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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.

Seth Farb­man

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