Alegra OHare, CMO of Gap
Chief Marketing Officer GAP

Gap CMO On Why Fear Is a Liar

Alegra O'Hare, CMO of Gap, has quite the plethora of career success tips in her back pocket, along with a sommelier license that has a future role to play still.  As one big career stop before Gap, Alegra spent 12 years at Adidas, most recently leading Global Brand Marketing for Adidas Originals.  In that role, she sharpened her toolkit for success and experienced one of her scariest career moments yet – accepting her Brand Genius award in front of famed fashion editor, Anna Wintour.

As we dive deep into Alegra’s new role at Gap, we explore how she approached her first 90 days, how she uncovered the opportunities, what changes she has instituted already and how that has enabled her and her team to produce two blockbuster campaigns within a week of each other – Forward and Denim Now.  Have a look at her toolkit below.  I know I’ll be posting these on my wall as great daily reminders of how to stay focused on success and “the next 20 feet” – which, as Alegra shares in her podcast, also serves as her personal email address.

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Heard on the Episode: Alegra's Tips for Success

Know That Data Isn’t Always Right

"Experience and intuition are something that you shouldn't underestimate in the role."

"I won the Adweek Brand Genius award for my work at Adidas 'Originals is Never Finished.' I call it the 'My Way Campaign.' It was the campaign that was set to the music of Frank Sinatra's My Way, reinterpreted, which leads me into one of my biggest learning in that data is not always right. When we were locking in the music for the campaign, data was clearly telling us that Frank Sinatra wouldn't resonate with younger consumers. We went against what the data was telling us. Experience and intuition are something that you shouldn't underestimate in the role."

Start with Issues, Outcomes and Actions

"My secret sauce, so to speak, is a framework called issues, outcomes and actions. It's basically an excel file. You start with your issues, which are at the end of the day opportunities. The next column is the outcome, and usually, that's a shared outcome with others in the company. And then comes the action steps. The first thing [mistake] that we do in companies is go straight to actions without going through the issues and the outcomes that we all want to achieve as a team. This framework brings everybody together because as leaders we shouldn't underestimate the importance of communication to our teams."

Find Your North Star

"In the first 90 days at Gap, the first thing I looked for was my personal north star and everything laddered into that. For me, it was to really create a global cultural brand out of Gap - the number one thing that I just kept at the forefront of my mind. And that then meant defining the brand strategy and structuring the teams so we were efficient and consumer-centric. I know it's a lot of marketing cliche words, but at the end of the day that north star really helped me with everything that I had to do."

Stick to the Plan

"In my over 25 years of experience in corporations and companies, when we were successful, it was when we stuck to the plan no matter what. That plan is there because it's been thought out, it's consumer-centric, it makes sense. And of course, a lot of things can happen with the business. The business goes up and down, the consumer changes, the competition changes. But sticking to the plan has to do with business and strategy."

Be Authentic and Create Relationships

"I wouldn't underestimate the power of relationships, whether they're in the company, whether they're with strategic partners, like agencies or even photographers, it doesn't matter. Relationships and communication are both elements that I think are really important for success. And then again, I go back to authenticity and being yourself. That's the best thing you can be when you're leading people because they see you're transparent, you're truthful and you're honest. And as we talk about leadership, that's something that people gravitate towards."

Challenge Yourself

"Complacency is the death of creativity."

"Complacency is the death of creativity. If you've got that sense of awareness, not just of yourself but everything that's around you, and just keep on challenging yourself and others, I always think it gets you to a better place. Whenever I'm mentoring or talking to women who are asking for tips, a lot of it is just about ‘don't be afraid.' They say 'fear is a liar' and I love that because I always think about that as we're human beings and we are always in situations where we're maybe a little bit concerned about speaking up.  I think that kind of hesitation is a little more intrinsic sometimes to women than to men. Just get out there. You've got nothing to lose and take that step. What's the worst thing that can happen?"

Do Something That Scares You Every Day

"That's another thing that I always kept in my mind, and actually, those bad things rarely do happen. So it's really about overcoming fear and just not letting it get in your way. It's easier said than done. But I live by the mantra and I coached women on this as well, “do something that scares you every day”. It could be from the smallest little thing. It doesn't mean skydiving or anything like that, just like speaking up or picking up the phone and talking to that person that you really don't get along with and would rather not talk to. If you overcome it [fear], then you see a lot of great things actually happen."