Gap Seeks Revived Cachet and Street Credibility
NEW YORK (AP) - The "1969: L.A. and Beyond" series of short videos has all the elements of a reality TV show. It has action. It has fashion. And the star of the show is always in demand.
Gap, the nation’s largest clothing chain, on Monday is rolling out a marketing campaign that features 30- to 90-second online documentary-style videos centered around the goings on at its denim design studio in Los Angeles called the Pico Creative Loft.
The series of about 30 videos shows designers talking about what it takes to create the Gap’s 1969 denim line, which has been expanded with stretch leggings, corduroy pants and other offerings for between $59.50 and $89.95. The campaign is the first major marketing push by Gap Inc. since a management shake-up in February ended with a new brand president, chief marketing offer and ad agency.
"Some of the greatest things we’ve done are mistakes. It’s just trial and error," said denim wash specialist, Rob Crews, in one video. Nicole King-Burroughs, a women’s designer who started as an intern at the Gap, proclaims in another video: "My life is just driven around denim."
Gap’s campaign comes just as the retail industry is bracing for a back-to-school season in which consumers are expected to cut back spending because of economic woes and rising prices for everything from clothing to food. The campaign is critical for Gap, which used to be a retail darling but is struggling to regain its cachet after merchandising misfires, slumping sales and shrinking profits that began well before the recession.
The company’s Gap division hasn’t posted a sales gain on an annual basis since 2005. And In Gap’s most recent quarter, revenue in stores open at least one year - considered a key measure of a company’s financial health - fell 3 percent at Gap brand stores, 1 percent at Banana Republic and 2 percent at Old Navy North America.
Seth Farbman, the chain’s new CMO since February, says the campaign is not a quick fix, but an effort to drive sales and revive Gap’s image, which he says has "lost a bit of relevance." Farbman says the focus of the campaign - jeans - is appropriate because they have been one of Gap’s strengths.
"This is the start; one step. This campaign begins to put us on the right course," Farbman said. "Longer term, it starts a conversation about the brand."
But one analyst said it will take much more than a marketing blitz to turn things around at the chain.
"They have larger merchandising problems," said Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi. "I just don’t think they’ve had the right the sizes, fits and colors within the women’s business, and there’s a lack of interesting products in the men’s business."
The campaign follows a series of management and organizational changes Gap made this year. In February, Art Peck became the brand’s president, its fifth in nine years. The San Francisco-based company also established a Global Creative Center which consolidates all of Gap’s design, marketing, fashion public relations and production in New York. It hired Farbman from Ogilvy & Mather in New York and shifted marketing duties to that advertising agency from longtime agency Laird & Partners in San Francisco. And in May, it ousted Patrick Robinson, design director for the Gap chain.
The campaign features videos that show shots of the airy, loft-like denim design studio with its hardwood floors and exposed brick walls. In the videos, Gap workers talk about the process of making certain jean styles and washes and why they love their jobs.
The videos will air on a dedicated Facebook page, YouTube, on sites like Hulu, and embedded in banner ads elsewhere. The campaign also includes print ads and "Pico de Gap" taco trucks with celebrity chefs that will hit New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco beginning Monday and broadcast their location via Twitter. The tacos will be $1.69 but free if you show Gap clothing.
Gap would not disclose how much it is spending on the campaign, but said it was similar to what it spent last year, except with a much heavier focus on social media and the Web. Farbman said the online push is a way to reach Gap’s new, slightly younger demographic - a "highly connected" 28-year-old - rather than Gap’s traditional focus on people in their early 30s. Although, he adds, the broader target is anyone with a "young American mindset."