outfits for different functions like work, evening, wedding or weekend. For guys, there could be special features around interviews or dates, things that would break down the barriers for them to use the application.

Each season BR will make purchase suggestions based on things you already own. This article on apps and mobile marketing says that “Nearly one in four respondents said in-app recommendations would drive them to them to add more items to their carts and 33 percent said they would spend more time in the app.” The app will show existing pieces with the new pieces and the ability you have to double your wardrobe. The idea would be to show a little investment goes a long way. For Luxe card members, they could buy the merchandise through the application prior to being on sale in the stores.

Do you think this will increase BR sales? Are you a guy, would you use this application?

So while I love, Banana Republic and continue to shop there, I don’t talk about their marketing in the ways I may talk about other companies. They are still operating based on their silo’ d structure and not what is best for the customer.

What company do you hate to love?


  1. The easier you can make it for your customers, the better. I think the app sounds like a great idea – I know that one-click purchasing on Amazon (as well as Prime) has been the main culprit for my increase in online spending, so if they’re able to complete wardrobes and tie your card into the app, it sounds like an improved customer experience, which, in turn, will likely help drive sales.

  2. This is a great post. I’d love to know their e-mail open rate on e-mails that are sent out.

    I’ll have to pay closer attention to my e-mail for the brands that I hate to love. Thankfully with gmail. They now dump it all into the “Promotions” section and I ignore it more effectively!

  3. I think I’d be more likely to use the app if it helped me leverage the fashion knowledge of my friends versus the company that wants to sell me things.

    As a single guy I rarely know what I’m doing when I shop for clothes: does this fit, does this go with that, etc. So if I could drop/snap items into a virtual wardrobe it would accomplish a few things… first it could serve as an interactive shopping list to hopefully help cut down on my time in store (because I loathe clothes shopping).

    Two, if I have a hot date I could say “hey, what do you think of this outfit I assembled?” Zap it over to a friend’s phone, she says “here,” goes through my virtual closet, “wear this and that instead” and zaps it back to me. Save that. Then friend B says “no, ditch that, add this and this instead.” Save that. Then if you wanted to take it a step further you could toss them all up on Facebook and have your friends vote. Then if you wanted to take it even further you could upload that back to company’s web site and it could track/display popular combinations next to the items (maybe you’d have profiles and get credit for coming up with popular looks).

    Or something like that.

    • Matt – fantastic idea. I think we should find an app developer and get busy.

  4. Great post. Great idea!

  5. i hope Banana Republic takes your suggestions into consideration … you made some great points .

  6. Sounds like BR is using repeat customers to get all the data they can, but its sad that the customer service aspect doesn’t tie back to brands approach in other areas. I think your idea of suggesting items based on what you already own is great, especially as someone who is always trying to remember what I own from a particular company and if I purchase something new what I can wear it with. That would be a plus for me as a female online shopper.

    One company that I hate to love is GNC. I purchase my protein bars from them every 2 months and I feel that their promotions don’t always collided with my purchasing habits. It seems like as a Gold Card (their loyalty rewards program) holder, they would have more data on me by now to not keep sending me promotions that are not even in the realm of products I purchase every few weeks. It seems that their marketing, promotions and advertising are all silo’d and not communicating with their loyalty card data.


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