Gap Inc. (GPS) is tailoring its fall marketing campaign to attract millennials as the largest U.S. apparel chain magnifies its focus on the twentysomething crowd.
Ads feature real residents of young, hip enclaves like Austin, Texas, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York, modeling Gap’s 1969 denim line. In stores, customers will be able to use smartphones to see videos explaining how their garment was designed and manufactured, and taco trucks will give free food to anyone wearing a Gap label.
The campaign is part of San Francisco-based Gap’s shift to target young consumers after previously seeking to lure a wide audience with neutral workplace basics, classic denim and bright scarves. The clothes didn’t connect with consumers in recent years and the retailer has shaken up the Gap North America brand and replaced its president and head designer.
“Our core customer has changed to the millennials who are entering the market in a very big way, so we are making some bold and deliberate changes,” Seth Farbman, chief marketing officer, said in an interview last week. “This is a moment of truth,” said Farbman, who joined Gap in May after a career at advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather.
There are more than 60 million 18-to-35-year olds in the U.S., about 20 percent of the population, according to the Census. Gap is “smart to tap into this market because there is a void there,” said Jennifer Davis, an analyst at New York- based Lazard Capital Markets LLC. Gap’s success is dependent on how appealing their fall clothing line is to millennials -- consumers in their 20s and 30s -- Davis said.
“In the past, they have tried too hard to be different, adding details to everything, and the results were just bad,” Davis said in a telephone interview.
The Fall line does have notable changes. Steering clear of black-and-white office attire, sequins and embellished jeans, new looks include basic t-shirts worn with skinny jeans and a bright-yellow blouse worn over green shorts.
Farbman is seeking to paint Gap’s designers as creative artists to impress the younger target audience.
“The 1969 design team is a collective of artists, musicians, action sports junkies and trendsetters,” Gap said in a statement today.
Gap marketing to young adults may be a mistake, said Paul Lejuez, an analyst with Nomura Securities in New York. The demographic Gap is targeting grew up wearing Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF), American Eagle Outfitters Inc., Aeropostale Inc. (ARO) and Urban Outfitters Inc., Lejuez said.
“If you’re under the age of 30, you’ve never grown up with Gap as a cool brand,” Lejuez said in a telephone interview. “Because they never hit that demographic to begin with, it’s an uphill battle.”
In its new campaign, Gap will release videos on blogs and social media websites that show the design and manufacturing process because millennials “demand transparency,” Farbman said. The company’s Los Angeles denim studio, with its hardwood floors, exposed brick and stylish workers is meant to seem more like a start-up, he said. The videos will appear on websites frequented by the young crowd such as Daily Candy, Hulu, Pandora and Rolling Stone.
The taco trucks will be in major U.S. cities and celebrity chefs will create gourmet concoctions, Farbman said. Anyone wearing Gap clothing will receive free food and have their picture taken for the Facebook and Twitter pages.
In May, Gap cut its full-year profit forecast by 22 percent because of surging cotton prices and increased pay for workers who make clothes in China and other parts of Asia.
Gap fell 23 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $19.29 on July 29 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have declined 13 percent this year.