Gap debuts holiday campaign from new CMO and in-house team
The holiday marketing season has begun and, like many retailers, Gap is starting earlier than ever with its annual campaign. The apparel seller has returned to its roots with “Dream the Future,” a colorful song and dance that highlights togetherness, even during a time of crisis. In typical years, Gap’s winter-season marketing begins in November, but this year the new work, the first holiday effort under new Chief Marketing Officer Mary Alderete, kicks off Oct. 20.
“We had shot this on our normal time frame to start in November, but quickly realized we needed to pull up,” says Alderete, who joined Gap earlier this year from sister brand Banana Republic, noting that the timing of Amazon Prime Day, also in October, set the “tone for the season.”
Also unlike last year, when Gap ran an emotional, nostalgia-driven holiday spot around a boy, his mom and a red Gap hoodie, the 2020 effort is more upbeat and hopeful. In the 60-second anthem commercial, set to a Karen O version of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream,” a group of individuals and families meet around a white box and bond over hand-written concepts like “Connection,” “Hope,” “Inspiration,” and “Cozy.”
The spot highlights Gap merchandise like fleece, sweatshirts and socks—warm items that are on an upswing, according to market research firm NPD Group. NPD forecasts that sweatshirts, sweatpants, active bottoms, sleepwear and socks will make up 31% of U.S. apparel spend this holiday season, compared to just 26% last year, as consumers focus on what they can wear at home during the time of COVID-19.
Alderete says the commercial is around modern American optimism, a continuation of Gap’s fall campaign that focused on unity.
“I know some people will say, ‘It’s traditional Gap,’” she says, noting a white background and people dancing. “But we thought it was a bit more conceptual than that.”
Indeed, more consumers expect retailers to step it up with their marketing this holiday season, according to a recent survey from Edelman, which found that 69% of consumers expect stores to “portray the holidays differently in their communications.” Edelman says brands should reflect togetherness and gratitude, but also make clear the holidays will be different with smaller gatherings and social distancing.
In August, Gap introduced curbside pickup options for its stores as consumers continue to socially distance during the pandemic. The brand also offers buy online, pickup in store. Yet it continues to be a difficult time to be an apparel seller—particularly for physical shopping. For the second quarter, which ended Aug. 1, Gap reported a 28% decline in net sales, which included a jump in online sales of 75% and a 55% drop in sales at brick-and-mortar. Same-store sales, which measure stores open a year or more, were up 12% in the period.
Gap’s new push, which includes a digital dance challenge, will include TV spots of varying lengths, digital and social media. The retailer did not work with an agency this year, again breaking with previous years like last year, which included holiday work from Johannes Leonardo, and instead relying on Alderete, new VP-Global Creative Director Len Peltier, who joined the brand from Banana Republic this year, and their in-house team. When filming the commercial, actors were temperature tested and distanced, says Peltier. The purpose of the white box in the spot was two-fold—it helped provide a focal point but also, as it was five-feet-wide, it kept actors apart. Producers also used camera tricks like long lenses to make the space feel more crowded and compressed and convey togetherness.
“It’s this idea of movement as communication,” says Peltier. “If you can’t be close to each other, how to communicate this idea of love and joy and warmth, clothing as warmth.”