Marketing only gets you so far

Regarding reknown push manufacturer Gap comes this word via Slate:

… the company itself is in dire straits. In November, Gap Inc. reported its worst quarterly results in three years. Analysts said it’s “time to get serious,” and that the numbers suggest “customer defections continue unabated.”

You can blame Gap’s clothes. (I know I don’t shop there anymore-none of their stuff appeals to me.) You can certainly blame the marketing. (Ad Age says Gap’s focus on celebrity endorsements has been a big failure. I’m not surprised, especially since they chose really lame celebrities. Lenny Kravitz? Joss Stone??) But Gap has taken out its frustrations on the floor plans.

I’d disagree that Gap’s demise can be pinned strictly on marketing. Couldn’t it be that people are sick and tired of trite colors, redundant styling and fit via CAD templates? With product development timelines stretching on 9 to 12 months in the future, how can push manufacturers continue to insist this is the way to meet customer needs? Ever focused on marketing to retain customers, Gap announces their new look via this video. While humorous, perhaps Gap would have been better served to wreck similar destruction on their product development department and manufacturing model.

To Gap I have one piece of advice: it’s time to go lean.

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7 comments

  1. Josh says:

    Speaking as a consumer I don’t shop at GAP or I should say don’t buy at GAP (I have shopped there and left with nothing) because their clothes are tired and uninteresting.

  2. Cinnamon says:

    Since I have a waist that is unproportional to my hips, I’m constantly in search of jeans to fit my curvy body. I was delighted to see a sign in their window touting their new curvy jean. I tried it on. They weren’t curvy, they fit horribly and I left disgusted again. Since they truly do use sweatshop labor to make their clothing, I felt no guilt swearing I would never return.

  3. Dave says:

    Maybe people are waking up and thinking that they do not want to dress like everyone else, and as a result, are shopping more carefully. Maybe we are finally coming to our senses that a clothes buying decision should not be formulated by flashy commercials and print campaigns. The next company that deserves to have their butts kicked are Abercrombie and Fitch. Just going into their stores and seeing the ragged manner (and product) in which they display merchandise, wants me to whip out my steamer and go wild. I don’t know about you, but I think America might be waking up and saying enough is enough, and the GAP’s poor results are only the beginning.I hope so.

  4. Mike C says:

    Brands differentiate to fill the endless supply of niches available.

    Coca-cola used to be the only soda available. Now, there are an endless variety of sodas available and even bottled water has niches that it fills (e.g. sports water, glacier water, drinking water, spring water).

    The same thing is/has happened to clothing brands. Large brands like the Gap will find it increasingly difficult to maintain their presence as small, more focused, brands continue to steal parts of their market. (e.g. A&F on the youth&hipster side, a panoply of high end jeans providers on the denim side)

    So, in many ways, the problem with the Gap isn’t just what it might be doing wrong but what other suppliers might be doing right. To that extent, the brand differentiation strategy of the Gap (Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Forth & Towne) is a good one, but I think they are going to come under increasing pressure to segment their demographics even further. Price points (and age with F&T) aren’t enough.

  5. christy fisher says:

    ..plus their original target market (18-30) is dwindling. The fastest growing apparel market, according to WWD, is the 45-55 (boomer market)..AND the over 60 market (!)..The 10-18 year olds, of course are blantant consumers still.. but the GenX group is down something like 10% over the past year in apparel (HUGE loss)..
    GenX is now spending $$ on their babies and new homes, cars, etc.. (growing up)..rather than on apparel.. while the boomer/older markets are empty nested and spending $$ on themselves…(and looking better han ever!)
    The older market wears jeans too.. but they really have to figure out the BODY and cut things differently.
    None of the belly baring stuff.. but they don’t want “old fogie elastic pants” either.
    This is where stretch fabrics are a bonus..

  6. Karen Clark says:

    Well, Gap thinks it is addressing the over-35 market with its Fourth & Towne stores (The New York Times called it “FAT”). I can’t say much as I haven’t seen their products, but I bet they miss the mark–just like all of the other manufacturers out there. They just aren’t getting the styles, the cuts, fabrications or the message right.

    And that’s why I started my company–Bella Sofia. I specifically design elegant yet edgy clothing for women over 40 that is also cut to fit the skeletal changes in a mature women’s body. It’s a for-purpose business which donates a portion of profits to groups worldwide that empower women politically and economically. Ok enough of my plug. It’s just that I’m so passionate about my “women.” So tired of seeing them wear baggy, boxy clothes just to feel comfortable.

  7. MW says:

    The same thing is/has happened to clothing brands. Large brands like the Gap will find it increasingly difficult to maintain their presence as small, more focused, brands continue to steal parts of their market. (e.g. A&F on the youth&hipster side, a panoply of high end jeans providers on the denim side)

    So, in many ways, the problem with the Gap isn’t just what it might be doing wrong but what other suppliers might be doing right.

    I agree wholeheartedly.

    the Gap was known as an All-American brand. Back in the day, their main competition was Levi Strauss. But “All-American” style lost its novelty as consumers discovered the diversity in clothing, Khakis and button downs were declining and well, jeans and tee shirts aren’t just jeans and tee shirts anymore.

    It becomes difficult for a retailer, such as Gap, to focus the efforts of their core brand because their net was cast so wide. CAD templates or not, it’s hard as hell to create styles that fit when you can’t narrow down your demographic to a particular body type. Trying to fit “most people” doesn’t work anymore.

    Companies with focus are chipping away at the target market and while many are not as large as Gap, they are stealing the customer nonetheless.

    One of the strategies Gap uses, that’s failing them now, is copying higher end styles at a moderate price point. But now, with price conscious consumers shopping at Target, there’s no need for that. Not to mention that Old Navy has cannibalized a lot of Gap’s sales, since (despite what they claim) sometimes the merchandise is indistinguishable.

    People can dislike Abercrombie & Fitch, but the thing is, *they* are being copied because they are looked at as authorities in their market, they have that demographic nailed down and use overtly sexual catalogs, and the occasional offensive tee shirt, to further generate buzz for their brand name. They aren’t trying to cater to “most people” and they make no apologies for it. If you had to close your eyes and picture the “typical” A&F customer, you could nail it down with stunning accuracy (assuming you are familiar with the brand). If you had to picture the “typical” Gap customer, betcha couldn’t settle on an image.

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