Just as the Christmas classic's Santa told customers to go to other stores to buy toys, Gap executives told Mr. Crisman to go to Macy's for a training program.
Mr. Crisman declined. Instead, he persisted until he was made an assistant to former Gap Advertising Director Maggie Gross. His job was to work with celebrities who became part of the celebrated "Individuals of Style" campaign.
That was 10 years ago. Since then, he moved from Gap's PR department to exec VP-marketing for Old Navy, the Gap's discount-store chain, where he helped develop the brand.
Old Navy's secret to success: a lighthearted discount retail shopping environment with strong customer service-which doesn't make people of all ages and income levels feel as though they are poor.
Using the simple formula of value, family, fashion and fun, the chain kicked off with a combination of marketing disciplines, such as a grand opening in November 1995 of the Old Navy New York store with the Rockettes, to the use of a glass booth in which selected store visitors could grab at money blown around them in full view of other shoppers.
This year, Old Navy developed one of its first national advertising efforts, featuring canine mascot Magic and a rotating group of eclectic celebrities, from model Morgan Fairchild to the '50s group The Four Tops. The campaign also made fashion editor Carrie Donovan something of a celebrity as Old Navy's "old lady."
All that paid off in November 1997 for Mr. Crisman when Old Navy hit $1 billion in sales for a single year. It took the Gap 18 years to hit the $1 billion annual sales mark.
Still, Mr. Crisman isn't satisfied. "Until every customer is walking out of there happy, you're not doing your job," he says.