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A new campaign from the Gap harkens back to TV commercials the retailer ran in decades past, including through a spotlight on its trademark plain white backdrop. In anthem spots, dancing couples and smiling families are this time accompanied by shots of nature and an uplifting soundtrack calling for brotherhood.
The music-forward ads anchor Gap's Stand United campaign that began this week and looks to amplify voices for a more equitable future, according to details the brand shared with Marketing Dive. The effort centers on themes of unity and civic engagement, promoting voter registration through deals with When We All Vote and Rock the Vote, as well as voting-themed apparel.
Though Stand United certainly fits the current moment given the upcoming elections, Gap's marketing team started working on the platform before the pandemic's onset. But since then, the notion of community has become even more relevant, said Mary Alderete, who joined Gap as chief marketing officer in February.
"It's not about getting political as much as it's about being inspired by unity and bringing everyone together. Bridging generations and cultures is quintessential Gap," said Alderete, a company veteran with past stints at Gap's Banana Republic and Old Navy brands.
Highlighting brand values
TV and digital video are key channels for Stand United's message, offering the boldest and most emotional means for expression, according to Alderete. The campaign focuses on storytelling and includes outreach on social media, Gap's core website, in-store displays, microsites and more.
On National Vote Registration Day (Sept. 22), the brand will host a series of events about why voting matters, tying in talks and performances by musical artist JoJo, inclusion speaker Amber Cabral, nonprofit founder Jerome Foster II and other brand ambassadors.
While Gap's creative is putting a bigger emphasis on lifestyle imagery and values-led messaging, the brand isn't wholly shifting away from product-focused spots, Alderete said. A new apparel collection featuring Stand United messaging appears in the ads that debuted this week.
"There's plenty of product in these ads, but we thought about pivoting to communicate what is important to Gap and showcase the brand's philosophy of 'modern American optimism,'" she said.
Alderete and creative director Len Peltier started ideating the campaign in February, immersing themselves in Gap's history while drawing connections to 2020, which has since been roiled by the pandemic and a crescendo of protests around racial injustice. Like this year, 1969 — when Gap was founded — was a defining moment for civic engagement and the idea of America being hopeful for change, Alderete said.
"When the company was founded, it was about more than selling clothes. The idea was to be a force for good, so we thought it was important to activate that again," Alderete said. "Voting is a way people can drive change and take action, so why don't we team with not one but two different partners to amplify voices?"
Bringing operations in-house
Stand United arrives less than a month after GapKids' Be The Future campaign kicked off. As with the new effort debuting this week, Be The Future centers around advocacy, community and voter education through partnerships with When We All Vote and Rock the Vote.
The GapKids' initiative launched on International Youth Day (Aug. 12) and aims to elevate voices of young leaders who are pushing for a more environmentally sustainable world. Weaving the two campaigns together around one cohesive theme may help to convey Gap's roots.
"When the company was founded, it was about more than selling clothes. The idea was to be a force for good, so we thought it was important to activate that again."
"The positioning of the brand has been quite consistent over the years. American optimism is really what Gap has always been about," Alderete said. "Our biggest pivot was going with brand value-led marketing and taking things in-house."
Stand United represents a new phase for Gap's marketing, as it is Alderete's first major campaign in the role of chief marketer. All creative assets and operations for this campaign went through Gap's internal team alone. The decision to bring the marketing operations in-house stems from a desire to build on Gap's brand equity and momentum while thinking in new, creative ways, per Alderete.
"What I didn't want to do was come into the role and scrap everything. I really wanted to focus on what was true to the brand and continue that messaging," she said. "We felt that we were closest to the brand and the product, and we thought this campaign would be better served through our in-house team to get to that integrated experience and obsess over every touch point."