GAP Gets Branding Advice


Adrants reader Chris Peterson, a principal at entertainment company Ballad Enterprises and former strategic planner for Disney, thinks he has the answers to the GAP's branding woes and offers some free advice, writing, "There's a simple solution to fixing Gap, the brand. Get rid of the celebrities and start investing in the emotional meaning of the word Gap itself. The brand name has gotten lost in the celebrity shuffle.

The feelings that rub off on the word Gap need to come from a genuine place, not from a never ending parade of celebrities. The core values of the brand need to be defined in a personal and intimate way that plays off the word itself.

Example: A teenage boy and a girl are sitting on a bench with a "gap" between them. Neither one has the courage to start a conversation, but clearly they are enamored with each other. Suddenly a no name street musician sits down between them and starts belting out a soulful ballad. Then he walks away. The two kids immediately start talking to each other.

Gap logo...Tagline: Get Together.

It's this feeling that needs to drive the inner core of the brand. Without it, the brand is lost in the emotional retail space. By developing a series of "Gap" stories, there's a way to reinvigorate the brand from the inside out, rather than the outside in.

If you get the emotional story right, the feelings rub off on the merchandise."

What's your take? Is he on to something? Do you have any suggestions as to what the GAP can do to reinvigorate itself?

by Steve Hall    Mar- 8-07   Click to Comment   
Topic: Brands   

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Ok I'm old cranky, mean and tend to preach some things the young punks think is so 1960's, but I like what Chris Peterson has to say! He's right on the money with his take on GAP.

Posted by: Roy on March 8, 2007 11:03 AM

I totally agree with Chris - the brand needs to revisit its bohemian roots.

There's an old Gap slogan that has stuck with me for over 20 years. I think it's the right time to revive it:

"For every generation, there is a gap."

There's a lot of emotional meaning in that simple phrase.

Posted by: Thomas on March 8, 2007 11:34 AM

I completely agree, just reading his idea of the kids on a bench brought a little smile to my face. GAP has become a faceless and heartless company, the major thing the company is missing is that powerful emotional attachment that was once there and lost in the ages.

Posted by: Adam Dufresne on March 8, 2007 12:18 PM

I disagree. The only way for Gap to get back in the game is to dim the lights in their stores, crank up really loud "alt rock" and hire anorexic clones to walk around cooly brooding as they fold things over and over and over again. Also, print a sexy catalog that features underage models in various stages of undress, often hinting that we're about to witness a threesome. Black and White, of course.

TV spots should feature nothing but close-ups of butts and crotches set to dark techno. Tagline: I Got Your Gap Right Here.

Posted by: Jetpacks on March 8, 2007 1:27 PM

For starters, Gap could make a better product. With Banana becoming more affordable and competitor Express for Men doing the same things Gap does but better, Gap needs a differentiated product. Then they'll have something to shout about...and real creative will surface instead of image-laden, celebrity nonsense or attempts at creating emotional substance that may or may not be there. Give me a cooler t-shirt, a softer pair of jeans, a hoodie to end all hoodies - then we'll see how I "feel" about it.

Posted by: Michael on March 8, 2007 1:31 PM

He's close, but Michael is right as well. Gap needs to define it's image better by finding the right niche again. For too many years GAP has been a not casual but not dressy kind of "pick-and-choose" store. They seem to be more of finding a piece than a "look". In the late 90's and early 2000 era, GAP was right on front with the college hipsters. They were casual-cool-preppy. Now they're just tired. They're trying to create a style rather than capitalize on one like they did for so long.

Oh, and they don't EVER need to copy American Eagle again.

Posted by: Lee Coursey on March 8, 2007 5:53 PM

Well, first of all, the CMO currently leaving GAP is also a former Disney person. Point B is "the problem" is WHO is the GAP marketing to -- it is not a utility or a baked good being bought by one person to "bring the whole family together" or to find a date or date substitute for herself.

The GAP, you guys: it sells clothes.

Some shopping demographics for clothes are mutually exclusive to others. This is GAP's problem. Two kids on a bench and a street musician ... well, who's it for?

Posted by: Constance X on March 8, 2007 6:04 PM


Gap's problems are not really that connected with advertising. The solution is to quit thinking of this as an advertising problem. They're just irrelevant at this point, and no amount of emotional spots will be good enough.

Posted by: Paul McEnany on March 9, 2007 1:41 AM

Gap's problems are not about advertising, quality or style of clothes, or rants about Disney.

How can you advertise a brand, select the style of clothes to make, or communicate the brand's meaning, if the brand name itself both linguistically and metaphorically fails to articulate an aspirational and desirable set of feelings.

Feelings come first, the act of consumption as an expression of personal identity comes second.

Gap, the brand, has come to "mean" an endless stream of celebrity endorsers who fail to collectively represent a Gap-defined set of core values.

When I watch Patrick Wilson and Claire Danes dancing on a bare stage, all I see is two familiar actors hustling a pair of pants. They are not playing characters from a make-believe story; they are playing themselves.

Sure I identify with them because of their previous work or having read about them in the tabloids, but there is NO GENUINE FEELING being represented on the stage.

This is where Mr. Pressler failed to apply the Disney magic. He forgot to tell a compelling story based on characters that people identify with because of feelings that come out of the human condition. This is the magic moment where a feeling becomes so intense that you want to possess it, or anything that's associated with it. The French fashion designer, Paul Poiret, called this the "profitable association."

This is the moment where the feelings are raw, in the moment, and experienced with such intensity that you become emotionally attached to them forever.

This is why hiring celebrities is a long-term failed strategy. They represent feelings we have experienced in the past, not the present. The company is short-cutting the process of generating original feelings that derive from the core values of the brand. The company is not only selling out the customer, they're also selling out their brand, which is where Gap is today.

Gap needs to articulate a core set of genuine feelings they want the brand to represent, and then let those feelings inform every aspect of their business.

If the target demographic is 20-35, then the brand needs to deal with the feelings of ending college, finding a first job, getting married, forming a family, and taking chances in life while your young and have the resilience to process failure. It's about discovering how your independence affords you the opportunity to find your passion in life that subsequently gets shared with another person.

This is the emotional gap the Gap brand should target. The transition from developing a true sense of self discovered in college to an emotional need to share it with another person.

These are feelings that represent a rite of passage, an emotional gap that should represent some of the most rewarding feelings in your lifetime. You discover yourself and then discover the pleasure of sharing it with someone else.

After all, it's like the proverbial story about the astronaut who goes to the moon. While the trip may be incredible, what's even more amazing is the chance to tell someone about it.

The story of two people sitting on a park bench but incapable of finding a common bond to start the conversation until the musician appears is universal.

Why the hell does Craigslist have a "missed connections" category? This is a perfect example of where Gap could take advantage of a genuine feelings and turn them into a magical story of how two people's passion for music form the emotional bond that starts what could become a lasting relationship.

The Gap needs to facilitate these feelings in the 20-35 demographic. They need to function like the musician who closes the gap and brings two people together, because that's what your 20's and early 30's are all about. Coming together, literally and metaphorically.

Otherwise there is no next generation!

Posted by: Christopher Peterson on March 9, 2007 8:32 AM

In 1999, I walked into a Gap and saw two products that told me This store knows new: the over the shoulder backpack with all the zippers and the 3/4 length cargo pants with all the pockets. These products questioned how a man not only dresses, but carries his sh** around. I'd never seen anything like it.

The products sold me.

I want Gap to sell products like that again. Things that dazzle me and make me go "Wow, this is inventive."

Their branding and ad strategy would come so much easier, be so much more in-tune with real human beings if the heart of the company, it's products, were something worth advertising.

Posted by: on March 9, 2007 9:40 AM

Everytime I go into Gap, I walk straight back out again... why? Because they are nothing but a shell, a generic, unimaginative and quite frankly boring brand. Their clothes say nothing to me,nothing original or that suggests I could look better or feel better than I already do. People attach emotions to brands - thats how they work. Gap need to re-evaluate their brand values and re apply it to the stores, the clothing and the advertising so that they can move away from what they have now... which is not a lot.

Posted by: PopTart5 on July 23, 2008 7:37 AM

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