Back then: Julie Alonso senior director-buzz marketing and p.r. was leading a big push into live marketing at Gap including a mix of music programs influencer events and p.r. She enlisted brand ambassadors in key markets and staged events at Gap stores to pump up the brand’s volume. The nation’s largest specialty apparel retailer however has its share of woes including a two-year sales slump and several seasons of fashion misses.
Now: Alonso left Gap this summer. Despite its flashy ad campaigns the retailer has been hard hit by competition from trendy low-priced retailers such as H&M and Target. Canadian Glenn Murphy former head of the largest drugstore chain in Canada replaced ceo Paul Pressler this summer. Perhaps he has the right prescription to cure Gap’s ailments.
And it’s a shame. The platform on which Alonso built Gap infuencer programs over the last 18 months was brilliant using high-intensity advocates to build the brand among friends and family. Example: Last year the company chose 10 women—generally fashion-conscious twenty- and thirtysomethings with large social networks—in each of 10 markets to become Gap ambassadors. All they had to do was get 30 of their friends to show up for a single private event that was “hosted” by the ambassador but planned and executed by Gap. Guests were served cocktails and snacks and given the chance to try on jeans while getting tips on fit and style from Gap experts.
Although the company has continued to perk the ambassadors—sending them monthly mailings invites to other Gap events and merchandise before it appears in stores—that was the extent of the ambassadors’ commitment. It was simple for the influencers to understand and easy for them to participate.
Rather than overburden the ambassadors Gap created environments that would encourage them to spread the buzz at their own pace. “A lot of people have said we should ask more of the ambassadors and be harder on them ” Alonso told us last summer. “But we want [the program] to grow and the minute you start pushing them too hard it’s not fun for them anymore. We want them to authentically spread the word about Gap.”
Perhaps she should have pushed harder. Successful as it was the ambassador program still only allowed Gap to interact directly with a paltry 3 000 potential shoppers (barely more than one for each of Gap’s 2 635 U.S. stores) in just 10 markets.