The Gap (whose ecommerce strategy has been questioned recently) apparently has a losing marketing strategy as well, according to AdAge.com [reg required]. The Gap has been consistently relying on celebrity endoresments since the late 80's. The thing is, in the late 80's thru the early 90's - it worked. It's edgy "In Style" campaign that co-opted rebels like Jack Kerouac defined the brand and drove sales. Now, with celebs such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Joss Stone and Madonna ... there is no longer an edge and only declining sales.
Rober Passikoff, the president of Brand Keys, a New York market-research company, speculates on why this is the case:
Relying on celebrity spokespersons should be the course of last resort ... It is basically a statement that we have no meaning, relevance or value of our own, but if we stand next to someone real close, maybe some of it will wear off on us.
The Gap is now a category placeholder. It's the name everyone knows, but aren't real sure what it stands for anymore and there are other choices that mean more to consumers anyway today.
Two things out of this for me:
1. Per my earlier rant, celebrity endorsements for commercial products are no longer meaningful; however, I do believe that celebs can still hold sway over socio-spiritual issues (witness Madonna's Kaballah, Bono's Africa, Oprah's Angels - MakePoveryHistory.ca even has a Celebrity Endorser's page)
2. Celebs give people behavioural permission to own their own sense of fashion/style/consumerism. We're in an age of extreme individualism - from a consumption perspective. We want what we own, wear and display to be unique. There is an incredible trend towards personalization and customization. We see it from cell phone accessories to do-it-yourself guitar manufacturing. But we still need courage to venture into this new age of individualism .. break away from the herd as it were. Celebs encourage us in this behaviour. Their lives are so extreme, so singular, that we are able to take courage from them, en masse, to assert our consuming individualism.