I sauntered into the Gap on North Avenue this weekend with my “Give and Get” promotion coupon that landed in my Yahoo inbox around the middle of last week. In a classic “buy one, give one” cause marketing promotion, the deal is that you get 30% off Gap clothing, and a nonprofit of your choosing will receive 5% of your purchase. Since I’m still ill-equipped to deal with Chicago’s winter even after living here for two years, the promotion motivated me- as it was intended to do- to shop at the Gap. So I visited a Gap and I used my coupon.
After thinking about it Sunday night, at home with my new Gap sweater, Gap changed its reputation by the very strings that barely held it together in 1999-2000. When I studied Women’s Studies in Santa Cruz and lived in a co-op, Gap was practically a dirty word. On Santa Cruz’s campus and everywhere, Gap was critisized for manufacturing its clothing in sweatshop factories using child labor.
The strategy of Gap protests in Santa Cruz (inspired by a lively women’s studies community in the Bay Area) meant protesting in front of Gap stores naked (naked women using their power for political expression- it gets people’s attention!). Walking by the Gap in downtown Santa Cruz and seeing the gawkers watching these naked protestors (one of my roommates from the co-op included), I remember thinking, “I will never set foot in Gap again.”
Ten years later, it’s like a chime that goes in my head when the brand’s associations with “social responsibility” shoot past the clutter of associations that I have with brands nowadays. It’s a sound that rings at a different pitch than the brand association that I had of the Gap before.
I don’t think the Gap is perfect, but it’s done a good job changing its image in my thirty-year-old mind. It motivated me to buy a sweater for another Chicago winter despite the negative brand image that it accumulated over the years.
To read more about Gap’s work with the Red Campaign, which is a cause marketing initiative/brand campaign with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis, go to http://www.joinred.com/red/.
Photo by Pavel Trebukov @http://www.flickr.com/photos/pntphoto/3205172116/in/set-488550/.