What Happened to Gap? UC Berkeley Extension Brand Analysis Paper

This year I decided to return to college. In January I pitched my company to sponsor me to attend an UC Berkeley Extension course which focuses on learning further about social media marketing strategies.

Recently, our professor asked us to do a deep dive into a brand of our choice by analyzing their marketing and social media strategy. Naturally, I decided to do an individual brand analysis on Gap. As a millennial kid in the early 2000's, Gap was everything to me. I had to have the colorful striped scarfs, bubble puff coats, and khakis. Read about my love/hate relationship with the Gap, below. 

Gap's recent campaign, Generation Gap:  New Chief Marketing Officer, Craig Brommers tapped the children of celebrities who starred in Gap's original 90s campaigns, such as Demi Moore's daughter Rumer Willis, and Diana Ross' son Evan Ross.

Gap's recent campaign, Generation Gap: New Chief Marketing Officer, Craig Brommers tapped the children of celebrities who starred in Gap's original 90s campaigns, such as Demi Moore's daughter Rumer Willis, and Diana Ross' son Evan Ross.

Today it’s May 5th, 2017. I am currently 24 years old. As I reminisce on simpler times, like my childhood, one of the fondest memories I am able to recall is shopping for back-to-school clothes at the Gap. In 2004, I was in the 5th grade and the Gap was my retail store of choice. Why you might ask? It was easy for me. In the late 2000’s Gap’s television commercials were marketed towards children that looked like me, the actors had their own individual style, and danced to a catchy theme song to highlight the simplicity and movement of Gap’s clothes.

During the early 90’s-2000’s Gap leveraged several different notable influencers to promote their clothes within commercials which bought notoriety and exposure within different communities, demographics, and socioeconomic levels. Influencers include: Sarah Jessica Parker, LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige, Orlando Bloom, Kate Beckinsale, Miranda Kerr, JC Chasez, Madonna, Missy Elliot.

2004 was a breakout year for Gap, as the company released an ad and television spot, “Pretty Khaki” featuring Sarah Jessica Parker who at the time was the star of the hit television show Sex and the City. Gap commercials granted agency to the consumer to dress up or dress down their already oversimplified clothing, enticing the consumer to purchase Gap items and curate their own experience. Gap also promoted key themes that could be applicable to any consumer lifestyle: love, community, acceptance, uniqueness, character, vulnerability and transparency.

Gap was amazing at merging polar opposite cultures to highlight the interconnectivity of their brand and clothes. A New Groove, A New Jean ft. Madonna and Missy Elliot is the perfect example. In the commercial, Madonna, sings her legendary song, Into The Groove while Missy Elliot begins rapping. The commercial ends with both of the megastars dancing next together in their Gap jeans. It symbolizes unity and togetherness, although both these celebrities are two completely different people representing separate cultures, music genres, and experiences, they have one commonality, Gap jeans.

Missy Elliot + Madonna on set at the "In the Groove" commerical.

Missy Elliot + Madonna on set at the "In the Groove" commerical.


Gap was consistent in their brand messaging by focusing mainly on holiday and khaki/denim commercials. Themes of past Gap commercials: Denim Invasion, Gifts That Warm, Gifts That Pop, Khakis Groove, That’s Holiday, Gifts That Shine. 

Lenny Kravitz + Sarah Jessica Parker during the "How Do You Wear It?" commerical.

Lenny Kravitz + Sarah Jessica Parker during the "How Do You Wear It?" commerical.

Gap Commercials = Lifestyle Marketing

As a kid, what amazed me about Gap commercials was the level of visual simplicity and how I was able to instantly envision myself in their clothing. Gap ads exist as historical markers of the times we’ve had in fashion — from oversized khakis to boot cut madness, we’ve had a long, bittersweet relationship with the jeans company. Gap was able to capitalize on each style within a different era, keeping them culturally relevant and cutting edge. Their brand identity as a fun, playful, minimalistic lifestyle and clothing brand lie heavily within their commercials. As it relates to marketing to children, Gap was strategic about actively going against gender norms. In the iconic “Talk to the Moose” Christmas commercial, girls from ages 8-10 openly spoke to their parents about not wearing the “normal attire and girly dresses” and declared that they wanted to wear sweaters and bold stripes, instead.

Gap Brand Colors:

Gap successfully owned several integral colors for their brand: white, dark blue, orange, red. According to Entrepreneur, “The psychology of color as it relates to persuasion is one of the most interesting--and most controversial--aspects of marketing. The reason: Most of today's conversations on colors and persuasion consist of hunches, anecdotal evidence and advertisers blowing smoke about "colors and the mind."

Gap’s main colors represented: friendly, cheerful, confidence, excitement, youthful, bold, trust, dependable, strength, balance, peaceful, calm.

Present: Exploring Gap’s Social Media Marketing

The nostalgia has worn off and I find myself back in 2017, wondering what the hell happened to Gap’s clothes, lifestyle, brand and culture…the answer is simple. Gap couldn’t translate the diversity and creativity they once put into their commercials to their social media channels. The Gap’s biggest issue is that they lost their brand identity. Once effortless cool, hip, and aspirational…now one-dimensional to everyone.

Currently, Gap’s brand direction and messaging is scattered on their many social media channels. For Instagram, they have four accounts and three for Twitter and Facebook. Gap now has sub-brands that include, GapFit, GapKids, and GapFactory. Because of the many accounts for each platform, I’m choosing to zero in on Gap’s main Twitter account, @Gap.

Channel Breakdown:

.@Gap has 680,000 followers on Twitter mostly targeting millennials, from ages 18-35 to purchase their newest GapFit item: #GapSculpt compression leggings and jeans. Recently, Gap has been implementing video shorts and gifs to generate engagement. In addition to highlighting their newest product rollouts they also have been journeying to the past by creating the #TheArchiveReissue collection, which is a compilation of 90’s based Gap clothing.

#IAMGAP Social Campaign:

On Twitter, Gap has been tapping into their original marketing strategy of leveraging prominent influencers to wear Gap clothing for their #IamGap campaign. Naomi Campbell, Evan Ross, and Rumer Willis all have been featured on Twitter wearing Gap clothes but instead of talking about how Gap influences them or enhances their lifestyles, they are talking about their personalities. Causing disconnect and confusion of understanding exactly what Gap’s purpose and brand identity is.

High performing content on Gap’s Twitter channel includes, user generated content and socially conscious posts. However, even with the use of videos and gifs, the most engagement the Twitter account receives is:

75-100 likes

25-30 retweets

2-10 comments

Popular Hashtags:

#GapLove, #GapFit, #DoYouMove, #GapSculpt


The @Gap account is stagnant when it comes to active community management, audience participation, and creating unique and engaging content. Hopefully, Gap will revisit their original brand marketing techniques to develop thoughtful, meaningful, and iconic campaigns for their social media, similar to the early 90’s-2000’s. One main social recommendation would be to consolidate Gap’s many accounts on each platform, so consumers aren’t oversaturated with content and can experience one solid brand identity.