Bright Outlook from the Gap

April 19, 2013

By Lynn Santa Lucia

When you’re trying to revitalize a brand, you can get lost in an avalanche of opportunity. And if you’re like Gap’s global CMO Seth Farbman, you can tend to push very fast. The former Ogilvy exec, who joined the retailer two years ago, is a self-described type-A marketer and admits that initially he was looking in all the wrong places to inject some oomph into the brand — namely, at brands that made huge statements very quickly to set the stage for a huge turnaround.

Then Farbman took a breath and asked: What IS Gap? He considered the fundamentals: Gap’s own story and its pillar products. “Without those, we have nothing,” says Farbman, who presented at the ANA Brand Masters Conference. With a renewed focus on the values on which Gap was founded (American optimism and casual style) and on its winning fashion trifecta (jeans, khakis, and t-shirts), the brand is bouncing back. Indeed, we’re all the happier for it.

This would fit right in with Gap’s M.O. to “Be Bright.” “We see Gap as a window to what’s bright,” Farbman says. “We are believers in bright.” By giving us a “store with heart” (a fundamental desire of founders Don and Doris Fisher) and working to “create a brighter future for all” (not to mention offering a new dazzling palette of jeans), Gap is giving us something to smile about.

In the process, Farbman has discovered what really matters:

  • Stories:
    “We needed to remember our brand’s story and restore the passion that first drove the story.”
  • Shared values:
    "‘Youth culture has always been the Gap’s focus,’ is what Don Fisher says,” Farbman notes. “We’re beefing up our presence in the social-media and digital space, because this is where the youth of today are.”
  • Employees:
    “We installed Chatter (a closed social network) for our sales teams across the country, to give our employees a voice. And in 2007 we made a commitment to empower our women [textile] workers by funding their education.”
  • People:
    "We put celebrities in a ‘normal,’ ‘just-like-me-and you’ light. In our “Love Comes in Every Shade” campaign, they are role models through their love.”
  • Everything!
    “As marketers, we have incredible responsibility because we can and do change the way people think about themselves, each other, the world around them. Working with a purpose is what counts. That goes beyond just our jobs to making a contribution in society — and that’s really what we mean about “Being Bright. “


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