Gap further chisels out a years-long efforts to promote inclusivity and diversity with its latest GapKids back-to-school campaign that seeks to be a source of inspiration while nodding to the brand’s “modern American optimism” through line.
Debuting today (July 27), “Everyone Belongs,” celebrates the aspects that make people different from one another. In the national 30-second spot, children are seen playing and enjoying hobbies while speaking out about what it means to be different with messages like, “You can be you, and I can be me.”
While inclusivity has been a focus of numerous brand marketers over the past few years, as inflationary concerns have grown, value has been an overarching theme of some recent back-to-school campaigns. Gap hopes to cut through the noise by associating value with the longevity of its products and items that kids feel most themselves in.
“When we think about the parents, value creation is not necessarily just discounting, right?” said Gap Chief Marketing Officer Mary Alderete. “They want a product that’s quality, that’s relevant … We sometimes talk about hand-me-down approved because Gap products last for so long. It’s really important to give them the right product that’s relevant, that their kids want to wear, because that’s where the value creation comes from.”
The campaign, produced in-house, will appear on national television, digital channels and GapKids channels and will promote styled looks that include loose denim, varsity jackets and pocket tees meant to evoke modern prep.
The concept for “Everyone Belongs” stems from a book with the same name written by New York Times bestselling author Heather Avis, who is also the founder of The Lucky Few Foundation, a Down Syndrome advocacy organization. Gap’s back-to-school campaign is not the first time the brand has sought inspiration from the author, according to Alderete. The retail behemoth previously collaborated with Avis for her book “Different,” and she and her children have been featured in several campaigns for GapKids.
Off screen, Gap has pledged to donate 20,000 of Avis’ books to schools across the country through the nonprofit First Book to help educate children on the importance of individualism and acceptance.
“For us, it’s not just about casting a TV spot, it really is about creating awareness for people,” Alderete said.
The brand has also coined a hashtag, #GapKidsBelong, in an effort to ramp up its digital presence and encourage parents to upload videos of their kids doing what they enjoy on social media for the opportunity to be featured in future marketing materials.
Gap has recently begun exploring new digital fronts, including its Club Roblox virtual boutique that it launched in May. Piggybacking off its inclusivity efforts, the activation, which resembles the store’s Gap Teen collection, is meant to encourage players to dress however they wish through a Style Stage fashion show minigame. While there isn’t a metaverse tie-in with the latest campaign, the virtual world has undoubtedly reaffirmed Gap’s longstanding values, Alderete noted.
“The metaverse sort of cemented a couple of things for us, that personal style expression is really important,” the CMO said. “It’s really important for kids starting at a very young age and it’s really important for us as a brand to have that as our platform … Being able to confidently express your true self, whether in the virtual world or the real world, is an important thing for kids.”
Gap’s campaigns have embraced inclusion, diversity and positive social change as it attempts to form an emotional connection amid political unrest, pandemic shut downs, global crises and economic woes. In the brand’s spring push earlier this year, it focused on self expression and included a partnership with Dapper Dan to create the Dap Gap hoodie, a nod to the classic sweatshirt from the ‘90s as the brand continues to bring back some of its vintage styles. For last year’s fall release, “Individuals,” an array of creators shared how they’re making a social impact. In fall 2020, Gap created a campaign centered on voter awareness and education, Alderete’s first major campaign in the CMO role.
Still, competition this fall may increase as many brands pivot to make discounts and extra savings their focal point while inflation reaches historical peaks and back-to-school shopping this year is set to average $661 per student. Amazon recently launched its fall campaign starring actress Kathryn Hahn, who encourages parents to “go ahead and spend less,” on their kids with the e-commerce giant's plethora of savings. As part of Target’s back-to-school deals, it extended its student and teacher savings opportunities and increased college student discounts to 20% off.