There have been a number of stories in the recent editions of popular news magazines that talk about “Resurrecting GAP.” As you probably know, GAP is a clothing store that became a “high flying” retail chain decades ago (when I was “much less gray”) that has increasingly been falling on hard times. Their recent problem? Slumping sales. But why is such a household name with a powerful and recognizable brand facing this much decline?
Even though GAP has more than 3 million “likes” on Facebook, their worsening condition is well known—factors such as merchandise that is “stale” and goods that are too easy for others to duplicate and sell at a lesser price (the term most often used is “knock offs”) continue to plague their growth. Wooing customers back will be tough, retail analysts say, because many other big apparel retailers today also carry the same goods at the same or a lower price, and often times along with a better/newer/fresher user experience. So why does it matter? Many brands wear their social media presences as a badge of honor. Millions of social fans equals millions of customers and, better yet, brand ambassadors. But is this always the case? Hardly. What needs to be understood is that success in business is not automatic just because you “boast” likes or fans in the millions. You still need relevant products and a brand experience that engages consumers to functionally leverage your social program into sales growth.
Moral of the story? There is no substitute for offering merchandise or services with the right customer experience, that the public wants, at the right price. The “if you build it they will come” mentality of social media marketing is not always realistic. Successful social media engagements will not happen if the goods or services you offer are not on target (or available at Target?), even if there are a massive number of eyeballs on your brand every day.
Sandy Fern founded his eponymous firm in Rhode Island and came to join us as Senior Vice President/Partner at RDW when his firm merged with ours in 1996. He has been in the marketing and advertising business for longer than he would care for you to know, and continues to push boundaries in branding and marketing strategy. He still comes to the office 6 or 7 days a week and outworks people many years his junior.