FROM A MARKETER’S POINT OF VIEW
The Creative Strategy
We can conclude that the overall objective is to integrate individuality and authenticity of personal style and invite consumers to find their own version of dressing normal. As it was mentioned by supporters to this campaign, “my sense of normal is different from that of others”, and this is the essence of it. In all the videos, it is evident that they are trying to draw our attention away from the clothes but rather highlight the actors’ characters and personality. For example, in the video “Drive”, the girl in the back seat takes off her pants randomly; we don’t even see the pair of jeans, but mainly focus becomes her rebellious nature.
The problem with GAP began when people started viewing the brand as boring and was often criticised it as becoming the piece of clothing that everyone owns, even Joey in the series ‘Friends’ once says “Stupid GAP on every corner!” when he and Ross were wearing the same shirt.
This pushed GAP to finally take action and use the public’s negative attitudes and beliefs to reintegrate it into their own advantage by stating that this is indeed what GAP is all about, simply Normal. By doing that, they aimed at changing the consumers’ idea of normal by convincing them that normal is relative to each one’s perception.
The endorsers in all of the ads, are mainly millennials, so we can conclude that GAP is targeting them in particular. The company, whose average buyer age is 39, wanted to appeal to the Millennials (age 16 to 34), but by staying in touch with the older generation and still be perceived as classic. So we can say that a demographic segmentation was applied to determine this campaign’s target audience. The Millennials is a good segment to target because they are reachable on social media platforms, and at this point in their lives they start to acknowledge their inner personality. So through this campaign, GAP is also appealing to consumers who want to express themselves, their uniqueness and individuality through their clothes and outfits: A psychographic segmentation was also used to determine the target audience.
GAP’S promise that can be retrieved indirectly from the message is to make clothes so normal that you will be noticed for who you are and not what brand you are wearing. In addition, they give the impression that it’s not just about fitting in with others by being normal, it’s about standing out and expressing your identity, and this argument is supported in the slogan of the ‘Drive’ video: “The uniform of rebellion”: by ‘uniform’ they meant one single outfit for many, but ‘rebellion’ explores the identity.
In addition, the entire marketing strategy is supported by the visuals and slogans communicated to the audience. It is challenging for the audience to understand the real message when they see pale coloured clothes, visuals in black and white and minimal focus on the actual product, but that creates the positive anxiety that the audience is left with.
Furthermore, the most interesting point about this campaign is that GAP isn’t differentiating itself based the product’s competitive advantage such as lower price, comfort, availability or fashion style. But rather, it is positioning itself in the consumer’s mind based on the added value gained out of wearing the brand: they represent authenticity and relate to confidence.
Endorsers of the Campaign
The best endorser for GAP is none other than the company’s CMO Seth Farbman who is considered the professional expert to the audience. In many appearances and interviews, Farbman represented GAP’S mission to be the world’s favourite brand for the American style and look. In the brief for this campaign, he noted that they want to create “positive anxiety” for people while seeing an ad that is challenging.
As for the celebrity endorsers in the broadcast, print and social media, GAP hired normal celebrities who are not too famous but who the audience can recognise as familiar faces. Among them, are Anjelica Huston (who is on the billboards in the GAP boutiques in Lebanon), Elisabeth Moss, Michael K. Williams (also seen in the posters in Lebanon), Jena Malone and Zosia Mamet. Choosing these celebrities was not a coincidence, their social status and average popularity fits the situations pictured in the ads as normal people. However, in order to represent “authenticity” and character’s identity, GAP hired endorsers that embody nothing but ordinary. The endorsers chosen are American actors, mainly appearing in action movies therefore fitting in the brand’s culture of expressing one’s identity through actions rather than clothes. In fact, when we first see these actors, we assimilate them to their movie role: Elizabeth Moss to her role in Madmen, Michael K Williams to his role in Boardwalk Empire, Jena Malone in Hunger games, Elizabeth
Huston in the Royal tenenbaums and so on because their roles or “character” are more important to us. Each one of them reflects the idea that each one’s normal is relative. These personalities are not considered as fashion icons and that is another reason why GAP chose them.
In fact, GAP didn’t focus on their appearances or what they are wearing; they just wanted them to be perceived as normal people who can be recognised by the audience, reminding them of the roles they played in movies. We can now conclude that associating the selected endorsers to GAP’S “Dress Normal” campaign helps build its credibility. These celebrities are also trustworthy because they keep a low profile and couldn’t possibly harm the brand image. Most importantly, even with the means and possibilities to dress in a more sophisticated and stylish way, by endorsing GAP, these endorsers build a commitment to share their identity through actions rather than clothes, just like one of the videos’ slogans claims: “Let your actions speak louder than your clothes”.
In the “Dress Normal” campaign, a GAP occurred in the communication process. The target market wasn’t able to correctly decode the message behind this campaign, and that was due to an error in using accurate words and relevant visuals.
In fact, the biggest confusion was led by the use of the word “normal”. The audience misinterpreted it, and many negative reactions followed. People don’t appreciate having a brand defining normal for them and telling them to dress normally. Therefore, maybe another word would have been more accurate for the whole campaign. “Dress simple”, “dress natural” or any other adjective could have transmitted the message in more proper way.
Besides, the use of the visuals that were selected did not correctly convey the message the campaign had the intention to do. For instance, one of the slogans that were used in the campaign was “There is not just a single normal. Normal is what normal means to you.” While reading this slogan, one might picture a group of people composed of persons wearing different outfits that clearly convey their personalities – even if their outfits were composed of simple basic pieces of clothing like the ones found at GAP stores. But as seen in the picture below, such simple and irrelevant visuals were used along with the slogans. So since the photos did not properly represent what was described in the slogans, the message failed to be correctly delivered to the audience.
Another observation that we made was that the “Dress Normal” campaign could have adapted to the local Lebanese market, which has a positive attitude toward the brand. But it seems like the campaign was simply imported without accommodating it to Lebanese market’s beliefs and values. In fact, studies conducted by JWT have shown that the trend of embracing one’s individuality and authenticity has been booming in the MENA region, so GAP could have picked up on that trend and launched the campaign differently in the Middle East region. They could have created events and a social media campaign that conveyed the message behind the campaign in order to create hype about it and the collection and thus about the brand.
Finally, GAP does not have a strong social media presence in Lebanon, in times when digital presence and activity is becoming necessary. They are present on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but is not a powerful presence. In fact, GAP should create a social media strategy to improve their online presence and to retain customer’s attention and interaction. This would allow their audience to engage with the brand, and help them analyse their voice of customers and therefore gain feedback from the Lebanese market. Implementing such a strategy would clearly help them create a greater impact on their customers. In conclusion, GAP’S “Dress Normal” campaign had both positive and negative aspects. Clearly, the choice of the word “normal” created confusion and reaction in consumer’s mind, as discussed earlier. In addition, it wasn’t adapted to the Lebanese market, who views the brand differently from the American market. Therefore, the local market cannot relate to the campaign the same way the American market is meant to relate to. However, the insight and initiative behind the campaign are successful. They helped break through the clutter, by having an original meaning and creating for their audience positive anxiety that challenged them and pushed them to look more into the campaign and its purpose.