fashion therapy

Gap's New Global Brand Story: Denim, Design, Food Trucks and a Dog Named Louie

Posted by Shirley Brady on August 1, 2011 01:00 PM

Gap is turning to storytelling in its new global campaign, promoting its 1969 premium denim collection with "real people" (to start with, the team behind the collection, at its Los Angeles denim studio) and some other local touches, including tapping into the mobile truck craze and even featuring the studio's resident dog.

The first major campaign by the brand's new CMO, former Ogilvy exec Seth Farbman, the "1969: L.A. and Beyond" campaign aims to tell "the story of its 1969 fall collection from the inside out. Starting with the personalities behind the denim, 1969: L.A. and Beyond gives a transparent look at the designers and how they come together each day to create the latest in denim fits, fabrics and washes. Taking it from the studio to the real world, the campaign also shows how the denim comes to life in various cities by the people who wear it."

Gap, of course, isn't the first brand to feature "real people" including its own employees — J. Crew, Zappos and American Apparel are a few brands just in the fashion/retail space who've been down that path, while Seattle's Best Coffee, Red Lobster, Domino's, Cathay Pacific, and Perdue Farms have also featured their staffers in campaigns.

Farbman, a former journalist, is eager to bring design inspiration and storytelling back to the brand in a Levi's-like move designed to give it more street cred and a variety of hooks to play up to its 1.6 million Facebook fans and also style bloggers, who've already started talking up the campaign.

“When I first joined Gap, I was surprised by the unexpected, untold stories across the brand—particularly about our people and the real-life experiences and situations they’re inspired by,” said Farbman in a statement.

“Fall is our first step in sharing what’s different and inventive at Gap, and we’re starting with our 1969 studio. We want our customers to see who’s behind the product and how their individual personalities and lifestyles influence what we offer in our stores around the globe.”

While Levi's has been creating experiential brand stories with pop-up locations in San Francisco, New York and now Los Angeles and Berlin to play up its "we are all workers" theme, Gap is looking to tacos and celebrity chefs to bring the 1969 campaign to the streets.

According to Ad Age, there "will also be an experiential element, with a taco truck, inspired by the Los Angeles locale of the studio, set to make appearances in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Starting this week, the "Pico de Gap" food trucks will sell tacos for $1.69 (though if you show off Gap duds, they're free), as well as hand-out coupons." The trucks will feature celebrity chefs who will broadcast their location via Twitter.

More from Gap's press release on the campaign launch:

"Led by creative director Rosella Giuliani, the 1969 design team is a collective of artists, musicians, action sports junkies and trendsetters. Women’s design director, Nicole King-Burroughs, turns to art for style inspiration, while women’s merchant, Masako Konishi, views fashion as more instinct than intellect, applying emotion as opposed to regulated rules to make her fashion choices. Men’s design director, Jason Ferro, brings his background as a rebel skater, surfer and musician to the design table, while men’s merchant, Cale Margol, uses denim as a canvas to tell a modern and progressive story. Wash specialist, Rob Crews, started in the industry when he was just 16 years-old and fell in love with the creative process of taking raw denim into a washed state through different hand treatments.

Providing further inspiration to the design team, the 1969 studio feels like the personal atelier of a denim architect, not the headquarters of a global brand. Once a cigar factory, the vast and open loft studio is based in the heart of the garment district on West Pico Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles. This Gap denim epicenter is an ever-changing canvas for ideas, featuring art books, mood boards, vintage buttons, Japanese work wear catalogues and back issues of surfer magazines, set against a backdrop of sun-filled floor-to-ceiling bay windows.

Aligned with how people want to discover and share information, 1969: L.A. and Beyond will live primarily in the digital world via a series of video vignettes and sponsored editorial on Gap’s Facebook page and on outlets such as DailyCandy, FabSugar, Glam, Hulu, LookBook, Pandora, Refinery29, RollingStone and TrendCentral. The campaign will also run in the August issues of national magazines including Glamour, GQ, InStyle, People StyleWatch and Vogue.

Customers will also see the campaign in Gap’s windows nationwide where each designer will be profiled with photos and quotes. 1969: L.A. and Beyond was developed in partnership with Ogilvy and Cool Hunting ... (and) Gap’s Global Creative Center in New York, and is designed to be global with different parts of the campaign allowing international markets to balance according to their needs." 

According to Ad Age, "spending on the campaign will be flat compared with last year, though a greater percentage of the budget is going toward digital and social media, a spokeswoman said. In the third quarter of 2010, Gap spent about $30 million on measured media, according to Kantar Media."

Graphicology's take on the campaign (watch the initial L.A. spots below, with "beyond L.A." to follow): "On one level, this seems to be much ado about nothing, but it still works. A little transparency, even quite polished transparency, can be beneficial if your brand has a story to tell, and I think everyone can agree that GAP is one such brand. Even if these spots are not the most surprising pieces of communication - my hope for this campaign is that it is just a start of things to come. Hopefully, more heartfelt, intelligent and eager advertising from the company and agency Ogilvy."

Gap 1969 Denim Studio Los Angeles: Go inside the Pico creative loft in downtown Los Angeles, where Gap's 1969 denim design team works on fits, cuts, washes and other design elements to create a truly unique approach to affordable, cutting-edge jeans:

Gehind the scenes at the 1969 Denim Headquarters in downtown Los Angeles:

Gap 1969 Denim Profile: Rob Crews. "We take the raw denim and turn it into its washed and final state. We go into it wanting to make every garment the very best." 

Gap 1969 Denim Profile: Masako Konishi. "What we challenge ourselves to do is to take the idea of denim as a staple and to move it forward; to keep it new and to keep it fresh," says Masako, Gap 1969 women's denim merchant. "Being inspired by truly creative people is what I love about my job." 

Gap 1969 Denim Profile: Cale Margol. "I wear jeans every day. I really don't wear anything else," says Cale Margol, men's denim merchant for Gap 1969 jeans. A background in surfer wear and architecture helps inspire his work on the 1969 denim men's line. "How do you do something that sets [you] apart from the next brand?"

Gap 1969 Denim Profile: Jason Ferro. "I take a lot of inspiration from the street, from music, from the art world," says the head designer for Gap 1969 Men's Denim. "When you can capture your attitude and your self-expression through your clothing, that's what you want to do." Meet Jason, his band and his dog, Louie (also at top): 

Gap 1969 Denim Profile: Nicole King-Burroughs. Nicole started her career as an intern at Gap. "I basically joke that I was born and raised at the Gap," she says. "Everyone here basically lives into the lifestyle as well. We're really designing for ourselves."

And the studio's canine muse:

And there's a slew of Gap 1969 product videos, of course — a few:

Denim Skinny Boot Jean in Black: What's the newest denim cut? Masako, Gap 1969 Denim women's merchant, is betting on the skinny boot, a legging with a subtle bootcut flare at the heel:

Gap 1969 Denim Men's Straight Fit Jean in Clean Gray. The Gap 1969 Men's team is thinking beyond blue: For fall, they've created a versatile dark gray color for their popular straight fit jean:

Women's High-Rise Pintuck Trouser: aka what Katharine Hepburn might have worn:

Thinking beyond "blue" jeans:

Styling advice: "Keep it simple"

How to make it work for the office:

Little-known denim tip: freeze your jeans!

Go fly a kite (seriously):

And here's a rare interview with Farbman, talking with I Mean What blogger Abe Gurko about how he's changing the story and voice at Gap to become more authentic and less corporate:

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