5 Ways the Gap Can Help You Master of the Art of Rebranding

Fall into the Gap.

Chances are as you’re reading this sentence, you’re either rocking a pair of Gap jeans or you’re waiting for the weekend to break them out of your closet. It’s also a pretty safe bet that when you were younger, Gap was the back-to-basics cool-kids brand. That’s because since launching their company in 1969, the Gap brand has been a leader in rebranding. What started as a humble blue jeans company is now a worldwide casual fashion sensation that is able to keep pace with constantly shifting customer demands. The secret to Gap’s success is their flexibility and fighting spirit.

A good thing can only last so long. Even the strongest brands can’t stay relevant if they don’t evolve alongside their markets. What may be the hottest trend today may not even be relevant a week from now, so keep Gap’s tips for withstanding the test of time in your business’s back pocket.

“The work we’re asking our sales associates to do is changing.”Art Peck, CEO of Gap Inc.

5 tips to bridge your branding Gap:

1. Zero in on Your Product.

When Gap first opened its retail stores, they carried Levi’s jeans and other comparable brands. Eventually, they realized removing off-brand products strengthened their point of view and ditched the extra weight. Zero in on your product and remove the “extras” you may be throwing in. After all, they came to buy from you in the first place; trying to entice customers with add-on products is just confusing. Always have a clear outline of what products you offer to drive your focus, and have faith that your products can stand alone to generate your following.

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2. Create a Flexible, yet Focused Theme.

Gap’s point of view is “wardrobing America.” That is a theme that holds up in a changing landscape; it’s specific, yet flexible. Model your branding after Gap; pick something that keeps you focused on the details but leaves you room to grow with your market. Ask yourself where you see your customers a year, five years, or ten years down the road and how your branding’s point of view anticipates the future you may have with those clients. Brainstorming now about how you’ll keep pace with the times may be a revitalizing exercise that can help you develop your company’s voice.

“If we’re a creative business then we have to always win through creativity, but in my experience, the best creative enterprises sit on a platform of very disciplined execution.”

Art Peck, CEO of Gap Inc.

3. Ruffled Feathers Are So Hot Right Now.

In October 2010, Gap made headlines by drastically changing their logo. The news spread like wildfire on the internet, mostly because the responses were truly lackluster (to put it nicely). Gap’s strategists could have panicked and changed it back, but they stuck by their decision because they understood that change is necessary to the life of a brand. Eventually the world got over it, and the Gap continues to stand as a top brand in the retail world. I have learned not to fear change, even the kind that creates a massive backlash. I trust that even the most “catastrophic” situations can present opportunities and insights that no amount of money could buy.


4. Invest in Your Advertising (and We Mean It).

Gap’s 1998 “khaki swing” commercial campaign was monumental – within the span of a decade, Gap had transformed the public’s idea of clothing “basics” by capitalizing on the 90’s-era “swing” trend. But Gap invested a whopping $20-$30 million on those commercials. Twenty to thirty million. Million. I don’t care how profitable you’ve been, this is a massive advertising risk to any company. But investing in advertising paid off and cemented Gap’s place in the new era of casual fashion trends.

Investing in advertising and marketing has been the bread and butter of my business. It’s the reason my audience knows exactly what I offer, helped me move my product by word of mouth, and reached more people across the globe than I could have done on my own. Without exposure, how can you expect anyone to come flocking to your business?

“The definition of what’s a basic and what’s fashion;
I sort of scratch my head about it. I mean, obviously there are going to be basics. But I think the world, today, in terms of basics and fashion is a much muddier place.”Art Peck, CEO of Gap Inc.

5. Snag Your Customer in Two Seconds, or Else.

Mickey Drexler, former CEO of Gap, had the retail world down to a science; he knew that you have about two seconds  to catch the attention of your customer before they’re gone. That’s why he was motivated to redesign the stores, replacing neutrals with bright colors. Re-strategizing and amping up products constantly is an absolute must. Redesign your website, repackage your product, and find creative ways to leave breadcrumbs for your customers to draw them where you’d like them to go. I don’t rest until I’m confident that my product will snag my customers in the first two seconds of a presentation, and that requires endless effort and commitment.


Final Thoughts:
  • Zero in on your product. Focus on your product and toss the extras you may have been throwing in trying to entice more customers. Trust that your product stands alone.
  • Create a flexible, but focused theme. Make sure your point of view is specific, but don’t be rigid. How does your point of view relate to modern times as well as what you anticipate for your business in the future?
  • Don’t be afraid to ruffle a few feathers. Don’t fear change, even if it sometimes comes with a little backlash. Trust that even from the most “catastrophic” situations bring understanding and opportunity.
  • Invest in your advertising. Go big or go home, because investing in your advertising and marketing strategies is the bread and butter of your business.
  • Snag your customer in two seconds flat. Re-strategize your product to the point of exhaustion, until you feel confident that you can snag your customer in the first two seconds.
For every generation, there’s a Gap.

The Gap has been with us for decades; I’m sure we all have a favorite style or advertisement that we enjoy with a twinge of nostalgia. And that’s because they have been masters of the re-branding game all this time. They focus solely on what they have to offer customers, and their clarity boosts the business. Make sure your theme is focused but flexible, and learn to take risks and stick by your decisions. Don’t skimp on the advertising — marketing pays your bills — but focus your campaigns so you don’t waste your customers’ time. You only have a couple of seconds to earn their business, so get to the point. Employing these five strategies will ensure your business never gets left behind in the gap.