Cross-Promoting Sister Brands Safely

I've always been alarmed by how heavy-handedly some retailers promote sister brands in their emails -- with the most disrespectful approach being to opt in subscribers of one brand to receive emails from all your brands without even being upfront about it. I still find it shocking that companies justify this kind of behavior by writing cross-brand permission into their privacy policies. It's well established that people don't read privacy policies -- here's my favorite piece of evidence -- so including such statements in them doesn't protect you from spam complaints or brand damage.

I recently explored tactics used by retailers to cross-promote sister brands safely in a new report. For those of you with sister brands, are you taking advantage of these opportunities to promote all your brands?



Subscription Forms: Email sign-up forms are a great place to expose customers to your other brands and to get them to opt in to receive emails from those brands. The Gap Inc. brands (Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime and Athleta) set the standard here. If you have many sister brands or you want to keep your email sign-up form focused, consider promoting email sign-ups for your sister brands on the sign-up or subscription confirmation page.

Preference Centers: Especially if your subscription process routes folks through your preference center, it's another good place to expose your customers to all your brands. And when you run "update your preferences" campaigns ahead of the holiday season or other critical selling seasons, you'll pick up some extra subscribers in addition to collecting topic, category, and other preferences.

Opt-out Pages: Just because a subscriber wants to stop receiving emails from one of your brands doesn't mean that she wouldn't be open to getting emails from one of your other brands.

Welcome Email Series: While only around 10% of major online retailers send a series of welcome emails, according to 2009 data, it can be a great place to introduce subscribers to sister brands. An email dedicated to that introduction is also a great follow-up to including sister brand email sign-ups on your email subscription page, where space is generally quite limited. REI is among the brands that employ this tactic, using it to educate their coop members about its outlet website,

In Promotional Emails: There are several good possibilities for cross-promoting sister brands in your promotional emails:

Sister brand tabs and navigation links in your header give your sister brands prominent placement in your emails. Among the retailers using this tactic, the Company Store does this with its Company Kids sister brand.

Sister brand tab in Company Store email

Sister brand bars reside at the bottom of your email and include the logos of all your brands. This exposes subscribers to your other brands without taking up valuable real estate higher up in the email. Consider linking each logo to the preference center or email sign-up page for that brand, rather than the brand's homepage. This tactic is used by Harry & David, among others.

Sister brand bar from a Lane Bryant email

Sister brand banners that appear under your primary message along with other traditional secondary banners can also used to promote a complementary product from a sister brand or the sister brand itself, ideally along with an email sign-up appeal.

Sister brand banner from a Williams-Sonoma email

Multibrand Sales & Charity Events: Another tactic for exposing subscribers of a brand to sister brands is to hold a sale across all your brands and promote that fact in your email messaging. Particularly popular with "Friends and Family" sales, this approach has been used by Lane Bryant, among others.

In Dedicated Emails about a New Sister Brand:When a new brand is acquired or launched, it can be appropriate to notify the subscribers of your other brands. Just make sure that the email is still coming from the brand that individual subscribers have a relationship with.

It's not a sin to cross-promote your sister brands, but there are respectful ways to do it and disrespectful ways.

Have you seen other thoughtful ways of cross-promoting sister brands?

2 comments about "Cross-Promoting Sister Brands Safely ".
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  1. Sally Robinson from, June 23, 2010 at 12:21 p.m.

    I'm not sure that your use of Gap as a good example is true. I registered for e-mail and have continued to receive messages from ALL Gap brands, even though I'm not interested in them. Maybe they've changed since I registered last year, but if not, it's a good idea.

  2. Chad White from Litmus, June 24, 2010 at 9:55 a.m.

    Hmm, I haven't experienced that myself, but Gap has a history of playing a bit loose with permission across brands. I'm not saying that Gap is a role model here--just that the way that they have their sign-up page set up to promote sister brands is worthy of note.

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