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Rachel Tipograph Discusses The Gap’s Digital Strategy

The retailer's global director of digital and social media said marketers have to understand each medium in order to use it effectively.

Rachel Tipograph

Describing advertising today as “highly fragmented,” Rachel Tipograph, global director of digital and social media at Gap brand, said marketers have to understand each medium in order to use it effectively. In other words, there’s no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

This story first appeared in the June 19, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In the old days, Gap would hire a renowned photographer, feature well-known celebrities and produce six images a year. They would put them all over the world and they would last anywhere from one to three years. Today, those six photographs are two days’ worth of content, she said. The shelf life for a Tweet is two hours; a Facebook post, seven hours; Instagram, 12 hours; Foursquare, 36 hours; Vine, two days; YouTube, five days; Pinterest, one week, and Tumblr, forever, she said.

“The world has changed. The mediums have changed. We as retailers have to change. We can’t apply old formats of advertising to new environments. The great thing is, and what I like to tell my boss, the [chief marketing officer] of Gap, is, ‘it’s really cheap and it works,” said Tipograph. “Initially, social media was all about broadcasting what you’re doing and what you’re thinking. Over the last two years, the social Web has shifted. First, it became the visual social Web, and now it’s the mobile visual social Web,” she said.

Gap’s digital strategy takes four approaches, using agencies; an in-house team of community managers (content creators who have great Instagram portfolios); bloggers, and consumers producing content on Gap’s behalf all over the world. Tipograph has a theory that brand marketing has shifted from the ad campaign to daily lo-fi content. “We no longer rely on the tag line, the 30-second spot and the billboard to drive the business. The world is real time, it’s lo-fi, and it requires a whole different outlet on investment, your staff and your partners,” she said.

But in order to understand lo-fi, one must first understand hi-fi, said Tipograph. “Hi-fi brand marketing is traditional advertising assets that feel polished, mass produced and created to fit all channels,” she said. “Lo-fi is content for individual networks. More often than not, they are created by an iPhone. They are not created in a photo shoot in Long Island City, Queens. It’s created by our consumers.”

Product lay-downs are a place to tell aspirational stories, and to show gifts for Father’s Day, for example. She said GIFs perform better than anything else. She also does well with Vine, which are six-second videos on Vine and Twitter, as well as Pinterest and Tumblr. Gap has data to back up how well lo-fi performs. Gap’s lo-fi content receives 70 percent higher engagement than hi-fi content. Lo-fi content is created for free. “Hi-fi content, more often than not, costs you a million bucks.” She also said that lo-fi content has a much higher click-through rate.

In an effort to get back on the millennial consumers’ radar, Gap launched Styld.by, whereby each month they’ll send their best product to bloggers and Web sites such as Refinery29 to have them style and photograph it however they want, using any model they like. The only requirement is they need to put a jobscript code on their site, a content date and tag it a certain way. “What happened? Gap’s association with fashion and style on the public social Web increased 40 percent. We saw very strong conversion from that content. We do Styld.by events in store where we see up to 20 percent lift in traffic and 15 percent lift in conversion,” said Tipograph.

Tipograph also noted that many retailers have mammoth e-commerce Web sites that they built, and it’s very expensive and difficult to add new features. She said start-ups such as Second Funnel recognize that retailers aren’t in the position to innovate as fast as start-ups. They help you create a ghost-layer experience on your e-commerce site so you can add social editorial, and you can make all that shoppable. She called “native ads” the buzzwords last year. Native advertising takes your best social content and puts it in traditional real estate space like banner ads. She said there’s a 25 percent lift in consumer recognition of native advertising versus banner advertising. She cited firms such as TripleLift and One Spot that can help with native advertising.