September 22, 2021Gap draws Gen Zers in with modern take on nostalgia

With record-breaking losses and store closures around the world, American heritage brand Gap hasn't been doing well. But its fall 2021 campaign signals a shift in direction and hope for recovery as it targets new and younger audiences by tapping into their love of all things nostalgic.

Leila Zadeh

Gap’s fall 2021 campaign was introduced with a series of 15-second videos highlighting a diverse group of ten ‘culture shapers’, from deaf activist Nakia Smith to Oscar-winning director Chloe Zhao. Both product and campaign videos all lean heavily into Gap’s legacy years – the 90s – when the brand had a strong foothold on American culture. Many of the stars used in the campaign, however, weren’t even alive in the 90s. The ad spots will play across platforms frequented primarily by Gen Zers, such as TikTok. “Those styles are all part of our 90s heritage, but we’ve modernised them and the way they’re presented,” says Mary Alderete, Gap global head of marketing.

The throwback to the 90s and early 2000s is intentional especially as Gen Zers are increasingly inspired by the era's fashion and are also hungry for pre-internet analogue forms of media. For instance, in the first week of April 2020, Spotify reported a 54% increase in nostalgia-themed playlists being created, and popular Instagram accounts like @2000sanxiety revel in content from the past. As Gen Zers continue to assert themselves culturally, many are looking for ways to reclaim and reinterpret famous labels and Gap’s campaign speaks to this desire by leaning into nostalgic cues – and by bringing the campaign to TikTok, it's meeting a potential new audience where they are.

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