Mobile: Custom Fit
When Gap sized up the iPad back in April, it didn't see the tablet as merely a place to put Gap ads inside upscale mobile magazines, but rather as an opportunity to create its own constantly streaming magazine.
From there, it was just a matter of time for the brand and its digital agency AKQA to invite you to do the same.
Gap's "magazine" is a free streaming app focused on denim fashions and named The Gap 1969 Stream after the brand's 1969 line of apparel. Launched in April at the iPad unveiling, the app initially consisted of Gap-generated articles, fashion tips, music and videos, all somehow tied to the brand's 14 lines of men's and women's jeans. To make the app shopping-friendly, it offered tools and tagged the Gap items shown in the Stream to make them simple to buy online, or find them at the nearest store.
For the laptop crowd, the streaming magazine appeared - minus the shopping tools - on the brand's Web site. On both devices the content flowed like water across your screen, and by touching (or using your cursor) you could slow down, speed up or dive below the wave of material.
Naturally, everything could be shared via Facebook and Twitter.
In July, the river of in-house content was reinforced with text, photos and video from publications, blogs and communities such as Elle, Glamour, Men's Health, The Sartorialist and Celebuzz. "We want it to offer an aggregate of the coolest sites and blogs about fashion and culture" and present it in an "edgy, accessible" way, says Ivy Ross, Gap's executive vice president for marketing. The arrangement was that Gap would pay to run online ads on 30 media properties from late July to early September and in turn, those media sites would provide denim-related content and updates for the Gap stream well into the fall.
Then in mid-August, the Stream added another dimension, inviting you to create a similarly moving stream of content from your Facebook and Twitter pages. When you sign up for "MyStream," a page is created made up of your profile picture, your posts, images, comments from your fans and headlines of articles you've recommended. They randomly run together in a moving collage, which can be shared via social media. There is no Gap branding or content - unless you post something about the brand on your social sites. (Ironically, Gap's MyStreamers pumped out plenty of unflattering Facebook and Twitter posts about the brand in October, when Gap tried out a new logo on its Web site and triggered a howl of protest.)
AKQA execs admit there was "some deep thinking" about whether to put the brand logo on the MyStreams and use them as another sales venue. "But that didn't feel right. Rather, we thought it should be a utility for you," says Shira Bogart, AKQA creative director. Gap's Ross calls MyStream a gift to its audience, requiring some discretion. "We didn't want to throw ourselves at you," she says.
"This whole Stream effort is an incubator" for the company, notes Ross. "We thought a good place to start [a stream] would be the denim lines. Denim is fairly specific, it is the core of our business and has lots of enthusiasts" looking for tips and advice, she says. The target: women and men with an average age of 28, who are very interested in style and technology.
There are different goals being attached to the Stream on the iPad app versus the Web site, all as part of the learning curve. The iPad is using the Stream as a purchasing tool, with modules that lead you to shop by product or product line. About 45 percent of those who viewed a product via iPad proceeded to checkout, per Gap. In contrast, on the Web, the Stream is being used as a way to "tap a passion point and offer inspiration," says AKQA's Bogart.
Across both devices, an unexpected insight surfaced in the months since the launch. For all the space devoted to images of tight, sexy jeans on tall, attractive models, users seem to be especially intrigued by photos of real people wearing the latest fashions. They want street scenes of people in jeans, says Bogart. Media partners LookBook and StreetPeeper already offer such photos on the Stream, and Gap is pushing for more "real people" images from its other partners, she says.
To get a piece of the action, Ross says Gap will be giving cameras to its staff this fall to take pictures of stylish, jeans-clad people on the street which can then possibly be used in the Stream.
While Gap isn't sharing its metrics for the Stream app and Web page, AKQA says that the rate of unique visits to the Stream is double the projected goals. Agency reps compare it to the shop's Born To Fit campaign for Gap last fall, which barely beat its traffic goals.
As far as the specific impact of the MyStream offering, consider this: Two weeks after launch, 20 percent of those who created a MyStream were sharing it, according to Gap. Perhaps more telling is if Gap adds the Stream to other devices besides the iPad and expands it beyond the denim product line. Ross says both developments are under consideration. The app could be offered on iPhones and Android smartphones and tablets as soon as this holiday season. In addition, the company is discussing whether to use similar streams for the overall Gap brand. Indeed, for an iconic brand trying to recoup its street cred, watching how people swim through its collection of content and make their own could prove pretty darn useful.