How clothing giant Gap won customers’ hearts…..and then their wallets

092530-gap-ad-featuring-sikh-designer-and-actor-waris-ahluwalia-defaced[1]Why is it that some companies have more success in attracting new consumers and retaining them as loyal supporters than others?

Speak to any number of business experts and they’ll hone in on factors such as a product’s design, it’s marketing campaign, it’s packaging or it’s price.
But a recent ad by clothing giant Gap reveals a factor that can be just as important if not more important than the above.

And that is emotional connection.

Last year, the company featured a diverse range of models for its Make Love holiday season.

The ad featured artist and filmmaker Quentin Jones and Waris Ahluwalia, a celebrated jewellery designer and model who has been featured in several best dressed lists and is a highly regarded figure in US fashion circles.

Reflect the target audience – and see their support grow

Gap often features a diverse range of models in its marketing campaigns and poster ads.

But in an industry where you hardly ever see Sikh models, Ahluwalia’s appearance in the ad was something that set it apart from the crowd.

It also embraced how Sikh Americans wanted to see themselves. A Sikh model could be a mainstream fashion model and wear a turban.
Having had a long history of either being stereotyped or excluded from advertising, the mere fact of inclusion was enough to push the emotional buttons of fashion conscious young US Sikhs.

Even more remarkable was Gap’s response when it got news of the fact that one of its poster ads had been defaced by racist graffiti.

Gap immediately changed its Twitter banner photo to one featuring Jones and Ahluwalia.
And the Facebook page “GAP, Thank you for featuring a Sikh model in your ‘Make Love’ campaign” was born along with an engaged audience of new consumers.

Recognize trends – and stay ahead of the game

It’s an example of one major company responding to a trend that has been talked about in the US and the UK for well over a decade – the growth in the numbers of diverse consumers.

And not just ethnically diverse – we’re talking about the range of markets that include older consumers, people with disabilities, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The spending power of this market is huge.

Prior to the 1960’s most marketing ignored ethnic minority groups and concentrated on the vast buying power of larger demographic groups.

Recent figures highlight why that’s no longer a wise business move.

Figures like £280 billion (the disposable income of older consumers) £32 billion (the estimated disposable income of the UK’s ethnic minority market), £70 billion (the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender market) mean that this is a trend that cannot be ignored for long.
Whatever product or service you offer, an opportunity exists to follow Gap’s example and break into these under-tapped markets where there is significant consumer spending power.

Create strong emotional connections through your marketing

By recognizing these differences and tailoring your marketing message to reflect how these consumers see themselves you can create a strong emotional connection and tap into the buying power of these underserved and under tapped markets.

In these tough economic times that could well be a smart move.

But targeting diverse consumer segments is an idea that makes some folks just plain uncomfortable.
There are those who are of the view that this is more about ethics or doing the right thing than it is about solid business sense.

It’s prompted a number of passionate debates among marketing folk.

Should companies really develop marketing campaigns that reflect the consumer needs and aspirations of groups they might not have thought about before?

Is it right to target ads at older consumers for example who are often ignored in many a major campaign?

Is it worth the effort of a smaller company to translate its marketing brochure into the language spoken by a target market in a bid to boost sales?

My answer –absolutely!

And why?

Well, the rise of diverse consumer groups has prompted the need to take seriously the idea of micro targeting – identifying smaller subgroups of people who may have a shared interest or lifestyle and communicating with them regularly about their individual needs and wants.

A one size fits all marketing approach to communicating with and engaging customers is a thing of the past.

And as Gap’s success with the Waris Ahluwalia ad has shown, it has never been more critical to acknowledge it.

Companies who don’t could be see their marketing effortd achieve less than desired results.

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