Gap focuses on digital with a holiday campaign that won’t air on TV

This holiday season is going to be a lot different for the Gap. The brand has a new chief marketing officer, is working with a new agency and is about to separate from its sister brand and longtime sales booster, Old Navy, which will spin off from the publicly traded clothier next year. There’s a lot riding on the sales success of the coming months, so Gap is going in a different direction with its holiday campaign.

Under CMO Alegra O’Hare, who joined San Francisco-based Gap from Adidas in February, the brand is pursuing a more emotional marketing tone for holiday—a departure from the typical jazzy musical numbers of previous campaigns that doubled down on nostalgia. One 60-second anthem spot follows the growth of a young boy, his single mother, and his trusty red Gap hoodie.

“We wanted to create something special and unique that tugs at the heartstrings,” says O’Hare, noting the brand’s complacency in recent years. “We’re such a creative brand with 50 years of history.” She noted that the new work is more authentic and should help differentiate the Gap brand at a time of cluttered content from a host of retailers.

The video, which will begin airing in early November, is part of Gap’s new gifting platform “Gift the Thought” which is more focused on why consumers give rather than what. Gap is mailing out gift guides this week.

“We’ve been there all along, we have this range of products that center around the thought,” says O’Hare. “It’s a fresh way of approaching it that’s more meaningful to the people that need to choose gifts.”

Gap worked with Johannes Leonardo on the new campaign; it is their second time working together following a successful summer push, according to O’Hare, who worked with the agency during her 12-year stint at Adidas. Unlike the last two holiday seasons, Gap will not be airing its ad on TV this year. The brand is investing more  in this year’s campaign than it did last year, O’Hare says, but that investment is primarily digital. The video will run on Gap social channels and YouTube. The media buy, which was executed by Gap’s internal team, will include digital video takeovers on Hulu, Vevo and Facebook Watch.

The strategy shift comes at a time when Gap is increasingly under pressure, tension that will only increase following the Old Navy separation in 2020 and a possible recession that would force consumers to cut back on spending. Once the lower-priced brand spins off into its own company, Gap Inc. will comprise Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta and menswear brand Hill City.  In its most recent quarter, the Gap brand reported a same-store sales decline of 7 percent as the brand struggles to attract shoppers. The company has also been in the process of paring down its once-bloated store fleet.

On a second-quarter earnings call with investors, Gap Inc. CEO Art Peck spoke about the “challenging retail environment.” He noted the company’s namesake brand is planning on “improving marketing effectiveness” with more “measured investment.”

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