Step…into the Gap?

Friday, 28 September 2007

Gap has a shoe store. Or, make that, Gap has a shoe store? Yes, Gap, Inc. (GPS) has boots.giflaunched a new online outlet for feet, PiperLime. Only problem is, no one seems to know, or care.

The Gap companies have been struggling to regain the immense popularity they enjoyed back when sweatshirts meant style and tapered jeans ruled the streets, not the runway. Banana Republic is holding strong as an “accessible luxury” brand, but Old Navy and gap.jpgGap seem to have lost their respective ways. Old Navy brought in Todd Oldham to revive the fading brand(whose best marketing seemed to be commercials that annoyed viewers but stayed with them), and The Gap finally stopped cheapening a cultural icon with their Audrey Hepburn campaign. And who could forget the ill-fated and misconceived baby-boomer brand Forth & Towne?

I love the tagline for the Hepburn campaign, by the way, and I wish Gap would take their advertising slogan to heart.The problem with the majority of Gap’s marketing is audreygap.jpgbranding-they try to be everything to everyone, and it’s just too much.The Gap offshoots of Old Navy and Banana stemmed from this idea-and they worked for awhile- but as we can see with Old Navy, not quite well, or long, enough. Gap had a solid standing as a quality clothing company with reasonable prices; definitely not a high-fashion brand, but a back-to-school staple, wear-to-work pieces that were actually comfortable, perfect weekend wear.

Now, Gap is trying, unsuccessfully, to emulate higher end designers, pushing away their current client base without pulling in their new targets. Old Navy was meant to draw in a younger, hipper crowd, but the clothes are too blah and mainstream, not worth even their ridiculously low prices. Forth & Towne alienated consumers from the get go, positioning itself as an “older” version of the Gap, as opposed to a separate entity. That is where Banana Republic has succeeded beautifully; most people don’t know they are part of Gap, Inc., while everyone knows Old Navy and Forth & Towne are (or were).

Gap needs to stick to what they are good at, what made them a major brand in the first place. This is what major, solid brands (think Nike, Apple) do so well at, what gives them staying power and financial success. Once Gap figures that out, there may be hope. They could try a retro/classic thing like Coca-Cola did after the whole New Coke fiasco.

As for PiperLime? The shoes are nice and very reminiscient of Gap’s classic look, which is a good start, but a lot of the price points are way too high for Gap shoppers. Gap is affordable; hardly anything reaches over $100, save for coats and an occasional leather bag, and that’s the way people like it. If Gap wants PiperLime to succeed as it stands now, they need to cut it loose(it’s highly tied in with Gap’s current site). If they want to make it more like a, then they need to reevaluate their products and customer demographics.

Good brands know to do what they do well; they don’t waste time trying to get their hands in everything.I would like to see Gap do well, but everytime I see their ads or walk by a store window I hear Everclear’s “Everything to Everyone” in my head.

“Why don’t you ever learn? Spin around and fall down, do it again.”

I hope Gap lands on their feet. My wallet could use some cute, affordable clothes. Until then, I’m shopping at Banana.

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Facebook should hire me

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

So now my mom is on Facebook. As if I didn’t have enough to worry about with my boss and potential employers digging through my profile, now my mom can virtually check up on me too. Looks like I’m gonna have to learn the Facebook privacy settings a little bit better.

I’m thinking I could leverage my ability to persuade a soon-to-be retiree to join Facebook boomj.jpginto a job offer as a Facebook marketer. No, seriously, from a college (err, college-ish…I graduated in 2006 but have been known to pretend that I’m still in school) kid’s point of view, I know the average “heavy user” inside and out, but it seems I can reach another demographic too-the baby boomers, aka my mom’s generation (give or take a few years). The key is to grab them on a more personal level, make them feel individually invited. That’s how I got my mom, albeit indirectly; she reads my blog and wanted to a) know what the hell I was talking about and b) check out my profile and see what all the fuss is over.

eons.gifNot to be ageist, but this generation didn’t grow up with the technology we 20-somethings are so comfortable with, leaving many hesitant to join a lot of the social networks because they feel like intruders. Enter the newest crop of social networks, all of which are designed with a slightly older crowd in mind.

Sites such as Eons, Rezoom and Boomj are well-designed sites that play to the wishes of their audience. They are visually appealing and easy to navigate, managing to look high tech while maintaining an intuitive sense of what each function and link does.They capitalize on the fact that most boomers prefer to get comfortable with one site and familiarize themselves with all of its aspects:

“This prospective and relative stickiness are helping to drive a wave of new investment into boomer and older-oriented social networking sites that offer like-minded and like-aged individuals discussion and dating forums, photo-sharing, news and commentary, and chatter about diet, fitness and health care.”

I’m really glad to see more social networks opening up to the older crowd that are actuallyrezoom.jpg social, and I hope they live up to my high expectations. If I’m lucky, maybe I can get my mom to switch over so I can unblock her from viewing my photos. Just kidding mom, I’m still the good kid you know and love.

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Are you sending the wrong message?

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

This is absolutely hysterical. Tribble Agency’s warning against buying and setting up a domain name for your company without double checking its, uh, other possible interpretations, is hilarious.My personal favorite is “Who Represents,” a searchablenewwhorepslogo.gif database of celebrity agents whose domain is of course, the company name… Classic.

The post is over a year old, so its hard to tell if they made up a lot of these names and sites for this express purpose, or if the company’s smartened up and changed URLs. Either way, it’s pretty entertaining-especially if you deal with issues like this with actual clients and sites, as my company does. It’s amusing how clueless some people are.

I don’t want to name names of the clients we’ve worked with, but since Tribble outed the California Therapist Finder (string them together…come on, think about it), I’ll use that as an example. You start a company and decide you need a website. The logical choice is therapist.gifyour company name. You look it up, see it’s available, and snap it up. Easy enough, right? Wrong.

You need an outside opinion, preferably from someone not connected to your business at all. Someone who is truly objective and has no prior knowledge of your site or services can tell you what your typical site visitor and potential customer will see when they find your site; in this case, the rapist finder, not therapist finder.

This is why people hire advertising agencies and search marketers; business owners are too close to their own company to do what is really in its, and their, best interest. An outside perspective can do what’s best, business-wise, because they are not personally tied to any idea.We fight with clients all the time over logos, taglines and keywords that they simply refuse to give up.

The only way to break through this is to remind clients that they hired you for a reason-because their method wasn’t working- so they need to let you do your job in order for them to do theirs. Whatever you’re working on, it never hurts to take a step back and look at it from another angle, whether it is your own project or someone else’s. You need to think like your target, and if you can’tpenisland.jpg do that, you need to hire someone who can.

Tribble got me thinking of other double entendre website URLs and now I’m dying to hear more. If you have any creative ideas, leave a comment-I could use some more laughter in the workday.

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Viral Marketing is Easy, Mac

Monday, 17 September 2007

The problem with traditional advertising is that, well, it’s traditional, which is a synonym for old (look it up if you don’t believe me), and as such it gives you the same old results. Advertisers today are faced with the challenge of marketing their products and services in a way that doesn’t scream “I’m trying to sell you something!” Advertising needs to be fresh, and, if done well, hardly considered advertising at all.

Enter the internet (I know, surprise, surprise, right?) xmas.jpgand the wonderful world of viral and word of mouth marketing. The internet allows (really, demands) so many more types of media than print or television advertising can present. Potential customers and clients can interact with current users and explore new products before they commit to them, taking the “try it before you buy it” gimmick to a whole new level.

The challenge is finding a way to present something that is not inherently fun, or interesting, or sexy in a way that makes it seem like that is exactly what it is; internet advertising is all about covertly shaping perceptions. Sure, this is what all advertising tries to do, but good internet marketing sneaks in the side door, where traditional advertising just keeps banging away at the front like everyone else.

easymac.jpgTake Kraft Easy Mac for example. Macaroni and Cheese (well-known and loved, but boring) that can be microwaved (quick and delicious, but par for the course in today’s instant gratification, no-effort-please culture). Definitely not sexy, or even particularly fun after the first time. However, DraftFCB were able to help propel Easy Mac from ho-hum microwaveable munchies to highly interactive internet entertainment.

The U-Starvin website is specifically aimed at college students, who are known to be microwave masters. The site allows visitors to virtually microwave all the stuff your mother always told you not to, like crayons, marshmallows and…a pineapple? Whatever mom told you (or didn’t), the site is pretty cool and a much safer way to experiment (if you don’t have infinite time to waste, at least nuke the foam and Christmas lights, they’re worth watching).

Kraft went even further in targeting this demographic by partnering with for a series of “Really Frugal Gourmet” webisodes. These didn’t have the staying power of the U-Starvin site, I think because they brought the focus back to the product and are too commercial-y. The draw of the U-Starvin campaign (if you can call it that) is that it completely ignores the product and gives the target something fun to do and watch, instead of offering just another boring ad.

The genius of Kraft and DraftFCB, and any other successful WOMM attempt, is that they realized their product was nothing new or exciting, yet managed to create something that people could, and would, talk about. Viral marketing is all about twisting the expected into the unexpected and turning tired old advertising on its head. This was critical for Easy Mac, whose target was the young and over-advertised, and they succeeded beautifully by making an entire website that it one big promotion, without seeming like it at all.

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More-on Facebook

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

I was discussing Facebook and some of my ideas for applications we should develop for clients with my boss at the 9-to-5er yesterday (after my very pro-Facebook post), and I realized part of the reason why I’m so protective of it-I practically grew up with Facebook (yes, I’m that young, or it’s that old, you pick). He was saying how it’s a hard sell for a lot of clients, because they don’t see the value in an app or widget for their products, to which I countered that that is exactly why they need one (and us)-because no one is doing much with it yet.

Older generations bash Facebook because they just don’t get it and feel left cartoonfb.gifout by the culture it has created (like in the Dave Walker cartoon at right); in response, they hold on even tighter to old methods that won’t work for much longer. I know I have a personal bias towards Facebook, but beyond my own adoration for this obsessive time-waster turned marketing gem, I honestly believe Mark Zuckerberg’s creation is revolutionizing social media and word of mouth marketing (WOMM).

Just look at all the new ideas coming out around Facebook every day: Stanford will now offer a classon Facebook App development, raising the bar for all new profile pimping programs; Google will begin indexing profiles much like MySpace; and Facebook has finally realized it’s place in targeted marketing with a new advertising scheme that is poised to change the way advertisers use the web.

This last piece of news is a few weeks old, which, to me, only makes anti-cartoon.gifFacebook rants more amusing. As a BU alum, the first non-Ivy to join Facebook, and long time Facebook user (that’s my CartoonYou self at left), I can boast that my profile ID# is under the 1 million mark), I’ve seen just how powerful this website can be. When Facebook first started opening up, there were two opposing views: the skeptics who saw no value or amusement in it (not me) and the awed undergrads with penchants for procrastination (definitely me).

With 85% of college students now using Facebook, it’s clear that most students eventually came around (or graduated and gave up). But for those of us who watched it grow from the ground up, Facebook is not a new phenomenon, but a social network that realized its potential and came into its own.

When companies finally come around, anyone who took a chance early on and listened to “some kid” about the opportunities that Facebook presents will be way ahead of the curve. My advice to anyone looking for a cool, new way to get your message out there is to listen to those of us who’ve been there from the beginning-we knew it was coming, Facebook just had to catch up.

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Facebook: the final frontier…for now

Monday, 10 September 2007

facebook.gifWhenever I hear people complain about how useless or annoying Facebook is, one thought springs to mind: “you’re not using it correctly.” Which, I’ll admit, my young and frequently judgmental mind has been known to translate to “you’re too old” (ok, maybe it’s two thoughts, so sue me). My point is, anyone who doesn’t see the value and huge marketing potential in Facebook is missing the point.

fbpro-copy.jpgRobert Scoble has been knocked for spending too much time on Facebook, by people who I assume don’t understand how powerful of a business tool this social network can be. Scoble says that he “hope[s] they stay in the dark,” but I disagree.

When a large group of non-believers try to demean the legitimacy of Facebook’s influence, they also devalue the people who use this network for marketing and hiring or recruitmyspacelogo.jpging. While I don’t think they need (or probably could) become devout Facebook converts, I do believe that it is time that everyone recognized Facebook for the tremendous power it has.

Facebook has surpassed MySpace in terms of “coolness” and usability, adding an insane amount of features through Facebook Apps. With the exception of profile backgrounds, everything that Myspace offers is now available on Facebook, and it’s usually faster, easier and more customizable. There are also tons of features that MySpace doesn’t even come close to competing on, such as iLike, a song challenge that tests users aural ability and music knowledge, then ranks them against their friends and the rest of the Facebook community.

As a marketing tool, Facebook is genius. The Facebook profile form encourages users to “tell all,” creating a clearly defined audience that is a marketer’s dream. Anyone can create a Facebook “App,” or application, that adds cool functionality to the user’s profile and allows them to interact with the app’s other users. I anticipate Facebook App development becoming a crucial part of many marketing plans very soon. If a company can develop one of these free apps that is cool enough to be picked up by heavy Facebook users, and unique enough to distinguish their product, they’ve got huge viral marketing potential.

Facebook also plays a very powerful role in the business world. An active “Facebooker” will include enough information in their profile to make it seem like you know them, before you’ve even spoken. To a potential employer, this is a hiring goldmine. Facebook encourages users to reveal personal details well beyond the standard academic major and degree information found in a resume or cover letter. Photos, lengthy likes and dislikes lists and personal commenting features provide a very telling description of a candidate as both a person and an employee. The screencap at left shows just how much information you can cram into a page…and how much anyone can find out about you.

Any product, person, store or service looking to target the 15-25 age range better warm up to Facebook—and fast. Don’t believe me? Check out my profile to see just how much you can find out about someone. If you still think it’s a silly waste of time, you’ve already been left behind.

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Is all marketing sexist?

Thursday, 06 September 2007

I recently read this article about gender biased advertising, and it definitely got me thinking about some of the overtly sexist advertising out there, as well as the more subtle, and perhaps more damaging, messages we are constantly bombarded with. It’s an issue that’s been around forever, which begs the question not what is left to talk about, but why are we still talking about it?keg.jpg

In my opinion, the in-your-face ads aren’t that offensive to most, because they are essentially making fun of themselves and of the issue. Comedian Lenny Bruce talks about how “it’s the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness” in regards to racist slurs, and I think his point holds true here. Heineken’s “Draught Keg” commercial, for instance, blatantly uses the image of a “perfect” woman, and it’s clever. They exaggerate the joke to make their intentions clear, and it works.

Advertising becomes offensive when it tries to avoid the issue and ends up delivering a more subtle dig at women. This ad for lists all the different fields their services can direct you towards. Each profession has a corresponding icon of a person in that job—a cop for criminal investigation, a nurse for health care, etc. And that’s where the ad takes a wrong turn: there was a very obvious gender bias in determining which picture went with which title. Criminal investigator, bounty hunter, graphic designer, accountant and project manager are all male; social worker, teacher,ad.jpg HR officer, psychologist, health care manager and counselor are all female. The ad very clearly differentiates the professions based on antiquated stereotypes.

I’ve noticed this a few times at the internet marketing company where I work. Until recently, I was the only female employee, and therefore the only voice to be (not) heard on this issue. One site we designed used a young, blonde cheerleader on a business site. I politely (and later not so politely) argued that unless you are selling pom-poms, a cheerleader has no place on a website, and we would automatically be alienating a large segment of our target market. I firmly believed using this image was not in the best interest of the client, and so I refused to back down and eventually helped reach a compromise. But I still remember my gut reaction upon seeing that comp and thinking “that must be a placeholder image.”

Another glaring discrepancy was in an email promotion we created for a dating site. The email used photos of supposed members to punctuate the points being made in the text, as many internet dating sites are wont to do. The problem with this one was that the female photos were all full-body shots, while the males were just headshots. When I questioned the reasoning behind this decision, my colleague Dan Zarrella informed me that it was because“that’s what men want.” Apparently, women sell better than men in most markets.

So, when crafting a marketing campaign or choosing images, it pays to get a varied perspective (read: both sexes) before the finals go out. It may be just my opinion, but I think I speak for roughly half the population.

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