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Amid plummeting sales, Gap's new CMO hopes to revive it as emblematic cultural brand

The Drum 15 Sep 2020 07:00
How Gap’s new CMO is reinventing the iconic brand as it struggles to find its place in the apparel industry

2020 looks to be a critical year for Gap. As it rails against plummeting sales and store closures, the once emblematic American brand is looking to reinvent itself after struggling to find its place within the apparel industry in recent years.

Gap's newly installed chief marketing officer talks The Drum through its plans to find the pulse of the cultural zeitgeist once again through its 10-year collaboration with the king of culture himself, Kanye West, on why it's going back to its activist roots, and the decision to bring its marketing in-house.

When considering the ‘Gap’ brand, the mind naturally floats to its trademark hoodie, laid back basics, and classic denim. Gap was once one of America’s most beloved apparel retailers, and an era-defining brand of the 90s, when every kid on the block wanted to be seen with Gap’s name sprawled across their chest.

For years, Gap has struggled to stem the steady drip of falling sales as it comes to terms with an identity crisis. Badly hit by the pandemic, back in June it reported a quarterly loss of nearly $1 billion, with sales revenue down 18%. Further, Gap Inc. has announced that its namesake brand and Banana Republic are closing more than 225 stores this year, almost three times more than previously announced.

Alderete joined Gap just before the pandemic hit in March, replacing Alegra O’Hare who left the business after less than a year. Her exit coincided with the brand’s decision to “redefine” the role after Gap announced plans to shutter a number of stores, after finding itself outpaced by sister brands Old Navy and Banana Republic. Hailing from the latter (where she held the same role) Alderete felt like the right person to sail Gap out of choppy waters.

Part of this refocus has seen Gap announce a 10-year partnership with creative entrepreneur and rapper Kanye West and his distinctive fashion line, Yeezy, with the intention of creating a line of products appropriately named ‘Yeezy Gap.’

Beyond elevating the look and feel of the brand, Alderete explains that the marketing wing is pivoting Gap to brand-led values, brought into focus around its brand platform - 'modern American optimism'.

“If you look back to the original founding mission for Don and Doris Fischer, they established the company with a vision that they could do more than just sell clothes,” she explains. “1969 was another time of high civic engagement and what we call American optimism.”

Alderete explains that she brought her creative director along with her from Banana Republic, and because of their unique partnership and background, there were able to do all the work together in our own company. With an ad agency background, this is something she also did during her three years at Gaps sister brand. “We don't need to rely on an outside ad agency," she explains. “We create the concept, direct and produce all the assets ourselves which is quite invigorating for the team because everyone is a maker.”

Whether you're a fan of Kanye West or not, the world now awaits the Gap Yeezy line with bated breath – only time will tell whether it's enough to elevate Gap back into culture once more.

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