Don’t be Normal | Tailoring Your Brand to Your Target Market


By: Michelle L. Cramer

There is some tough scrutiny passing around over GAP’s latest “Dress Normal” ad campaign. Launched in August of 2014, the campaign started with celebrities wearing “normal” clothes, doing non-exciting things. As the holidays approached, the campaign shifted to showcase some unexpected holiday interactions – such as a pre-teen boy lip syncing to an old-school crooner for the whole family, or the lanky guy in plaid attempting to kiss a much older woman under the mistletoe – followed by the subtle reminder to “dress normal.”

Way to exclude a large portion of your customers, GAP. Because it’s basically tying a negative aura to any semblance of abnormalcy, when most everyone has some weird quirk, habit or characteristic that makes them stand out from the crowd. It’s called individuality. And GAP seems to think that no one wants anything to do with it.

This, my friends, is a prime example of failing to tailor your brand to your target market.  GAP is inadvertently alienating its customers by encouraging uniformity – go ahead, everyone… wear our cloths so we all look the same and no one stands out. Dress normal.


Insults are Risky

Noises that express displeasure aside, while you certainly want your brand to stand out, you don’t want to upset potential (or even current) customers. Telling your customers that they’re not accepted for who they are—whatever that may be—will promptly send them to your competitor. People want to be themselves and be accepted that way. And they want your product to simply compliment that, not express false pretenses.

The key is branding your product or service in a way that draws people in and makes them believe they need your company to accentuate who they are and what they do. In keeping with our focus on GAP’s faux pas, a better approach to their new campaign would be something along the lines of “Dress to express who you are.” Then it would be prudent to showcase the endless options one could throw together with the GAP clothing line to express individual style and flair, all while still wearing the globally known brand: GAP.

Now, obviously, some products are going to have more refined tailoring necessary to monetize a brand. If you sell riding lawn mowers, you want to plug your products as time saving, precision instruments in a homeowner’s lawn care arsenal. However, if you’re slogan was something like “Be lazy” – emphasizing that a riding mower requires less effort and, therefore, makes the user lazy – well, you’re going to limit your target audience significantly.

That isn’t to say that you wouldn’t reach some potential customers, but you certainly risk seeing backlash if you take a negative approach to your branding.

Make it Memorable

The whole idea of a successful branding campaign is to get potential customers to remember your company by name and what products/services you offer. Branding is a long term thing, planting ideas in the heads of consumers so that they will either buy promptly because their need/desire is immediate, or remember your company when the need/desire for your product crops up in the future. While GAP’s campaign is certainly memorable, it may very well have the opposite effect on consumers, causing them to seek out competitor brands.

To keep your brand pointing in the right direction, ask yourself the following:

  • What is the motivation behind our brand approach?
  • Are we emphasizing the company or the customer (they answer should be “the customer”!)?
  • Is our branding geared toward our ideal customer (consider demographics such as age, location, income, gender, etc)?
  • Does our branding leave a positive lasting impression?
  • Can potential customers recall the company name and products offered after exposure to our brand?

The most accurate responses to these questions are acquired through market research, and testing the branding on a select portion of your target market to gage reactions. Listening to feedback from your target market will allow you to tailor your brand in a more direct—and successful—way.

Despite what GAP may believe, your company can be cool without being normal.

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