Gap Inc.FOR EVERY GENERATION CAMPAIGN
HOW DO YOU WEAR IT? CAMPAIGN
THIS IS EASY CAMPAIGN
2 Folsom Street
San Francisco, California 94105
Telephone: (800) 333-7899
Fax: (415) 427-2553
Web site: www.gap.com
In 1999 Gap Inc., with a reputation for offering consumers affordable casual clothing basics such as khakis, jeans, and T-shirts, shifted its marketing focus to teen shoppers. To attract teens to its stores, Gap began offering trendy merchandise such as glitter-decorated denim jackets and body-hugging shirts. The strategy backfired when Gap's core customers, baby boomers who had relied on the chain's basic, casual styles, took their clothing dollars elsewhere. Gap's sales went into a downward spiral, and in April 2002 the company reported a 24 percent drop in sales at stores that had been open for a year or more.
In 2002, in an effort to win back its core customers and reverse its declining sales, Gap again changed its focus. Working with the New York-based advertising agency Laird + Partners, the chain launched a global marketing campaign titled "For Every Generation," which was aimed at a broader audience. Although executives declined to release the campaign's budget, a spokesman for Laird + Partners stated that it was one of the largest projects Gap had undertaken in several years. The campaign included television spots, print and billboard ads, and direct mailings. Commercials featured a roster of some 50 celebrities dressed in their own Gap clothes.
By the end of 2002 it had become clear that Gap's marketing strategy had accomplished its goal. Prior to the campaign's launch, the chain had reported 29 consecutive months of declining sales. Following its launch in October 2002, Gap's sales were on the rise, up 1 percent compared with a 17 percent drop in the same month the previous year. In addition USA Today's weekly poll Ad Track concluded that consumers, especially adults between the ages of 25 and 64, found the ads highly appealing.
In 1969 Doris and Don Fisher opened the first Gap store in San Francisco. According to the company Don Fisher's motivation for opening the store was "to make it easier to find a pair of jeans." In an effort to update the look of its merchandise, Gap in the late 1990s turned away from its founder's original idea and began selling trendy fashions geared toward teens instead of the basics preferred by baby boomers. As a result it lost many of its core customers, sending the company into a financial free fall. In 1999, prior to the shift in product, the company had reported $1.13 billion in earnings. After the switch in 2001 Gap reported a loss of $7.8 million. In early 2002 Gap reported its worst financial performance in its 30-year history.
Gap's product switch was partly a result of a shift, in the late 1990s, in fashion trends away from basic casual clothes to a flashier look favored by young women. In 2002 the Washington Times described Gap's product change as a fashion faux pas. The paper stated, "Gap's problems started well before this season as the company moved away from the look that made it famous and added trendy clothes like denim jackets with glitter and tight-fitting fashions to its product mix." Customers walking into their favorite Gap store in search of a pair of basic khakis fled when they instead saw orange and turquoise cropped jeans embellished with silver studs. The chain also found itself losing business to its sister chain, Old Navy (also owned by Gap Inc.), which sold products similar to Gap's but at lower prices. Further confounding Gap Inc. was what many analysts saw as the company's lack of focus when it came to establishing an identity for the Gap brand that would help distinguish it from Old Navy.
When the brand launched its new campaign in 2002, it returned to its roots and original philosophy of enabling people of all ages to buy Gap products and adapt them to fit their personal styles. The company admitted that chasing fickle teens with trendy clothes was a no-win plan. Kyle Andrew, vice president of marketing for Gap, said in a Women's Wear Daily interview, "Let Gap be Gap. Let's not try to be trendy." For the new campaign, in addition to returning to its offerings of basic jeans, khakis, and tees, the company also revived and slightly modified a slogan it had used in the past but had failed to take full advantage of: "For every generation, there's a Gap."
Although Gap's "For Every Generation" campaign alienated trend-obsessed teens, it shifted the company's focus back to a broader range of customers. The consumers Gap's new campaign targeted ranged from infants to senior citizens. It also was designed to win back its former core customers, baby boomers who had always relied on the chain's quality, affordable basic clothing styles.
Explaining the new strategy, company president and CEO Millard Drexler told Business Wire, "Gap speaks a common language that everyone understands, and this campaign reflects the connection that people of all ages have with Gap. Whether you are six, sixteen or sixty, nothing is more universal than a pair of Gap jeans. That's the kind of classic style, product and message we stand for."
As Gap struggled to reverse more than 22 months of negative same-store sales, one of its top competitors, Abercrombie & Fitch, was embroiled in its own problems related to marketing and product offerings that many considered offensive. Also among Gap's top competitors was American Eagle Outfitters, which was on the opposite end of the marketing spectrum from Abercrombie, with climbing sales and a reputation for offering wholesome advertising and merchandise.
Abercrombie & Fitch was founded in 1892 as a purveyor of quality camping, hunting, and fishing clothing and equipment, and by 1917 it was the world's largest sporting-goods store. Among the store's customers were Teddy Roosevelt, who purchased gear at the store before setting off on an African safari, and Ernest Hemingway. In 1988 the chain was bought by the Limited (which also owned Victoria's Secret) and shifted from selling sporting clothes and equipment to outfitting suburban kids.
GAP, OLD NAVY, AND BANANA REPUBLIC
With Gap promoting the idea that it was for everybody, Women's Wear Daily wondered who Gap Inc. expected to shop at its other chains, Old Navy and Banana Republic. Gap's vice president of marketing, Kyle Andrew, explained that many customers would shop at all three chains but that efforts were being made to separate the brands. "Old Navy is more family and value shopping. Gap can move up to be a more stylish place, and Banana Republic can move up to be an even more stylish place." Gap was also especially known for its jeans, a feature the company emphasized in its fall 2002 line. By 2002 Old Navy was being pressured by—and losing customers to—discount stores that carried similar merchandise but that also offered the convenience of one-stop shopping. Because of its higher customer profile and merchandise offerings that were trendier or more stylish, the other store in the trio, Banana Republic, was having fewer problems keeping its customers.
The Limited phased out its ownership in 1998, and Abercrombie became an independent public company. The chain's marketing and merchandise, produced in-house, turned toward the explicit and sexual. In 2002 the company was listed by PR Newswire as producing one of the 10 worst public relations blunders of the year. The publication reported that Abercrombie had offended the public with its thong underwear for prepubescent girls and its T-shirts that portrayed stereotyped images of Asian-Americans. Despite pulling the controversial merchandise from its product line, the company remained known for the "sex sells" theme in its marketing. The company's 2002 catalog, titled "XXX," included sexually suggestive photographs on more than half of its 280 pages. Despite consumer complaints about its merchandise, Abercrombie reported a 21 percent sales increase in October 2002 compared with the same period the previous year. It noted, however, that same-store sales had dropped 5 percent from January through November 2002.
American Eagle Outfitters, founded in 1977, was originally known for selling men's outdoor gear. In 1992 it underwent a rebranding and became known for its classic American, mainstream style, which successfully appealed to its target market: mature teens and young adults. By 1997 the chain had begun making additional improvements to its selection of merchandise, and it introduced marketing—which included ads in such magazines as Mademoiselle, Seventeen, and Spin—intended to broaden the brand's customer base by promoting its affordable, casual, and basic clothing. American Eagle reported that first-quarter sales overall in 2002 were up 14.9 percent over the same period in the previous year; however, same-store sales for the first quarter of 2002 were down about 2 percent.
As Gap's "For Every Generation" campaign was prepared for its launch, a company spokesman said that the new marketing strategy had been created to broaden its appeal to consumers and to attract people of all ages back to the chain. In addition the campaign was the first one the company had used for all Gap divisions, including adult, kids, and baby.
The campaign starred some 50 celebrities of all ages from a variety of fields (such as movies, music, art, and fashion) in TV spots and print ads. The latter included a 48-page portfolio in Vanity Fair magazine. Personalities featured in the print campaign ranged from country music icon Willie Nelson and up-and-coming singer Taryn Manning to comedian Whoopi Goldberg. Among the film stars dressing in their favorite Gap fashions for the ads were Sissy Spacek, Lauren Hutton, Salma Hayek, and Christian Slater. Trey Laird, president and executive creative director of Laird + Partners, explained to Business Wire, "We selected a broad range of personalities who each have a highly defined individual style. We worked with each person to create their own look in Gap jeans—keeping it personal, authentic and real."
Each ad featured a celebrity wearing a pair of Gap jeans combined with other Gap items as well as their own clothes and accessories. Nelson appeared in a TV spot wearing his Gap jeans and performing a guitar version of the Hank Williams classic "Move It On Over." Another TV spot starred models Shalom Harlow and Alek Wek showing off the comfort and style of their Gap jeans while dancing to the 1960s hit song "Bend Me, Shape Me." In one print ad Kelly Klein, socialite, photographer, and ex-wife of fashion designer Calvin Klein, paired her Gap jeans with one of her favorite lacy tops.
With more than two years of negative same-store sales results at the end of 2002, following the launch of its "For Every Generation" campaign, the company reported that, while its earnings remained down, they still came in above expectations. Although in October its same-store sales had been up only 1 percent, this was a turnaround from a 17 percent drop during that month the previous year. A report in USA Today stated that, based on the data, "It looks like Gap's more familiar basic merchandise and new ad campaign are working." Gap executives also said that the campaign appeared to be moving the company back in the right direction.
According to information gathered by Ad Track, USA Today 's weekly consumer poll, about 21 percent of those surveyed liked the ads "a lot." The commercials also scored higher with two key groups—women and adults ages 25 to 64-indicating that Gap was reconnecting with its former core customers. An article in Women's Wear Daily noted that Gap's "increased advertising, and increasingly amusing advertising, [had] helped expand sales in recent months" for the retailer. It further noted that, while the chain's rebirth was not complete, it was clearly occurring.
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―――――――. "Laird Adds Gap Stores Account to His Fledgling Ad Agency." Women's Wear Daily, March 14, 2002.
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―――――――. "Second Straight Profit for Gap." Women's Wear Daily, August 16, 2002.
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As Gap, Inc., approached its 35th birthday in early 2004, the 1,500-store chain was experiencing an upswing in profits and sales, reporting steady increases since 2002. First-quarter profits in 2004 were up 55 percent, and sales were up 9.4 percent compared with the same period the previous year. To celebrate its birthday and maintain the profit and sales momentum, Gap charged its advertising agency, Laird + Partners, New York, with creating a new global marketing campaign to be released in summer 2004.
For the "How Do You Wear It?" campaign Laird + Partners turned to what had worked well for the chain in the past: celebrity-centered television spots and print ads. Signed on as the celebrity spokeswoman was Sex and the City star and fashion idol Sarah Jessica Parker. Although no specific budget for the campaign was available, Adweek reported that Gap's advertising budget the previous year was $140 million. Further, Gap reportedly paid Parker $38 million for her three-season, six-month contract. Besides Parker, other celebrities featured in the campaign's different television spots and print ads included singer Lenny Kravitz, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, and New England Patriots football star Tom Brady.
Despite the success of previous celebrity-centered campaigns, Gap's new effort failed to drive sales or resonate with consumers. Within months of the campaign's start Gap reported its worst overall sales performance in two years. The spokeswoman of the campaign, Parker, also took a hit as consumers posted their criticisms on the Internet. When Parker's contract expired in spring 2005, Gap replaced her with a new spokeswoman: 17-year-old British singing star Joss Stone.
The Gap chain of retail clothing stores got its start in 1969, when the first store was opened in San Francisco by Doris and Don Fisher. Motivated by the desire to provide customers with an easy option for finding jeans, when the store opened, it sold only one product: Levi's jeans for men and women. By 1970 Gap had grown to six stores, and in 1974 the rapidly expanding chain introduced its own private-label jeans as well as accessories. Over time Gap expanded its brand to include other basic casual styles, such as khakis and tees for men, women, and children. It stopped selling Levi's in 1991. In late 1999 the chain was beginning to show its age, and as its marketing focus and product mix shifted from its core customers—baby boomers—to teens, sales fell into a steady 22-month decline. In April 2002 the chain reported a 24 percent drop in sales at stores open at least one year. Furthermore, in May of that year the company reported that overall sales for the month fell to $962 million compared with sales of $1.2 billion for the same month one year earlier.
In an effort to reverse the downward spiral, in 2002 Gap replaced its agency, Modernista! of Boston, with New York-based advertising agency Laird + Partners. The agency worked with the chain's in-house marketing team on a new advertising campaign that would target a broader audience than the teens on whom Gap had been focusing. The partnership resulted in the "For Every Generation" campaign. Featuring a list of celebrities ranging from country-music icon Willie Nelson to comedian Whoopie Goldberg and actress Christina Ricci, the campaign moved Gap back to its roots of offering basic casual clothing for consumers of all ages and showed how Gap fashions were adaptable to each person's individual style. Following the campaign's introduction, the chain reported a sales increase of 1 percent in October 2002. While small, the sales improvement was significant considering the 17 percent drop reported for October 2001.
In 2004, as the chain prepared to celebrate its 35th anniversary, Gap also planned to release a new global marketing campaign. Based on the success of its celebrity-centered campaigns, which included the first such effort, "Individuals of Style," which ran from 1988 through 1993, and the 2002 "For Every Generation" campaign, Gap and its agency stuck with what had worked in the past. Laird + Partners' new campaign, "How Do You Wear It?" featured celebrity and fashion icon Sarah Jessica Parker as well as other celebrities who would connect with consumers and send the message that Gap offered clothes that enabled people to express their individual style.
Through the use of celebrities of all ages and genders in its marketing campaigns, Gap attempted to reach a broad range of consumers: men and women, teens to baby boomers. Earlier campaigns featured celebrities such as counterculture writer Jack Kerouac, country-music elder statesman Willie Nelson, and 20-something actress Christina Ricci wearing Gap clothes. The campaigns were designed to send the message that everyone, regardless of age or sex, could find a Gap style perfectly suited or adaptable to his or her personal taste.
When, in 2004, the chain released its "How Do You Wear It?" campaign with 39-year-old actress Sarah Jessica Parker as its spokeswoman, it was clear that women were the target market. Parker's TV show Sex and the City was highly popular with women. In addition, the actress was the ideal person to convey the idea of individuality, because she was closely linked with her character's eclectic, cutting-edge style, a combination of vintage and couture clothes and pricey Manolo Blahnik shoes. According to a Gap press release, Parker's spots were intended to connect with "women of all ages and to help them understand the versatility of our products and our spirit of individual style." Not forgetting its male target, for some spots Gap's campaign partnered Parker with singer Lenny Kravitz, also wearing Gap clothes, while additional print ads featured top athletes and actors who resonated with male consumers.
American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. (AE), which had 828 shopping-mall-based stores scattered throughout the United States and Canada in 2004, got its start in 1977 selling outdoor gear. By 1992 the retailer's product line had been expanded to include a wide selection of casual attire, from polo shirts and khaki pants to shorts, sweaters, and skirts. For the brand's target market—men and women 15 to 25 years old—the high quality and reasonable prices of AE's merchandise were particularly appealing. By 2004 the chain was ranked 9th among the country's top 10 specialty retailers. The company reported a 19.9 percent sales jump to $350 million in the three months ended May 2004 compared to the same period the previous year.
Keeping its marketing eye on its target audience of high school and college students, in 2004 AE began a new marketing campaign, "AE Jeans Will Rock You." The campaign kicked off in September at 22 college football stadiums across the country. Each time the 1977 hit rock song We Will Rock You by Queen was played during football games, AE product giveaways were announced. To reach the high-school crowd, campaign television spots featuring the Queen song aired on MTV as teens prepared to go back to school. In addition to its new marketing campaign, in 2004 AE also began a redesign of its stores, replacing its original beach-house-themed decor with a trendy city-lofts theme featuring concrete floors, high ceilings with skylights, and plasma televisions running AE ad spots.
GAP HOPES TO LURE SHOPPERS WITH NEW STORE DESIGNS
The year 2005 was marked by store makeovers for San Francisco-based clothing chain Gap, Inc. In April the chain reopened seven of its stores in Colorado following extensive remodeling. The new store designs were planned with older consumers with deeper pockets in mind, rather than the teens it had been targeting previously. The overhaul was also the first store-upgrading effort undertaken by the chain in at least 10 years. Hoping to win back its core customers—baby boomers—who had fled the Gap when its merchandise and advertising began targeting a younger crowd, the redesigned stores offered a variety of perks. Included was free bottled water in the dressing rooms and a lounge area with magazines, newspapers, and books for shoppers to read while taking a break. The redesigned Colorado stores were prototypes for all Gap stores, with a nationwide store renovation on the schedule. Later in 2005 the Gap introduced a new store design in Omaha, Nebraska, that included four of the chain's brands—Gap, GapKids, BabyGap, and GapBody—under one roof.
Abercrombie & Fitch (A & F) was also founded as a provider of outdoor gear. But unlike AE, which was a relative newcomer in the market, A & F opened its doors in 1892 and had counted author Ernest Hemingway and U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt among its clients. In 1988 the chain was bought by the Limited, which operated the women's clothing chains the Limited and Victoria's Secret. After the acquisition A & F's product focus shifted from outdoor gear to contemporary casual clothes for upper-class suburban teens and 20-some-things. Ten years after its purchase of A & F the Limited phased out its ownership of the chain. As an independent public company, A & F took a new approach to its marketing strategy.
In 2002 the chain's in-house marketing team developed a campaign that included a 280-page sales catalog titled "XXX." The title clearly portrayed the catalog's contents, which featured sexually suggestive photographs on more than half its pages. The catalog targeted high school and college students, but it raised the ire of parents and consumer watchdogs. It also pushed sales at the chain up 18 percent. By 2004, however, A & F was experiencing a sales decline, reporting an 11 percent drop in same-store sales in the quarter that ended January 2004. For the same quarter, overall sales chain-wide inched up slightly (4.8 percent) to $560.4 million. Acknowledging that the chain's marketing had occasionally crossed the line, A & F's chief executive officer, Michael Jeffries, told Women's Wear Daily of plans for changes to the strategy. A & F introduced a new national advertising campaign in 2004 that included ads in magazines and outdoors as well as a 60-page catalog. The promised changes to its marketing strategy were evident. While the catalog featured photos of bare-chested young men and young women in bathing suits or skimpy outfits, it lacked the nude models in suggestive poses found in previous publications. The summer 2004 catalog was also plastic-wrapped and had a tag noting that it was not for sale to anyone under 18 years old.
Since the 1980s Gap had relied on celebrities to promote its brand in several advertising campaigns. Celebrities were featured in its "Individuals of Style" campaign, which ran for six years beginning in 1988, and in its "For Every Generation" campaign, which was created for Gap in 2002 by Laird + Partners. Based on the success of its previous celebrity-centered campaigns, when Laird + Partners designed its "How Do You Wear It?" campaign for Gap, stars were front and center in the television spots and print ads. Signed to a three-season, six-month, $38 million contract as the campaign's spokeswoman was actress Sarah Jessica Parker, known for her role as fashionista Carrie Bradshaw on the hit television show Sex and the City.
A 90-second television spot featuring Parker and musician Lenny Kravitz first aired during the MTV Video Music Awards in August 2004. In the spot Parker danced while Kravitz performed a mix of his songs Lady and Are You Gonna Go My Way. As Kravitz sang and played the electric guitar, Parker added to her outfit, showing the variety of ways that Gap jeans could be worn. Eventually six different versions of Parker appeared to be dancing with Kravitz. Parker was shown in Gap jeans customized with everything from velvet ribbons to millions of dollars worth of antique jewelry. During the spot Kravitz's Gap clothes also were customized with a variety of items, including studs, grommets, and gold-braided ribbon. The campaign also included a series of 30-second spots and 15-second teaser spots, which aired on all major networks and cable channels in the United States and Canada.
Print ads began running in September in national magazines, including Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, and Essence. In addition to Parker, the print ads featured other stars from television, music, fashion, and sports, such as actresses Jada Pinkett Smith and Jessica Alba. Ads also broke in men's magazines such as GQ and Details; these versions featured Kravitz as well as New England Patriot football star Tom Brady and actors Michael Vartan and Josh Duhamel.
Other marketing elements of the campaign were outdoor, direct mail, in-store, and online efforts. The online aspect included a special website, www.how-doyou.com, that allowed customers to post photos of themselves showing how they personalized their Gap clothes. Customers who logged onto the site could also vote for their favorites of the posted pictures, view the campaign's TV spots, and get fall fashion tips.
Although the strategy of relying on celebrities to promote its brand worked for Gap in the late 1980s through the early 1990s, the idea seemed to fall flat in the first decade of the new century. The chain's "Individuals of Style" campaign, which ran from 1988 through 1993 and featured a variety of celebrities, boosted sales and earnings an average of 43 percent from 1990 to 1993. The sales growth for 1993 alone was a reported 30 percent. In 2002 the chain released a campaign, "For Every Generation," that also featured a long list of stars and contributed to a slight turnaround in declining sales. The celebrity spokespersons also helped establish Gap's reputation as a cool brand. But whether it was a sign of changing consumer tastes or the increasing retail options available to shoppers, Gap's subsequent celebrity-centered campaigns, including a single television spot featuring singers Madonna and Missy Elliot, failed to resonate with customers. Wendy Liebmann, president of the New York-based marketing consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail, told Advertising Age that the Gap had lost its meaning and edge. She said, "It's the name everyone knows but aren't real sure what it stands for anymore … there are other choices that mean more to consumers anyway today."
The 2004 "How Do You Wear It?" campaign also failed to accomplish its goal of driving sales, and despite her image as a fashion icon, its celebrity spokesperson, Sarah Jessica Parker, failed to enhance Gap's former cool image. The Advertising Age report stated that, following the campaign's introduction, the chain reported its worst sales performance since 2002. Additionally, comments that consumers posted about the advertisements on the New York-based blog Gothamist (www.gothamist.com) were generally less than kind about both the Gap clothing featured in the spots and about its celebrity spokeswoman. One writer described the print ad in which Parker had cut her Gap jeans off at the knees and embellished them with black velvet bows as "weird." Another described Parker's appearance in the same ad as looking like "Little Bo Peep on acid." Another asked the question, "Could those pants be any less flattering?"
In March 2005, just weeks after announcing a new series of advertisements featuring Parker, the star's three-season contract with Gap expired, and the chain reported that it was replacing her with a new celebrity spokeswoman: up-and-coming 17-year-old British singing sensation Joss Stone.
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On April 23, 1998, Gap Inc. launched a global advertising campaign for its chain of nearly 1,600 casual-clothing stores. This campaign, created by Gap's in-house agency, Gap Direct, focused on the company's khaki pants. The U.S. khakis market was growing at a rapid rate. Younger consumers fueled the expanding market as they increasingly eschewed blue jeans, the traditional badge of youth culture, because their baby-boomer parents often wore denim. Furthermore, "business casual" clothes, including khakis, were gaining acceptance as appropriate professional attire. In an effort to claim a greater portion of the khakis market, as well as to burnish the Gap brand, Gap dedicated an estimated $20 to $30 million to its 1998 "Khakis" campaign.
The initial three commercials sought to "reinvent khakis," according to a Gap news release. Each spot was set to a distinct type of music and featured active young adults sporting different styles of Gap khakis. In "Khakis Rock," skateboarders and in-line skaters executed moves to the music of the alternative rock band Crystal Method, while "Khakis Groove" portrayed energetic hip-hop dancers and funk music from Bill Mason. The most popular and acclaimed ad of the trilogy was "Khakis Swing," in which stylish khaki-wearers expertly swing danced to Louis Prima's "Jump, Jive an' Wail." The spots, which ran during such high-profile programs as Ally McBeal and ER, used Gap's trademark white background and showcased Gap's newest varieties of khakis—flat front, low rise, slim fit, and cargo. Print and outdoor ads also appeared in major markets and in national magazines such as Spin and Details. "It's about what you bring together to khakis, and what you want that look to say about you," a Gap representative stated in the May 25, 1998, Daily News Record in an effort to explain the underlying premise of the campaign. Once known as comfortable "old man's" clothes and then as the preppy pants of the 1980s, khakis were presented as the ultimate in cool in this campaign.
The campaign was an immediate success. Consumers were effusive about the commercials, and Gap's sales soared after the release of the ads. A USA Today AdTrack survey revealed that younger consumers—a key target for the campaign—responded particularly favorably to Gap's new message. By March 1999 the company had created a new trio of "Khakis" ads: "Khakis A-Go-Go," with a 1960s-inspired soundtrack; "Khaki Soul," set to soul music; and "Khaki Country," which featured line dancers and the music of country star Dwight Yokum.
The Gap was founded in 1969 when Doris and Don Fisher opened a San Francisco store that primarily offered Levi's blue jeans. Although the couple had originally planned to name their business PAD, they settled instead on the Gap, in honor of the generation gap that defined the young baby boomer generation. The company rapidly expanded in the 1970s, debuting private-line labels, of which "Gap" eventually became the only brand offered in the stores. The company developed a loyal following of teenagers and young adults, who responded to the catchy "Fall Into the Gap" advertising campaign that ran from 1974 to 1979. In 1981 the Gap acquired the chain of Banana Republic stores, and in 1986 it launched its children's-clothing venture, GapKids.
A seminal moment in Gap history occurred in 1983 when Fischer brought aboard Mickey Drexler as his deputy. Not only did Drexler hire new designers and renovate stores, but he also honed and simplified the Gap's brand image. Gap's advertising reflected its new, carefully cultivated cachet. In 1988 the company began its "Individuals of Style" campaign, a series of striking black-and-white print ads that portrayed famous individuals in simple articles of Gap clothes. Actress Kim Basinger appeared in a crisp white Gap shirt and pearls, while Dizzy Gillespie donned a black turtleneck. As the May 15, 1998, edition of Women's Wear Daily explained, Gap "flouted the convention of showing fashion models in pretty poses, [instead] featuring poets and musicians." Gap continued this theme—described by Fortune as "extraordinary people in ordinary clothes"—in its 1993 to 1995 "Who wore khakis?" campaign. These print ads incorporated photos of past celebrities, such as Pablo Picasso, Marilyn Monroe, and Ernest Hemingway, clad in khakis.
Gap's design and marketing formula of studied simplicity proved imitable, however. "Apparel companies from J.C. Penney to Armani had started selling 'basics,' " said Fortune. With new competitors, such as Abercrombie & Fitch, gaining the loyalty of teenagers and 20-somethings, Gap's sales dwindled. By 1995 store sales were flat. As part of a broader effort to bolster both its sales and its image, Gap launched its first television campaign in 12 years in 1997 with ads for its Easy-Fit jeans. The campaign starred a variety of performers, including L.L. Cool J., Lena Horne, and David Arquette, and revived the "Fall Into the Gap" tag line. For its efforts Gap was named 1997 "Marketer of the Year" by Advertising Age.
One of the primary target audiences of the "Khakis" campaign was teenagers. These members of the so-called Generation Y (or "echo boom") provided obvious opportunities to the company that could capture their allegiance. In 1999 there were 31 million consumers between the ages of 12 and 19, comprising 28 percent of the American population. This group spent an estimated $149 billion of its own money in 1998, according to Long Island (N.Y.) Newsday, and also heavily influenced many family purchasing decisions. In an effort to appeal to Generation Y, Gap sought to create "Khakis" commercials that expressed the values and activities of this segment. "Khakis Rock," for instance, featured in-line skating and skateboarding, sports that the November 9, 1998, Daily News Record labeled as "Gen Y pastimes." The khaki pants modeled in the spot were of the baggy style popular among teens. The music choice in "Khakis Rock"—the pulsing alternative sound of Crystal Method—was in tune with teens' tastes. The ad, which was produced to look more like a music video than a traditional commercial, was designed to appeal to a group raised on MTV. Although a Gap spokesperson cautioned the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger that the "Khakis" campaign was meant to curry favor with "all ages," she did emphasize that "we think the campaign is very young and high energy."
The "Khakis" campaign also attempted to court the notoriously cynical Generation X, those consumers born between 1964 and 1979. "X-ers are decidedly anti-marketing [and] anti-hype," an analyst told the Daily News Record. This demographic group, which came of age during economic recession and the onset of the AIDS epidemic, tended to be pessimistic and reluctant to respond to standard hard-sell advertising messages. "Khakis" ads were accordingly stylish in their execution but deliberately understated in their pitch. "With us, it's about entertaining as much as it is about fashion," a Gap spokesperson explained to the Chicago Tribune. The "retro" craze that captivated Generation Xers was also apparent in the "Khakis" campaign. Twenty-somethings in the 1990s embraced cocktails, cigars, and lounge music with a fervency that had eluded their parents, and "Khakis Swing" featured young people swing dancing with aplomb. Moreover, all the actors appearing in the "Khakis" ads were young adults, a calculated choice that conformed to Generation X's "prefer[ence for] images that portray people like themselves," according to the Daily News Record.
While the "Khakis" campaign tended to skew toward younger consumers, Gap took care not to alienate baby boomers. The "business-casual" boom of the 1990s meant that more employees—of all ages and positions—took to wearing khakis to work more often. Indeed, in September 1997, Gap handed out free khakis on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and convinced the exchange to relax its strict suits-only dress code for one day. The "Khakis Swing" ad exploited boomers' "nostalgia for the old days," an industry analyst told the Daily News Record. In fact, the Daily News Record concluded that the "Khakis Swing" commercial "reach[ed] all three generations."
Gap was not the only company seeking to capture younger consumers. Levi Strauss & Company launched its $50 million "One Leg At A Time" advertising campaign for its Dockers division in March, 1998. Founded in 1986, Dockers dominated the khaki sector, controlling 26 percent of the market in 1998. While Dockers had experienced considerable success with its "Nice Pants" campaign (which ran from 1995 through 1998), Dockers, like Gap, expected growth to come from Generation Xers and echo boomers, according to Advertising Age. This new campaign, conceived by Foote, Cone & Belding was intended to draw in younger consumers. "One Leg At A Time" had different components, including television commercials (which appeared during programming such as the NCAA basketball championships and prime-time shows), print, and outdoor spots. Dockers also utilized more unconventional marketing strategies. The brand sponsored independent film festivals, showed movie clips from these festivals on the walls of buildings in trendy neighborhoods, and sent free khakis to cutting-edge figures such as Harmon Lee and Omar Sosa. "We don't want to be the big corporation, banging you over the head with our message," a Dockers spokesperson told the Daily News Record. "We'll try to set ourselves apart by making ourselves a part of life on the street level." In July 1998, however, Dockers ended "One Leg At A Time," citing increased advertising pressure from Gap. In its place Dockers tried a new strategy when it "dropp[ed] the ordinary guy image it has had since its launch, [and] switch[ed] to a sexier approach," according to Advertising Age on January 18, 1999. Two new commercials—both of which featured attractive young men who receive considerable attention from women because of their pants—aired mostly during sports and male-oriented programming.
Gap faced other challengers as well. Like Dockers, the Haggar Clothing Company sold its khaki pants at retail stores. In June 1998 the company debuted print ads that portrayed model Billy Brown clad only in Haggar khakis. "The ad," said the Washington Post, "communicated the sentiment that khakis, specifically those from Haggar, are cool." Recognizing that women purchased nearly half of all men's clothing for their partners, Haggar's new campaign targeted females. Thus the ads appeared in publications popular among women, such as Glamour and Marie Claire. Tommy Hilfiger, a trendy casual-wear designer, represented an additional threat to Gap. Advertising Age called Hilfiger a "marketing titan" and the "sportswear choice" for fashion-minded 20- and 30-somethings. After launching a women's sportswear line in 1996 to augment its successful men's line, Hilfiger and Miramax films teamed up to tout the 1998 movie, The Faculty. Stars from the film appeared in print and television ads (wearing Hilfiger creations, of course) that ran on MTV, VH1, and Comedy Central and in magazines such as Teen People, Spin, Details, and Rolling Stone. Gap also faced competition from hip retail chains such as Abercrombie & Fitch, which targeted consumers below the age of 30. The bulk of Abercrombie & Fitch's sales were derived from its glossy catalogue, but the company also operated a chain of 159 stores across the United States.
A year before the launch of Gap's "Khakis" ads, the company's designers and marketers had determined that "1998 would be the year of the khaki," said Fortune. In addition to conceiving the campaign Gap developed new styles of the classic tan pants in hopes of capitalizing on booming khakis sales. (Total khaki sales were 12 percent higher in 1997 than 1996, and 1996 sales had been 22 percent higher than 1995.) While Gap certainly hoped to sell large quantities of khakis, the massive effort it devoted to the campaign undergirded its overarching goal: to strengthen and contemporize the Gap brand. Khakis offered the Gap a means to draw a broad cross-section of American consumers into the company's stores. As the Daily News Record asserted, "[i]t's rare for one item to stretch its legs from the golf clubhouse to urban streets to the corporate boardroom." Khakis did just this, however, proving to be popular school attire for teens, "casual day" garb for employees, and clubbing clothes for Generation Xers. The "Khakis" campaign attempted to reach all of these distinct demographic groups.
A SWINGING INFLUENCE
Although Gap's "Khakis Swing" commercial was influenced by the resurgence of "retro" culture among young consumers, the ad itself did much to boost further interest in swing dancing. "I think that ad did more for swing dance than it actually did for those pants," a swing commentator told the Quincy (Mass.) Patriot Ledger.
Since Gap sought to reach across demographic divides, the company used different media to carry its "Khakis" message. Television commercials were the foundation of the campaign. For the most part Gap selected programs that garnered a younger audience of Generation X and Generation Y viewers, including ER, Ally McBeal, The Practice, and The X-Files. When the company "re-debuted" these ads in August 1998 it added to its roster Felicity, a hit show among teens, and Party of 5, a drama that had a cult-like following among teens and 20-somethings. Gap also ran "Khakis" commercials during more high-profile programming. In May 1998 the company spent an estimated $1.7 million to advertise on the final episode of the tremendously popular sitcom Seinfeld. The 1999 installment of "Khakis" ads first appeared during the Academy Awards telecast, which was a "major hit with women and young people and dr[ew] a more affluent audience than the Super Bowl," according to the San Jose Mercury News. Print "Khakis" ads were published in more youth-oriented magazines, such as Spin, Details, Vibe, Vanity Fair, Vogue, ESPN, Teen People, and Entertainment Weekly. Bus and billboard ads were also used in key markets.
Since the campaign had the dual purpose of enhancing the image of the overall Gap brand, the company was careful to ensure that the "Khakis" ads projected the Gap's desired image. The look and feel of the spots, with their stark, white backgrounds and minimalist feel, shared the design principle of Gap stores. Moreover, despite their music-video undercurrent, the commercials remained focused on Gap's khakis and the Gap logo that silently appeared at the end of each spot.
The "Khakis" ad were lauded by viewers and critics. A USA Today AdTrack survey revealed that the spots were "very effective and very popular with consumers of all ages." The survey indicated that the "Khakis" spots scored "especially well among young consumers." Teen marketing studies showed that "Khakis" ads were the second most popular of any advertisement among teenagers and that consumers under 20 ranked Gap fifth among brands they liked most.
Advertising critics and apparel industry analysts were equally enthusiastic. The New York Times named "Khakis Swing" one of the year's best ads, and the Chicago Daily Tribune declared that the "Khaki" ads "created the biggest cultural stir of any TV spot" since a popular 1997 ad. An analyst for the Wall Street Journal reported that the "Khakis" commercials had bolstered Gap's brand: "They have a brand, not just retail stores. People are buying the brand, not just something to cover their nakedness."
Gap stores experienced a stunning 24 percent gain in same-store sales during May 1998 alone, which USA Today credited to the "Khakis" advertising. Year-end figures for 1998 revealed that Gap had increased its sales nearly 40 percent during the year. The San Francisco Chronicle praised Gap's "high-energy advertising" for "fueling" this rapid growth.
Berkowitz, Harry. "Marketers' Dilemma: What Gets Teens To Buy?" Long Island (N.Y.) Newsday, January 24, 1999. Detailed discussion of the teenage market that "Gap Khakis" attempted to reach.
Berner, Robert. "Gap Launches TV-Ad Campaign to Boost Sales At Its Retail Stores." Wall Street Journal, April 28, 1997.
Carter, Kelly. "In the Swing." Quincy (Mass.) Patriot Ledger, October 12, 1998.
Cox, Ted. "The Gap's 'Khakis Rock' Ad a Jivin' Blend of Past and Present." Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald, June 15, 1998.
Cuneo, Alice. "Dockers Aims to Equal Jeans Sales: Levi Strauss Sets $50 Million Campaign Seeking Younger Buyers for Brand." Advertising Age, March 9, 1998. Descsribes Dockers advertising campaign.
Cuneo, Alice. "Dockers Takes A Sexier Approach in New Ad Push." Advertising Age, January 18, 1999.
Dodd, Annmarie. "Dockers Bringing Khaki Message to Urban Areas." Daily News Record, June 3, 1998.
Dodd, Annmarie. "In Today's Bottoms Business, Comfort is Spelled K-H-A-K-I-S." Daily News Record, May 25, 1998.
Emert, Carol. "Gap Sizzles." San Francisco Chronicle, April 26,1999.
Enrico, Dottie. "Viewers Find Gap Ads Toe-Tapping Good." USA Today, June 8,1998.
Givhan, Robin. "Rhapsody in Beige." Washington Post, June 7, 1998.
Gladfelter, Elizabeth. "A Consultant Says that Gen X, Gen Y and Boomers Have Starkly Different Charactersitics, and Marketers Should Proceed with Caution." Daily News Record, November 9, 1998. Compares and contrasts the different demographic segments "Gap Khakis" ads targeted.
Grant, Lorrie. "Retailers Report Strong Sales Gains in May." USA Today, June 5, 1998. Describes rising sales in the wake of the "Gap Khakis" campaign.
Grogan, Leigh. "Gap Fills in Void of Television Advertising with Some Real Toe-Tappers." Sacramento Bee, May 20, 1998.
Haber, Holly (with Sharon Edelson). "Retail Ads: Upping the Ante." Women's Wear Daily, May 15, 1998.
McCollum, Charlie. "Khakis Taking Jeans' Place as Wardrobe Staples." Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger, June 8, 1998.
――――――― "Oscar Ceremony Becomes Advertising Event." San Jose Mercury News, March 22, 1999.
Munk, Nina (with Michelle McGowan). "Gap Gets It: Mickey Drexler is Turning His Apparel Chain into a Global Brand." Fortune, August 3, 1998. Outlines Gap's history and marketing strategies.
Patterson, Philana. "Gap Shares Hit 52-Week High After 'BlowOut' May Sales Report." Wall Street Journal, June 5, 1998.
Smith, Sid. "Nice Pants." Chicago Tribune, June 4, 1999.
Gap, Inc. was established in 1969 with the purpose of selling one product: Levi's jeans. In 1991 Gap cut its ties with the Levi's brand and limited its merchandise offerings to Gap's private-label brand of jeans, khakis, and colorful one-pocket T-shirts, which had been introduced beginning in 1974. Despite the company's profit and sales growth through 1991, sales went into a slump in 1993 and 1994, increasing just 1 percent each year. The chain reported no sales growth in 1995. As the downward slide continued, Gap began looking for ways to expedite a turnaround. Part of the strategy included opening more than 200 new stores in 1996, and in 1997 its in-house marketing team created a new brand-building campaign titled "This Is Easy."
Gap's $15 million "This Is Easy" television campaign was introduced in April 1997 to promote the company's line of Easy Fit Jeans. Although a few Gap commercials appeared on television during the early 1990s, the "This Is Easy" campaign marked the company's first significant journey into television advertising since the mid-1980s, when the Gap opted to put its marketing efforts into print advertising. The spots were intended to renew enthusiasm and boost sales at Gap stores, which in 1996 showed the poorest sales performance of the three Gap Inc. divisions—Gap, Old Navy Clothing, and Banana Republic. Gap was also responding to the highly competitive market for denim jeans by reasserting its strong brand image.
The renewed foray into television and increased spending on advertising helped Gap achieved its goal of growing sales and boosting its brand image. Following the campaign's launch in 1997, sales increased 23 percent from the previous year. BusinessWeek listed Gap 17th on its 1998 list of best-performing companies, and the chain announced plans to open 300 new stores that year. Also in 1998, Gap began a new global marketing campaign that was a modified version of its "This Is Easy" campaign.
The Gap skated along relatively smoothly after its inception in 1969 until the mid-1990s, when management realized that other retail companies were imitating its store design and products, essentially relegating the Gap to being just another retailer. The stacks of jeans, khaki pants, and multicolored one-pocket T-shirts that could be purchased at every Gap turned up in other stores, often at lower prices. Sales figures reflected this turn of events. BusinessWeek reported that, although profits at stores that had been open for more than a year had grown an average of 12 percent from 1986 to 1991, earnings skidded in the mid-1990s. Sales grew a mere 1 percent in both 1993 and 1994, and there was no growth in 1995. Donald Fisher, Gap founder and chairman, confessed to BusinessWeek, "We were looking at ourselves as a store rather than a brand. When you do that, you draw thick, heavy lines around your freedom."
Marketing strategies were shifted, and the company's upper management made efforts to solidify Gap's brand image. Millard "Mickey" Drexler, Gap's president and CEO, studied companies with strong brand presence, such as Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Nike, and concluded that Gap should follow in their footsteps. According to BusinessWeek, Drexler discovered that "the first thing that hits you is that you can buy [such highly branded products] in a lot more places than you can buy Gap." The company, therefore, opened 203 new stores in 1996 alone. Drexler also introduced new products, such as nail polish and perfume, and he decided to invest more time and money in advertising. Drexler told Advertising Age that, in addition to building the brand, "We also realized we had to expand what advertising and marketing mean to this company." The Gap, reported BusinessWeek, increased its advertising budget and spent an estimated $90 million in 1996, compared to $64 million in 1995, and comparable store sales (sales at stores open for more than a year) jumped from being flat in 1995 to a 5 percent increase in 1996.
The Gap's appeal had spanned generations, and thus its target market was also wide-ranging. When the company opened its first store in 1969 and sold Levi's jeans, it appealed largely to the youth market, consumers between the ages of 15 and 25. The Gap attempted to expand its core consumer group in the 1970s by adding additional clothing items and active wear, but for the most part its popularity through the 1980s remained with teenagers and the youth market. In the 1990s, however, Gap began to open more stores and offer new products to expand its consumer base.
The Gap customer, regardless of age, appreciated comfortable, simple clothes and went to the Gap for its ease of shopping and inventory of classic styles. In a conversation with MSNBC Business Video, Warren Hashagen, Gap's senior vice president and chief financial officer, explained the diversity of its consumers: "[The Gap] is certainly a company that likes to think of itself as relevant to the youth of America as well as people of all ages." Through its merchandise the company "give[s] a consistent message to the customer how easy it is to take clothes from our store and mix with their own wardrobe for their own style." June Beckstead, Gap's vice president of product design for the women's division, asserted that Gap clothes appealed to the full spectrum of consumers. She told the Wall Street Journal, "We dress America…. You walk down the street, and you see people wearing our clothes. They're young and old, they're hip and they're not."
For the "This Is Easy" campaign the Gap chose to hone in on the target market that consisted of younger men, including teenage boys. The men's line had not performed as well as the other divisions, and Gap wanted to lure back male customers. Alice Ruth, an analyst at Montgomery Securities, told the Wall Street Journal that the men's clothing line had suffered because it had gotten a bit too trendy and because the Gap had deviated from its reputation as a store that offered wardrobe basics such as jeans, khaki pants, and solid-colored T-shirts. The Gap hoped to reassert its position in men's clothing by focusing again on the basics. In the Wall Street Journal McCadden explained the "This Is Easy" campaign's message to men: "Gap offers you all the pieces. No matter who you are there is something at the Gap for you."
Because the Gap was a major retail clothing chain as well as a manufacturer of private-label clothes, it faced competition in virtually every corner. When asked during Biz Buzz, a business-oriented show on the cable network CNN, about the companies that provided competition, McCadden responded, "In the case of Gap, probably just about everyone. I mean we're [a] very large, very broad brand … I think how we view the brand and how we manage the personality and the message of the brand really isn't in relation to competitors." Hashagen, in an interview with MSNBC Business Video, agreed with McCadden and stated that the Gap provided a level of quality and service that set the company apart from its competitors. Hashagen noted, "there's always a tremendous amount of competition in retail. We think of our business as being a great value … The quality of the product, how long it will last, how well it works with your other wardrobe items or our store, the service level you get, how easy the store is to shop and all of that is meant to give a good value overall."
Regardless of whether Gap stores possessed a competitive edge over other retail and private-label companies in terms of value and brand identity, the lack of sales growth in the early 1990s indicated that the company needed to adopt new strategies to boost profits. Competition from stores that imitated Gap's core products and display styles prompted the company to strengthen its brand identity and provide a constant flow of new products. In fact, approximately every six weeks Gap stores introduced and rotated styles. Robyn Waters, the trend director for Dayton Hudson's Target Stores, told the Wall Street Journal, "If there is anything we emulate it's [Gap's] great core product and the constant flow of newness and fresh product all the time."
According to figures from the market-research specialists NPD Group, published in the San Francisco Examiner, the jeans industry exploded in the 1990s, hitting $8.7 billion in sales in 1996 alone. This reflected a 10 percent increase over sales in 1995. Beverly Butler, a spokesperson for Gap, said, "It's a really crowded market and getting more so." Designer labels such as Tommy Hilfiger and Nautica entered the jeans market, and private-label jeans by Sears and J.C. Penney grew in popularity. BusinessWeek published data compiled by NPD Group that indicated a considerable increase in the market shares of private-label jeans, from 16 percent in 1990 to 25 percent in 1997. The Gap, as the largest manufacturer of private-label jeans, held some of this valuable market, but as flat earnings demonstrated, it needed more.
A NEW COMPETITOR
When the Gap first opened its doors in San Francisco, its competitive edge came from the bell-bottom Levi's it offered for sale. When in 1991 the Gap stopped selling Levi's jeans to focus exclusively on its own label, it bid farewell to an ally and said hello to a new competitor.
The Gap's brand-building "This Is Easy" campaign debuted on prime-time television on April 27, 1997. In the initial two-week period the first six spots were aired nationally more than 600 times on the major networks and also on cable channels, including MTV, ESPN, and Comedy Central. As McCadden explained to the Los Angeles Times, "That whole campaign of easy-fit jeans really springs off a 28-year history at Gap of personal style … What we're doing right now is simply taking what's been a core equity and carrying it to new mediums." The resurrection of the "Fall into the Gap" theme and jingle served both a nostalgic and marketing purpose. McCadden elaborated, "It subtly says to someone, 'This brand has a great history. You've trusted this brand for a long time.'" Jeans were selected as the Gap product that best represented the brand image.
The decision to return to national television advertising in full force after a hiatus of nearly a dozen years was necessary to achieve the ubiquity of a well-known brand. As Drexler related to Advertising Age, "TV was critical for us … You can't consider yourself a serious marketer without, in fact, having a major presence in TV long-term." Hank Wilson, a consumer-goods analyst for Hambrect & Quist, voiced his agreement in the Los Angeles Times when he stated, "The Gap is of a size and scale where traditional television advertising can yield the kinds of awareness improvement that they would probably like to see."
The "This Is Easy" television spots featured jeans-clad celebrities singing, playing musical instruments, dancing, or performing other artistic specialties they considered to be easy. The Gap's choices of celebrities were designed to attract as wide a range of viewers and consumers as possible. Younger stars drew in the youth market, while older celebrities were chosen to appeal to a more mature crowd. Each spot was filmed against a stark white backdrop to evoke the Gap's simple and easy style and ended with the Gap logo and the tagline "Easy Fit Jeans."
The first spot starred rapper and actor LL Cool J. Outfitted in Gap jeans and T-shirt, LL Cool J offered his take on what he considered to be "easy." McCadden explained the concept of including celebrities in the television spots in his conversation on CNN's Biz Buzz when he said, "The whole idea of that campaign is about personal style, and what we do is we invite the stars to come, and the first 20 seconds is about them. It's what's easy for them. They wear our easy fit jeans. LL arrived on the set and had actually written that entire rap himself about the Gap." The pervading theme of what is easy also conveyed the message that Gap provided ease in shopping, especially for males. McCadden told the Los Angeles Times, "The message is that we've figured it out for you. We're going to make this as easy as it can be."
LL Cool J's rap started with "I know you like your outfits stylish. Any other line but the Gap is childish. Everybody working there's a personal stylist. You're fallin' once you hear the Gap callin'," and it included "'G' is for gritty, 'A' is for always, 'P' is for power and the people." To conclude the 30-second spot, LL Cool J stated, "How easy is this? Fall into the Gap," and he then threw a kiss to viewers. Although the spots promoted Gap's Easy Fit Jeans, the company and product being pushed were not revealed until the end of the ads, when the tagline and Gap logo appeared.
"This Is Easy" included four additional television spot during the initial campaign launch. Two spots featured actors Lukas Haas and David Arquette, with Haas playing the keyboard while Arquette accompanied on the trumpet. Arquette ended by stating, "This is definitely easy," and the "Fall into the Gap" theme was heard. Rounding out the ads were two spots with actor Eric Mabius, who beat on conga drums and concluded, "This is really easy."
At the beginning of July 1997 the company initiated a radio campaign and introduced several new television spots. The two radio spots featured LL Cool J and the musicians Junior and Tanya Rae Brown and ran in major markets that included Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Boston. One of the new television spots showed ballet star Nikolaj Hubbe dancing in jeans and sneakers, with jazz piano music in the background. Hubbe announced, "This is super easy," and he finished by performing pirouettes to the "Fall into the Gap" theme. The Hubbe spot debuted in United Artists Cinemas, where it ran for a month before moving to television. The other new spots featured actors Peter Berg and William H. Macy and country music stars Junior and Tanya Rae Brown. Macy, who appeared in the motion picture Fargo, played a harmonica, and Berg, star of the television show Chicago Hope, strummed an electric guitar. Junior Brown performed on his "guit-steel," a guitar and slide steel combination he created, while his wife played a guitar. Brown surmised, "This is totally easy," and the spot closed with the signature theme.
The Gap continued its tradition of using the print medium and invested heavily in outdoor advertising. The company also used its stores as an advertising venue, putting approximately 170,000 posters in its windows. Billboards displayed the Gap ads, and enormous outdoor signs known as spectaculars, which were large enough to cover the entire side of an office building, appeared in major cities. McCadden, in his discussion on Biz Buzz, explained, "The whole idea behind them is to really present Gap jeans in a different format … [W]e like the idea of the walls because they just present it to the consumer in sort of a new … light. And they're also—you know, they're larger than life."
In 1998 the campaign was revised and a new series of commercials was released to promote another of Gap's jeans styles: Original Fit Jeans. The new campaign included television spots and prints ads that followed a format similar to that of the "This Is Easy" effort. No specific budget for the campaign was released, but a company spokeswoman told Women's Wear Daily that it was Gap's "biggest campaign to date." The four 30-second television spots, which were released in July, featured music stars from various genres, from blues and jazz to hip-hop and rap. Appearing in the spots were blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, singer and rapper Missy Elliott, legendary trumpeter Herb Alpert, and hip-hop group Run-DMC. In a press release Gap described the campaign as a "tribute to originality." Each spot included the chain's familiar white background and the theme "Fall into the Gap." The print ads showed models dressed in Gap's Original Fit Jeans. Ads ran in consumer magazines such as Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Rolling Stone beginning in August. The campaign also included billboards displayed in 24 cities worldwide that featured models wearing Gap Original Fit Jeans.
The return to television and the increase in spending paid off for Gap. According to BusinessWeek, Gap's 1997 sales increased 23 percent from 1996, and the company ranked 17th on BusinessWeek 's 1998 list of best performers. Industry executives applauded the Gap's marketing efforts and brand-building campaign, and it became the company to emulate. Alan Millstein, a retail analyst and publisher of Fashion Network Report, told Advertising Age, "They made their name into a brand … They are one of the few retailers that has that luxury." Sergio Zyman, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Coca-Cola, agreed: "The Gap accelerated to the point that the brand is on fire … There is no competitor who has a kind of brand essence that can pose a threat."
The Gap showed no signs of slowing down. The company announced plans to open 300 new Gap stores in 1998, and by May 1998 the company operated more than 1,000 Gap stores, up 15 percent from the previous year. Hashagen told MSNBC Business Video, "I think if you have a good store, a destination people want to shop at, you can have quite a few of them." The Gap appeared poised to become ubiquitous. According to Stores, Fisher believed that there was plenty of room for more Gap stores: "When you look at the total number of dollars spent on our kind of apparel, we're a small market share player. I think Wal-Mart does $30 billion and they continue to grow, so I have every reason to believe that we will continue to grow as well."
While the 1997 and 1998 marketing campaigns and store-expansion efforts seemed to pay off with increased sales and praise from industry insiders, trouble was looming on the horizon for Gap, and it was coming from its sister chain Old Navy. In 1999 Gap was reporting that sales were flat or down compared to the previous year, versus Old Navy, which had increases of 20 percent. Old Navy, with its bargain-basement prices on products that were similar to those that Gap was selling, was winning away Gap's customers. Gap's clever advertisements with music stars that crossed generations were beginning to have a negative effect as well. Analysts complained that Gap lacked focus. Bob Buchanan, an analyst with A.G. Edwards, told BusinessWeek, "I've got a problem when I see Gap trying to appeal to people age 12 to 60." In late 1999 Gap announced plans for a new marketing campaign to kick off the 2000 spring season. It shifted its focus from jeans and basic khakis and tees to its fashion-forward sportswear in bright colors. Also in a change from its 1997 and 1998 efforts, the new campaign had no tagline.
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――――――― "How Gap's Own Design Shop Keeps Its Imitators Hustling." Wall Street Journal, March 13, 1997.
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――――――― "Gap TV Spots Take Jeans beyond the Blues; Maverick Musicians Tune in to Original Fit Jeans." PR Newswire, July 17, 1998.
――――――― "Marketer of the Year: The Gap." Advertising Age, December 15, 1997.
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