Gap Weighs In On Optimism, The '90s, Gen X


Image above, from left: actress JaShaun St. John, movie director Chloé Zhao


The Gap just launched its fall campaign, building on the platform of upbeat hopefulness it says is resonating with core Gen X and millennial audiences. Called "Individuals," the new effort introduces a fresh crop of culture-changers, capturing their values and personality in 15-second spots. There's a 20-year-old determined to go to Mars, a woman advocating for Black sign language and (pictured here) award-winning Chinese director Chloé Zhao, with JaShaun St. John, a young Native actress. Mary Alderete, global head of Gap marketing, tells Marketing Daily what's behind the images.

Marketing Daily: First, you say these ads convey optimism. Yet I'm not sure how hopeful people feel these days.



Mary Alderete: This modern American optimism is our platform now, and I do think people feel it. The idea is to capture that youthful energy of the brand in a way that celebrates individuality.

What's been so great about each campaign is that the cast of individuals is always fiercely and uniquely their true selves, but they're all part of something bigger. It's this idea of being a force for good. We've been carrying this torch for over a year now. It's about making a better tomorrow.

Marketing Daily: What kind of social changes?

Alderete: Alyssa Carson, the young woman training to go to Mars -- she knows three billionaire men dominate all the space conversation. She's aspiring to go anyway. She’s already started space training.

Willa Amai, our young singer, has already worked with Dolly Parton.

Marketing Daily: The '90s look is big in these ads. Why?

Alderete: Yes, with plaid flannel, loose denim and especially our hoodies, with the arched logo.

It's interesting in that first of all, people are getting dressed again. They're looking to get put together again. And that's coincided with this denim cycle shift from the skinnier silhouettes to straighter legs, and people want to wear things just a little looser. They want to be a little comfier.

Marketing Daily: So comfort more than nostalgia?

Alderete: Much of the interest in hoodies started on TikTok, with people who weren't even born in the '90s. And it's fun to update them. Neon pink is trending so hard right now, so to turn that into a 90's-style hoodie is like the best of both worlds.

Marketing Daily: So Gen Z loves the ‘90s. Are they your primary audience?

Alderete: No. We're targeting millennials and Gen-Xers because our kids and baby business is as strong as our adult business.

But Gen Z is raising its hand and telling us they are very interested in the brand. So we don't have to choose, and we try to do a balance. We can put together a multigenerational cast in a way other brands can't. Last spring, for example, we had dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov along with a 12-year-old skater.

Marketing Daily: How do you balance these personality-driven ads with promoting products?

Alderete: Denim is trending, and we've got a new spot running that highlights our leadership in denim. And it does it in a very modern way, using a dance troupe from Los Angeles.

So, yes, one campaign is about our values and individuality. But we're also going to be that category-dominant denim destination with our denim spot. So it's kind of like a one-two punch this year.

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