Gap CMO Mary Alderete on Moving the Brand Forward With Purpose

The retailer's 'Stand United' campaign aims to bring people together during a tumultuous time

Gap CMO Mary Alderete made her comments during Adweek's Purpose-Driven Marketing Summit. Adweek
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For Gap, 2020 is a return to the apparel retailer’s purpose-driven roots, first established by founders Donald and Doris Fisher back in 1969 with a mission about more than just selling clothes, according to CMO Mary Alderete.

Gap’s latest campaign “Stand United” launched in early September as part of that pivot to a “modern American optimism,” which Alderete discussed on Tuesday at Adweek’s Purpose-Driven Marketing Summit.

“What we really, really wanted to embrace was we’re at a really defining time, just like the Fishers were back in 1969,” said Alderete, who took over the top marketer job in February after the departure of Alegra O’Hare. “We thought the idea of the power of unity and connection, really the idea of bringing equality and inclusivity and dignity for everyone to the forefront, was right.”

When Alderete stepped into the role early this year, she began working with Len Peltier, creative director at Gap, to review the apparel brand’s positioning.

“When we started the creative development in February, our inspiration or our context—the cultural zeitgeist—was around coming into the election year. And coming into an election year with a country that was supremely divided,” Alderete explained.

Gap’s marketing team began to think about what kind of message it could create not just for the sake of content, but as a way to bring people together that the brand could activate around.

That’s when they identified “Get Together” as the anthem song for the campaign, released in 1969 by The Young Bloods, itself a call for brotherhood, peace and unity during an equally tumultuous time.

Centering on that song, the retailer was further inspired by the idea of taking “a trip across America,” she said, in order to bring together “a gallery of humanity in the diversity and inclusivity that makes this country really so strong.”

A mere few weeks later the global pandemic landed on U.S. shores, when people were forced to separate, making connections became even more important, Alderete said.

To shoot the spot, Gap literally took a journey across the U.S., featuring people in quarantine rather than models.

“It was really important for us to not just push content,” Alderete said. The aim was “to create an integrated marketing ecosystem that talked the talk but also walked the walk.”

The importance of bringing people together was to let them know they can take action on their own, she explained, adding that it takes everyone making an effort to drive meaningful change.

With that in mind, and cognizant of the fact that 2020 is an election year, Gap approached its call to action from the angle of voter registration, partnering with the nonprofit organizations When We All Vote and Rock the Vote. The apparel retailer then utilized those two platforms to create the narrative around which to build the activations, Alderete said.

On National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 22, the company brought together three different virtual events that served as a bridge between “Stand United” and its kids campaign “Be the Future,” which launched in August.

Those events emphasized people being informed, raising their voices and, most importantly, being ready to take action and vote.

Both the “Stand United” and “Be the Future” campaigns were created relevant to the current moment as well as addressing the major challenge each part of Gap’s business would be facing. Ultimately, purpose-driven marketing needs to, on some level, bolster the company’s bottom line.

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@RichCollings Richard Collings is a retail reporter at Adweek.