How Gap put a fresh spin on nostalgia for its fall campaign

How Gap put a fresh spin on nostalgia for its fall campaign

As consumers begin readying their fall wardrobes, Gap is vying to spark fashion inspiration by elevating its assortment of closet staples to nod to today’s consumer and transform what was into what is.

The retailer today (Aug. 29) unveiled its fall collection, an assortment of its new and most-loved styles — called its “icon” products — that were designed using inspiration from the brand’s style archives while being modernized to match current fashion trends. To showcase the collection, Gap also launched its fall 2023 campaign, an integrated effort meant to reenvision nostalgic ads from the retailer’s past.

While themes of nostalgia have broadly become a perennially popular marketing tactic, for Gap, a deep dive into memorable moments of its past was intentional not only to inform its latest effort, but those yet to come as the brand strategizes a sharpened creative strategy. The latest campaign also arrives during a challenging period for business defined by declining sales.

“With any strong, iconic brand like Gap, you want to take a look at your history and heritage,” said Erika Everett, head of marketing for Gap. “One of the key things we did in thinking about the strategy and the creative formula for going forward is, when this brand has been at our best, what are sort of the core tenets of that?”

Among long-winning principles that Gap plans to carry forward are creativity, style and the celebration of humanity, a three-piece formula that Everett noted has come to define the brand. The latest campaign will span out-of-home (OOH), including digital OOH and billboards in New York and Los Angeles, digital media and Gap’s brand channels. The retailer is also partnering with content creators to bolster its efforts on platforms like TikTok.

Creative materials for Gap’s fall campaign are grounded in partnerships with eight individuals, dubbed “artistic originals,” across the art, music, fashion, activism and film sectors in an effort to tap into key consumer touch points while also promoting originality and individuality, two values that the retailer has often embedded into its marketing.

“Gap has always been a brand that played a role in culture through the lens of entertainment,” Everett said. “That can be through music, through fashion — our customers are looking for inspiration.”

Included in the cast is Helena Christensen, a clothing designer and former model credited with helping shape the modeling industry in the ‘90s, Lionel Boyce, an actor known for his role in “The Bear,” and Coco Pink Princess, a 12-year-old influencer and fashion icon in Tokyo. Others include award-winning chef Sophia Roe; stylist and model Veneda Carter and her daughter; designer Sean Wotherspoon and his two children; actress Medalion Rahimi (“NCIS: Los Angeles”) and creative entrepreneur Stella Simona.

The cast members are featured in a 30-second campaign spot that puts the brand’s latest collection center stage, highlighting items like its denim jackets, jeans, button-down shirts, cargo styles and more through an “emotional and vibrant color story,” per release details. The campaign’s cast members also notably span a wide range of ages to help Gap broaden its reach. The spot was directed by Brendan Clark and videoed by Ben Carey, with photography by Bjorn Iooss. Looks for the collection were styled by London-based fashion stylist Caroline Newell.

The latest effort from Gap comes at a tough time for business, with year-over-year net sales falling 14% to $755 million in the second quarter. The retailer’s new CEO Richard Dixon last week presented company earnings, noting that though he sees signs of life across Gap’s portfolio of brands, which also includes Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta, work still needs to be done to bring them back up to speed.

Accordingly, while Gap’s latest campaign may in a lot of ways be reminiscent of past efforts, Everett says the effort is communicated through a new lens, including through a more strategic focus and elevated creative fueled by a partnership with a new creative agency, Invisible Dynamics. The fall effort marks the first campaign from the pair, though they’ve been working together for a few months to help Gap with brand expression.

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