Gap wraps up 2020 with hopeful holiday campaign

Gap is taking an upbeat marketing approach for what is expected to be an unusual holiday season with a campaign debuting today that is centered on themes of togetherness and hope expressed through dance. Building on two recent efforts tied to themes of unity, the brand continues to support a philosophy of “modern American optimism.”

“Dream the Future” aims to celebrate the shared emotions that link communities together around the holidays, reminding people to appreciate enduring relationships and to build a brighter future as a new year approaches. A 60-second anthem spot is set to Karen O’s cover of “Dream Baby Dream” and depicts people meeting in the center of a white room and reacting to handwritten signs sporting words like joy, patience and connection. The full spot will appear on national TV and digital channels through 2020, while shorter video clips will spotlight sweaters, fleece wear and other comfortable products.

The brand’s feel-good campaign caps off a tough year by tapping into the warm, cozy feelings traditionally associated with the holiday season and expressing those sentiments through unifying words and dance. A plain white backdrop in the anthem spot nods to the brand’s creative roots and what has become something of a trademark of its holiday campaigns, while a deeper message is imbued in the video to add some conceptual weight this year.

“You might say ‘there is no optimism right now, the world is sort of a mess,’ but we decided to take it on and provide it as sort of a gift to show how people are still coming together as a community in unity to make things better,” Chief Marketing Officer Mary Alderete told sister publication Marketing Dive.

Gap’s winter marketing typically begins in November, but this year it’s debuting earlier than ever in an attempt to set an optimistic tone for the holiday season and spark some joy before what is expected to be a divisive presidential election in early November. The move may also stem from the desire to extend the shopping season as many consumers plan to buy earlier and opt for online purchasing this gift-giving season due to the pandemic. While the company saw a 43% dip in overall sales in Q1, e-commerce sales were up 13% year over year. Its next quarterly earnings will be announced Thursday, Oct. 22.

‘Something had to resonate differently’

“Dream the Future” comes just one month after Gap premiered a fall voting campaign and kids-focused push that looked to amplify voices for a more equitable future. The efforts centered on themes of unity and civic engagement, and promoted voter registration through Stand United’s partnerships with When We All Vote and Rock the Vote. The holiday push sees Gap continuing to lead its marketing with brand values that have steadily seeped into in its campaigns this year.

“The big question we had was: How do we continue this pivot that we’ve made toward brand values and be cognizant of the fatigue and the struggles of the ongoing pandemic?” Alderete said.

Similar to Stand United’s voting push from September, the brand is looking to deepen engagement in Q4 by encouraging fans to create and move together through a dance challenge on social media. Gap will donate to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for every video posted, up to $50,000, in honor of Giving Tuesday. Dance video challenges — popularized by TikTok and Instagram — can extend the campaign’s reach online through spreading user-generated content, generating goodwill for the brand and buzz around the nonprofit it’s supporting.

“This holiday is not going to be as easy or as optimistic for many people, when you look at what’s happening with unemployment and food insecurity and home insecurity. We wanted to be able to give back and let people feel that engagement as well,” Alderete said.

“Gap has always been known for its optimism, but something had to resonate differently this year.”

Len Peltier

Gap, creative director

“Dream the Future” departs slightly from the brand’s past holiday efforts. Last year, Gap ran a nostalgia-heavy story of a mother and son’s relationship over the years, with his Gap hoodie as a connecting thread. The strong storytelling was designed to help the brand appeal to consumers’ emotional sides and shift away from Gap’s typical product-centered creative that embraced holiday razzle dazzle. The brand this year is realigning its marketing to put values-led messaging at the forefront, a trend for many brands across categories that look to connect with discerning consumers.

“Gap has always been known for its optimism, but something had to resonate differently this year. There’s just too much going on to do something inauthentic or not grounded in what we’re all going through,” Creative Director Len Peltier told Marketing Dive.