Written By: Mary Beth Revard

 The brand that I chose to focus on for this week’s assignment is Ann Taylor LOFT, which is now formally known just solely as LOFT. The umbrella of the Ann Taylor brand includes “Ann Taylor,” “LOFT,” “Ann Taylor Factory Store,” and “LOFT Outlet.” With all four brands existing as a woman’s retail store, they are “committed to meeting the evolving needs of women who want feminine, stylish and versatile fashions that offer great quality and value and that inspire women to look as beautiful as they feel” as said by Kay Krill, who is the President and CEO of the Ann Taylor brands. The reason I chose to focus mainly LOFT was firstly because I used to work there, and secondly, they recently did a total rebranding of LOFT that I was able to witness while I was still working at the store.

The tool that I used to track LOFT was Google Alerts. This was a tool that I felt would be the most beneficial for me to use, as I am very familiar with it, it is really easy to use, and it provides very beneficial results. The key terms that I tracked when used Google Alerts included: “Ann Taylor LOFT,” “LOFT” and “Live Love LOFT” (LOFT’s slogan). As I had mentioned before, LOFT did a complete rebranding in April 2010. According to “Styleite,” LOFT took to a Tumblr site to begin their rebranding transformation, and revamped the site www.liveloveLOFT.com. The site featured blog posts about new arrivals of clothing and accessories to the store, as well as tips and tricks for creating the perfect outfit with the LOFT brand. They also allowed guest bloggers to compose posts about potential outfits for LOFT clients/readers of the blog, how to get the most out of a versatile piece of clothing or accessory from LOFT, etc. 
Screenshot of "www.liveloveLOFT.com"
Image from Eastern Electric
From the perspective I had while working in the store during the rebranding, reestablishing the brand for LOFT was extremely important for its survival. The brand of “Ann Taylor” (and all of the brands that fall under that umbrella) has had the reputation as being an “old lady” brand or the place women could go to if they needed a business suit. Ann Taylor was never really the brand that women thought of when they were looking for a “hip” or “trendy” outfit. That’s where LOFT came in. LOFT was supposed to be the segment of Ann Taylor that was the “younger” part of the brand, but it could not seem to outrun the shadow of the stuffy reputation of Ann Taylor. Not to mention, LOFT had to keep up with competitors like J.Crew and Banana Republic - two popular brands targeted to young, sophisticated and hip individuals (both men and women).  Enter the rebranding.   I was able to witness LOFT’s rebranding first hand as I saw the store receive a fresh coat of a completely different color of paint, more vibrant colors in the clothing and accessories, the sign outside of the store as well as the shopping bags customers carried out of the store go from “Ann Taylor LOFT” to just “LOFT” and so on. Along with their blog site as previously mentioned, LOFT also called upon Jessica Schroeder, who has a popular Tumblr site called “What I Wore.”   This partnership allowed women, who may look up to Schroeder, to achieve the same look that she does while creating the look with LOFT products.
With my tracking of LOFT through Google Alerts, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the informal partnership of bloggers and the brand still holds true. Many of my alerts that came up would trace back to female bloggers’ pages where many of the women were doing the same thing Jessica Schroeder did – feature a picture of an outfit she was wearing, and promote LOFT at the same time.  With sites like "My Wardrobe Today" and others, women are eagerly sharing LOFT products and are proud to do so. With the rebranding of LOFT still being fairly new, it was (and still is) so very important to monitor both negative and positive feedback (more so the negative).  With the rebranding, LOFT is attempting to not only maintain the current consumer base they have established over the years, but they are also trying to gain a new, younger consumer base who will be brand loyals to the LOFT brand as they grow into the brand.  With my monitoring, I did not really witness any negative feedback about the brand or the rebranding, which proves to me that LOFT made a move in a great direction.  This positive feedback will be highly beneficial to the brand image, as it's reinforcing everything wonderful that the brand was initially built on, while establishing that it is very capable of keeping up with the changing times.