Gap Inc.

By John Dudovskiy
June 24, 2012

Gap Inc. is a San Francisco based American retailer which sells clothing and accessories. The company was founded in 1969 by Donald and Dorris Fisher. The aim of the company is to help people to express their personal style throughout their life. The company comprises five brands: Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta. The company has 3465 stores worldwide with spores in Canada, France, Ireland, Japan, UK and US owned by the company and stores in other companies are operated by franchisers.



Print and broadcast ads. Gap uses print and broadcast ads intensively both in UK and USA placing advertisements in newspapers and broadcasting its ads in some TV channels in both continents. Along with traditional print and broadcast advertising, sometimes original marketing campaigns are launched, which proved to be memorable and highly efficient in numerous occasions. For instance, Gap launched a print and television advertising campaign, “Favourites” in 2005 with the participation of acclaimed musicians, including Brandon Boyd, Alanis Morisette, Liz Phair, Joss Stone, Keith Urban and others, where each musician performed an original remake of their favourite song wearing their favourite Gap jeans.

Packaging outer. The outer packaging for the products of the company is being used as efficient advertising medium by Gap with the eye-catching company logo displayed in large font in it.

Billboards. Being one of the most efficient advertising tools, billboards are used by Gap Inc. both in UK and USA. However it is more intensively used in US cities than in UK.

Point-of-purchase displays. This advertising tool refers to products being displayed within the point of purchase area in a way that it is convenient to add them to their shopping basket for the people who are already paying for other items. These are usually items that are small in size. Gap Inc. uses point-of-purchase displays mainly to sell its accessories in its shops both in UK and US.

Audiovisual material. The use of audiovisual materials to create good mood in customers which helps them to make purchase decision is used by Gap in all of its shop in UK and US. The type of music being played is usually the one liked by 18-30 years olds – Gap’s target customer segment.

Symbols and logos. The use of symbols and logos as an advertising tool is not a new thing and has been around for a few years now. Gap’s company logo is easily identifiable and easy to remember which fully serves its purpose.

Packaging inserts. It refers to the designing the internal part of product packaging in a way that it further advertises the product. Packaging inserts is mainly used for jewellery, confectionary products, accessories and other products which are not too big in size. Gap Inc. uses packaging inserts as an advertising tool in a range of its accessories in UK and USA.

Posters were used to be one of the most efficient advertising tools during the last century. Posters are still used in some public places, bus stops and other places, but have lost its position as one of the main advertising tools to other advertising tools such as banners and internet advertising. Currently the use of posters by Gap Inc. is limited to displaying Gap posters in bus stops in UK. In US on the other hand, almost no Gap Inc. posters can be seen.

Leaflets distributed in public places remain to be an efficient marketing tool. However, they are mainly used in catering business and rarely in clothing industry. Accordingly Gap Inc. does not use leaflets to advertise its brand and products neither in UK, nor in US.

Other advertising tools which are not currently being used by Gap Inc. both in UK and US include motion pictures, brochures and booklets, directories, and reprints of the ads.


Sales promotion

Contests, games, sweepstakes, lotteries are used widely by companies as a sales promotion activity, often involving price of a good value for the winners. Contests are used occasionally by Gap Inc. as well in the US. For example in 2008 Gap organized a contest in San Francisco among hundreds of babies and kids to choose new faces for BabyGap and GapKids. The prizes included featuring their photo in store windows, a year’s supply of clothing from BabyGap or GapKids and photo gifts worth hundreds of dollars. However, no contests or games were initiated in UK so far to promote the sales.

Premiums and gifts are also used by some companies to give to existing and potential customers for sales promotion. However, no evidence could be found of Gap Inc. using premiums and gifts for sales promotion so far neither in UK nor in US.

Sampling is one of the most popular sales promotion methods mainly within food industry. It is not generally used by clothing companies including Gap Inc.

Coupons are used nowadays as an efficient sales promotion technique in many industries. Coupons can be given with the purchase of a product to have a discount in the next purchase; they also can be given together with the purchase of a product of another company. Gap Inc. seasonal coupons are very popular both in UK and US.

Low-interest financing is used to promote the products of high value such as cars, furniture, homes and others. They are not used by Gap Inc. or any other clothing company in the same category.

Entertainment as a sales promotion is popular in game shops for children and entertainment industry. Gap Inc. does not use entertainment in shops to promote its products.

Rebates are being popular nowadays in many industries and many companies as a sales promotion technique by the use of a credit or other cards of that company. For example, a credit card issued by Gap Inc. allows customers to save money for purchases and gives $10 every 200 points they earn.

Gap Inc. does not sales promotion techniques such as tie-ins, fairs and trade shows, exhibits, demonstrations, trade-in allowances and continuity programs.


Events and Experiences

Entertainment. Occasionally Gap Inc. launches entertainment events to increase the brand awareness and promote products. For example “Find Your Favourite Fit” event was launched in 2005 in San-Francisco, where customers were offered to try a pair of Gap jeans and would receive a free download of their favourite song from the iTunes Music Store.

Causes represent an opportunity for companies to help people who are in desperate need or to improve the environment where financing is required and at the same time to create wider brand exposure for the companies. And companies have been using such opportunities in the past few years more often than it was done before. Gap Inc. has contributed large amount of sums to help people affected by tsunami in Asia and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the United States.

Festivals and arts also provide an opportunity for advertising for companies by sponsoring them, thus improving their image and increasing the brand awareness. However, no evidence is found of Gap Inc. sponsoring festivals and arts to increase its brand awareness.

Other common marketing communication tools under the events and experiences platform which are not being currently used by Gap Inc. include factory tours, company museums, street activities, and sports.


Public relations

Press kits and publications are used by companies to inform potential and existing customers about new products, events, news, etc. Gap Inc. publishes its news on its internet web-site.

Annual reports represent the performance of a company during a year, and at the same time used by the companies to stress their strengths, and try ensure existing customers about the efficiency of the company and try to reach to new customers as well. Annual reports produced by Gap Inc. serve these purposes as well.

Charitable donations are given in Gap Inc. to a range of charity organizations through Gap Foundation each year.

Speeches, seminars, community relations, lobbying, identity media, and company magazine are marketing communication tools not currently used by Gap Inc.

Personal selling

Incentive programs undertaken at Gap Inc. include Matching Gifts Program. Also the company organizes sales presentations, sales meetings, fairs and trade shows.


Direct marketing

Elements of direct marketing in place at Gap Inc. are online shopping and shopping through an iPad application which has been launched only recently. However, Gap Inc. does not practice the following elements of direct marketing: catalogues, mailings, telemarketing, TV shopping, shopping though fax and telephone shopping.


Viral marketing

Gap is the first clothing retail company to add the strategy of viral marketing into its marketing communication mix. Viral marketing or viral advertising is defined as “a strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exposure and influence” (Wilson, 2005).
Gap also initiated Ambassador Program as its viral marketing campaign.100 women were selected within company’s 10 markets and were appointed as brand Ambassadors for the company. Their main task was to communicate with their social circles in web-sites and e-mails inviting them to style parties participation in which entitled the attendees for a discount in Gap.
The most acclaimed revolutionary viral marketing campaign launched by Gap is “Watch Me Change” program which allows users to create their prototype in a 3D format and dress from a range of clothes from Gap. Users can even see this image dancing and therefore it has been a latest most-talked about campaign among marketers and internet users.

The target customer segment for Gap is young and trendy people between the ages of 18-30. GapKids brand aims at children who are 2-12 years old and BabyGap aims children at even younger age.
Gap’s Banana Republic division sells more refined fabrics, leather goods and jewellery and mainly targets customers who are 20 years old or older. Old Navy division of Gap was launched in 1994 and targets customers with lower income and its product range is similar to Gap but has lower prices.
There are no major differences in taste between Gap’s UK and US customers and the company targets the same customer segments in both continents, therefore there are no major changes in the elements and strategies of the marketing communication mix practiced in UK and the USA.
There is a range of issues impacting upon the Gap’s ability to practice efficient integrated marketing communication. These issues include company’s bad track record of working with companies using child labour in the third world countries including India, cultural differences in each market Gap Inc. operates and recent global financial crisis, which affected many companies and their marketing budgets including Gap’s.



  • Wilson, RF, 2005, “The Six Simple Principles of Viral Marketing”, Web Marketing Today, Accessed August, 14, 2010. Available at:

Category: Marketing