- Mary Alderete, who became the chief marketing officer of Gap in February, is seeking to make the brand more relevant in a pivotal time for the retail industry.
- “We all know that Gap has struggled over the past several years,” Alderete told Business Insider in a recent interview. “My first and foremost goal is to contribute to the legacy of this brand, as long as I am the steward of it, and move it forward.”
- Gap’s recent ad campaigns emphasize the comfort and utility of its clothes while touching on current events in subtle ways.
Mary Alderete became the chief marketing officer of Gap in February 2020.
She had her work cut out for her. Within a few weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic had begun to spread across the US, leading governors to order temporary shutdowns of nonessential businesses, including apparel stores like Gap.
The year 2020 has also brought with it the chaos of an election year and renewed attention to the issue of racial justice.
Amid all of that, Alderete’s goal has been to push Gap’s brand to be more relevant and of-the-moment than it has been in recent years.
Even before the pandemic, Gap was reporting slumping sales, and analysts were looking for more excitement to be infused into the brand. The clothing store’s net sales dropped 28% in its most recent quarter, despite a 75% increase in e-commerce sales.
Parent company Gap Inc. has announced plans to close hundreds of Gap and Banana Republic stores — many of them in malls — in the coming years. By the end of 2023, the company expects to have 870 Gap and Banana Republic stores in the US and Canada, compared to 1,216 in 2019.
“We all know that Gap has struggled over the past several years,” Alderete told Business Insider in an interview. “My first and foremost goal is to contribute to the legacy of this brand, as long as I am the steward of it, and move it forward.”
One of the ways Alderete wants to do that is by remaining in touch with what the Gap customer needs. In a time when many are working from home and refraining from socializing because of the pandemic, clothes that provide comfort and utility are of the utmost importance.
“That disruptive change of the pandemic gave us a strange opportunity to move with courage and confidence,” Alderete said.
Alderete said Gap was well-positioned to do well in the pandemic environment because of its strength in the sleep, activewear, and kids and baby categories. She said that American culture was already gradually becoming more casual, which was a challenge in her previous role as CMO of Gap sister brand Banana Republic, which specializes in workwear.
From a branding perspective, after reopening stores, Gap leaders thought strategically about how it could “go on the offense and bring this brand to the forefront as one of those trusted brands that will emerge from this [pandemic] as a leader in the category,” Alderete said.
Gap has also sought to connect with its customer by creating marketing campaigns that touch on current events.
In September, it launched a campaign called “Stand United,” which promoted civic engagement, voting, and “a more equitable future,” the brand said in a press release. “Be the Future,” another fall campaign, promoted a similar message, but for kids.
For the holidays, Gap is running an ad campaign entitled “Dream the Future,” which features a diverse group of people in colorful Gap clothing holding up signs with positive messages like “hope,” “inspiration,” “cozy,” and “community.”
“We’re leading with the platform of modern American optimism,” Alderete said. “That’s our brand positioning, no matter what. Culturally relevant expressions of that optimism is what we will do every season.”
Alderete added that the brand is not looking to make a political statement.
“It’s really the idea around standing united, whatever you stand for,” she said. “That harmony can really only be achieved when different voices all come together as one.”
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