Make sure the messenger isn't BO(RED)
I visited the Gap, one of RED's product partners on Saturday and again on Sunday. Saturday I was in need of undershirts, but ventured to the large section devoted to the special-edition product line and info to get a closer look. Great signage. Well-versed collateral. Well-designed product. I was enjoying the browse...until a salesperson came up to tell me everything I needed to know about RED (in one breath) and then, why it was "SO COOL" that the Gap was involved. Mmmmm kay. Her lack of knowledge of the wider RED campaign was obvious and her on-message recitation of Gap's involvement sounded more like a sales pitch than a sincere conversation about a campaign that didn't need to be "sold."
I left, not thinking much about the sales pitch other than what a shame it was that the actual Gap employee didn't know as much about this as I, a consumer who did some simple Internet research on the campaign. Then, I went to the concert.
Each artist spoke about why being part of RED was important. An occasional F-bomb was dropped to describe the AIDS crisis in Africa. Personal reasons for supporting the cause prevailed. I was down with this. They got me excited about my involvement. And I started to compare both the messages and the messengers with my earlier store experience.
Sunday morning a few of my friends hit the Gap to buy a RED T-shirt after our LAST LONG RUN BEFORE THE CHICAGO MARATHON!!! Again, I was unimpressed with the boilerplate version of the RED campaign by two different employees. It was a shame that such a cool idea could be lost at the point of important sale because the campaign's supposed advocates were describing the idea with the same passion as they described a pair of jeans.
Now, I'm a fan of the Gap's dedication to this cause. And I know that I experienced just a handful of interactions with the idea/partnership. However, the Gap lost out on some valuable opportunities to get me excited (and make money).
I did end up buying a shirt - due completely to my own interest and support of the campaign. The front is printed with the letters BO next to the (RED) logo. Unfortunately, the shirt would be better worn by a few Gap employees.
These experiences got me thinking about message and messenger. Both play a critical role in raising awareness and converting plain-old consumers into zealots. What a shame it is to focus considerable effort in constructing a campaign, its collateral and messaging only to see that spirit die at the point of a bo(red) or flatlined employee.
Free advice for the Gap: Give your employees the collateral. Tell them to sign up for the RED campaign on MySpace...and then leave it at that. Empower them to find their own reasons to get excited about their employer's involvement. More shirts will sell and your store traffic will be empowered by the excitement that resonates from sincere conversations. Every interaction does not have to be a sales pitch. While your distressed denim may not walk itself off the shelves, this is a campaign that sells itself, with a little help from passionate people.
Listening to: Brian Wright and the Waco Tragedies, Dog Ears