Fierce Excerpts: How the GAP lost its brand identity.

brandfiercely1Branding, Fierce Excerpts

Now Reading | The GAP’s Biggest Problem is That it Lost its Brand Identity.

So what is brand identity? Here is a simple definition: The visible elements of a brand (such as colors, design, and logo) that together identity and distinguish the brand in the consumers’ mind.

When I was young, I was one of those consumers who thought of the GAP as “effortlessly cool.” I loved the look and feel of their fun basic pieces. I liked the prices as a high school student and as a poor college student, and I liked the brand—clean, simple, and pure. As someone who was infatuated with advertising from a young age, I loved their TV.

It seemed like they had taken over the world back then so how it possible that they are closing over 175 stores in North America—what happened to this iconic staple? I get it that online shopping is taking a toll and the obvious competition that has sprung up (specifically Forever 21 and H&M) but it’s more than that.

According to the article, the biggest blow to the Gap brand, analysts say, is its murky brand identity. It has no clear position, and that’s costing it market share. 

Martin McNulty, CEO of the digital marketing agency Forward3D, agreed.

“Gap has lost what it stands for today,” he said. “In creating spin-off brands like Banana Republic and Old Navy, it did a great job of segmenting out-of-office wear and low-cost apparel. But the success of these brands seems to have come at the expense of the core Gap offering.”

The article goes on to say:

Differences between Generation X, which represents about 40 million people, and the millennial generation, which represent nearly 85 million people, have also played into Gap’s woes, said Michelle Lynn, evp and managing director of the Dentsu Aegis Network. 

“You want to play to the mass market,” said Lynn. “But what we’ve seen [with millennials] is that this population of people is much more nuanced [than Generation X]. You have to go beyond those stereotypes to figure out what the insights are, what’s important to these people that you can win with, and it’s hard to win with 85 million people.” 

Analysts agreed that for Gap to win over its consumer base again, it needs to dig deep into what once made the brand successful—while keeping in mind that times and retail tactics have changed. 

“They need to get their mojo back by resurrecting their innovator spirit,” said Bernstein. “They were never about doing things ‘normally,’ but always about the American spirit of individuality, which made the brand so simply, brilliantly, strong.”

There is a reason why as a strategic ad agency, we always start with brand. Brand strategy must be infused into every single decision a brand makes. It’s a critical component that once lost, forces decisions like this from the GAP—closing 175 stores and cutting 250 corporate jobs. Know your brand strategy and use it as a lens for every decision your company makes.