Brand Differentiation: Do Your Brands Hold Up?

By Matt Van Hoven 

This weekend at the Globalshop expo we talked a lot about brand differentiation, creating a diverse experience for participants/shoppers and passersby &#151 all in the name of branding. Gap came up a lot, presumably because just a few years ago it was considered a leader in the retail clothing business in terms of branding, but since then other stores have mimicked Gap’s approach, making it less unique &#151 which then makes the products seem less unique. And why would you pay more for something that appears to be very similar to something else?

Indeed to stay ahead of competitors, Gap seriously needs to evolve their on-the-ground experience. What once was a clothing manufacturer with the catchiest, most fun to watch ads, is today a run-of-the-mill jeans spot for moms.


If you want trendy goods, head to H&M, Express, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, Uniqlo or the corner second-hand shop. And though Gap was never the trendiest of trendies, it held a perception that it was more than just an oxford + knit pullover + distressed leather belt resource. It was, for a time, cool.

Obviously, we’re picking on just one brand here. Dave Ibsen at 5 Blogs Before Lunch has a piece today about how Harley-Davidson has forgotten to throw bait in front of the next generation of bikers.

Indeed, this is a problem you solve for many of your clients. But here’s what we want to know &#151 is a bottom-up image upgrade what brands like Gap need to regain market dominance or can advertising solve the problem? Is this a matter of buzz or one of more substance?