Can This Brand Be Saved?
How do you go from being hip and cool to "samey and boring?" A brand is much like a relationship. At the beginning of a relationship, everything is new and exciting. Many relationships fade over time in terms of fun, passion and relevance. Does this mean the relationship has to end or that a brand like Gap is going to disappear?
One way to revitalize any relationship is to go back to the story of origin. "What made you fall in love with each other?” is a key question that couples get asked in marriage counseling. What made Gap open its first store? "Back in the 1960s, Donald and Doris Fisher were desperate to find some jeans that actually fit. They were selling primarily Levi’s jeans and LP records."
The connection to music and Gap’s clothing has faded like a song you can't quite remember what the lyrics are any more or why you used to love it. In its heyday, The Gap ran multiple-page ads in Rolling Stone because both of the brands celebrated music, fashion and freedom of expression. "GAP" was a representation of the generation gap between old people and the new hippies seeking peace. That message is gone, but if it can come back with new relevant issues, it can revitalize the brand.
Gap can learn some lessons from Converse, which also was stuck in the past. At the Coca-Cola CMO Leadership Summit, I heard Geoff Cottrill speak about his years as the chief marketing officer of Converse.
Cottrill is now the senior vice president of strategic marketing at Coca-Cola. The culture at Converse was one of “We used to be … We used to be as big as Nike. We used to be the No. 1 choice for basketball players.” The company had black-and-white pictures surrounding all the employee offices, which were only focused on the past.
When Converse asked its young target market if they cared about the brand’s 100th anniversary, they said, "it just makes me think you are old.” It became time to focus on the next 100 years.
Cottrill decided to thank customers for their loyalty. He created a new, simple ad: “Thank You.” The agency created a gallery of people who had customized their Converse Chucks. What if Gap let people customize their T-shirts to raise awareness for social issues like climate change or homelessness? The homeless issue is a big problem in San Francisco, which is home to Gap's corporate headquarters.
Imagine if Gap started a program to donate a percent of its sales to the homeless or decided to give a T-shirt to a homeless person for every T-shirt you buy? TOMS Shoes donates a pair of shoes for every pair bought, and the company has become a huge success.
Converse also began truly interacting with its customers. The brand launched Converse Rubber Tracks with its marketing budget to help young musicians, instead of just repeating the old message to buy shoes. This became a massive international success. What if Gap went back to its musical roots and did something to help young artists create their music?
Here are three tips to jump-start your brand before it's too late:
- Listen to how you can help.
- Say "thank you."
- Give with no expectation of what you get back.
If Gap tries this strategy, it might just turn around and get back to being hip and becoming the canvas for people to make a difference and express their individuality.
John Livesay, author of "Better Selling Through Storytelling," is a highly sought-after keynote storytelling speaker and Forbes columnist. During his talks, he shares the life-changing lessons he’s learned from his award-winning sales career at Conde Nast to help people become revenue rockstars by forming emotional connections with clients through stories. Livesay is the host of The Successful Pitch podcast, which is heard in over 60 countries.
John Livesay, author of Better Selling Through Storytelling, is a highly sought-after keynote storytelling speaker and Forbes columnist. During his talks, he shares the life-changing lessons he’s learned from his award-winning sales career at Conde Nast to help people become revenue rockstars by forming emotional connections with clients through stories. Livesay is the host of “The Successful Pitch” podcast, which is heard in over 60 countries.