Could Big Data Replace the Creative Director at the Gap?

Is it time to throw out the creative director and rely on big data to predict what consumers want to wear next? Assistant Professor Ayelet Israeli discusses how Gap CEO Art Peck considers this bold idea to boost sales.

Subscribe on iTunes  Follow on Libsyn

Subscribe on iTunes  Follow on Libsyn

Brian Kenny: Karl Lagerfeld. If you're not into fashion, you may not recognize that name, but Karl Lagerfeld is to fashion as Wayne Gretzky is to hockey as Mick Jagger is to rock and roll as Steve Jobs is to consumer tech. He is, according to industry insiders, nothing less than a fashion god. Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1938, he designed his first line of clothing at the tender age of 17. His meteoric rise is legendary among creative directors and today at 83, he still has tremendous influence in the fashion world as creative director at Chanel and Fendi. Lagerfeld proved over decades that he had the creative vision to know what consumers would want next before they even knew themselves. He once said, "I am not a marketing person. I don't ask myself questions. I go by instinct." But in this day and age, when one wrong vision could prove very costly, is that still a winning approach for a fashion brand?

Today we'll hear from Professor Ayelet Israeli about her case entitled, Predicting Consumer Tastes With Big Data at Gap. I'm your host, Brian Kenny, and you're listening to Cold Call.

Professor Israeli is an expert in channel management, pricing, online marketing and ecommerce, among other things. She teaches marketing to MBA students at Harvard Business School. Thank you for joining us today.

Ayelet Israeli: Thank you so much for having me here.

Brian Kenny: People know Gap, obviously a very well-known brand. Many of us have Gap clothing in our closets. Do you shop at Gap?

Ayelet Israeli: Absolutely. I think what's interesting about Gap is that it's such an iconic brand and nowadays maybe, some younger folks or millennials don't really know what it stood for in the past. But in 1996, Sharon Stone wore a Gap turtleneck to the Oscars. It was that cool.

Brian Kenny: It was that cool. They had this great commercial, you may not remember it. It set the tone for them, back in the 90s where and everybody was wearing exactly the same thing. It was like Khakis and black top, so they were part of that iconic movement where everybody was sort of dressing in the same way and Gap had sort of set the tone for that.

Ayelet Israeli: Right. And then in the 2000s it became the butt of the joke. There is the famous scene in Crazy Stupid Love where Ryan Gosling just yells at Steve Carell to be better than the Gap.

Brian Kenny: I don't remember that, but that's a good line and I get exactly what you're talking about. Can you just set the case up for us? Who's the protagonist and what's on his mind?

Ayelet Israeli: The timing of the case is early 2017. Art Peck is CEO of the Gap. He's actually one of our MBA grads here at HBS. At the time of the case he's been CEO for about two years and sales have not been doing too great. They have been dropping in the last two years. It's a $15 billion dollar brand in sales, so not doing too great is relative, but still sales are dropping and you want to do something [about it]. What Art decides to do is that he thinks that maybe it's time to eliminate this creative director that you talked about at the outset and instead turn to big data to predict what the big next designs are going to be. That's the core question of this case.

"He really transformed the way that Gap does digital in very influential ways"

Brian Kenny: What prompted you to write this? This is what we call a library case, meaning that it was written with publicly available information, so Gap was not directly involved. What inspired you to write the case?

Ayelet Israeli: It's one of these magical cases where you read the Wall Street Journal in the morning, you read a title and it seems so interesting to you that you have to write a case about it. And the title said, “Peck, the CEO of Gap, is trying to go for data instead of design.” It detailed how he wants to eliminate creative directors and use data instead. This is how it started.

Brian Kenny: That's a huge deal in the fashion industry. Can you talk about the creative director…?

Ayelet Israeli: We call them visionaries and artistic visionaries, but essentially it's kind of the head designer of the brand and what the brand stands for. So they would be establishing what is the look and the feel and the tone of the brand. Usually they create a few inspirational pieces and then lower-level designers and merchants figure out how to create multiple designs from this for consumers. They kind of give you the vision of what the brand should be. Gap is about a 50-year-old brand. This is the way everyone in the business has been doing it. You have a creative director that starts the design process and at the end of the day, which could be a few weeks to months to years, the item lands in the stores and reaches consumers.

Brian Kenny: Peck is interesting because he came up through a different route within the Gap. Can you talk a little about his background?

Ayelet Israeli: Right before becoming CEO he was the president of growth, innovation, and digital. He is very well known to be this analytical guy that believes in hard data. He really transformed the way that Gap does digital in very influential ways. Peck really tried to make sure that consumers can essentially shop online or offline and move across channels so easily, almost in a transparent manner, that you start shopping in this store and finish online or vice versa. He did that in a very, very impressive way.

Brian Kenny: So he is what we would call a “quant” in the MBA world.

Ayelet Israeli: Probably yes.

Brian Kenny: Pretty analytical and in an industry where creativity is prized above all other things.

Ayelet Israeli: Right.

"All of these things are really harming fashion in general and Gap in particular"

Brian Kenny: So Peck inherits a situation that's a real challenge, but Gap for a long time had sort of been one of the leaders in this industry under the direction of Mickey Drexler, who is another character that you mentioned in the case. How was he successful and then what sort of happened to him?

Ayelet Israeli: So I think what's interesting … is that Peck is this quant guy and Drexler, according to what I understand about him, was the exact opposite. He was this executive visionary creator. He was known to be able to predict brands, to predict trends, to know what's going to work. He predicted the fact that casual was going to be a thing. He led Gap for about 20 years … then somehow lost his magic touch around the year 2000. After about two years of declining sales, he left the Gap.

Brian Kenny: Peck steps in and has to figure out where to go from there. What were some of the strategies that he started to migrate towards?

Ayelet Israeli: The time that Peck steps in is only 15 years later. During this time they've been trying to do sort of the same things they were doing before, trying to predict what is going to be big, what is going to work out well. The way Peck sees it they made a few wrong bets on design, on product, on creative directors. And he has to change that course, but that's not the only thing that's going on. The fashion industry is suffering so much because of different global or more macro trends that are going on.

Malls are closing, shops are closing, consumers move to buy online. There's something called fast fashion that are brands that essentially can create product very, very quickly. Traditional brands take about 10 months from the time that a design is chosen until it ends in the store, and these fast fashion brands like Zara or H&M could do it within weeks. So that's something new that they have to deal with. And that's not the way Gap worked at all. Millennials are more interested in a unique brand. They don't want to be like everyone else. They want something special, they don't want this huge company. They want to identify themselves with something local, something smaller. All of these things are really harming fashion in general and Gap in particular.

Brian Kenny: So what does he set out to do?

Ayelet Israeli: It's a huge, huge, huge challenge and I think what he decides to do is change course. He says, we believed in these creative directors—I think there's a quote where he even calls them false messiahs. And…

Brian Kenny: Heresy in the world.

Ayelet Israeli: Exactly, and we are going to eliminate them from the process and create something that is based on big data. I know big data is a buzzword that means different things to different people, but the way that he sees it is essentially collecting data either from their own website, from social media, from Google trends, understanding what people are searching for, what people are interested in, and from that kind of mining to understand what is the current trend. And then instead of the process starting with the creative director, we start from this trend that we identified from data and then start our process.

Brian Kenny: It's hard for people to find good examples of where big data is relatable to their day-to-day lives, but this case actually makes it pretty clear that lots of information can be captured about consumer buying patterns both through their online and their in-store experience, and they can use that to drive decisions, which is what any business ought to try and do, right? You're in business for the customer.

Ayelet Israeli: Right.

Brian Kenny: One of the things that I thought was really interesting was the way he tried to bring the online experience and the in-store experience together more closely.

Ayelet Israeli: One of the things that Peck did was to create this ability to start buying online and then deliver it to the store or the product is waiting for you in the store. Another is to identify your location and then show you what are the sales in your area or where are close stores in your area. You can also start shopping offline, leave the store and then get special promotions online, so essentially trying to make this seamless, the move between online and offline seamless because nowadays we do shop this way. We do go both online and offline. And he found clever ways to do that.

Brian Kenny: The case mentions this, but there is sort of a fine line between knowing your customer and knowing your customer too well. That's when we cross over into the sort of the creepiness category and Peck seems to be aware of this.

Ayelet Israeli: I think identifying that line is a very challenging task. That's what a lot of companies are trying to figure out these days with a GDPR and privacy policies and what exactly you know about consumers and whether consumers should opt in or opt out and how much do consumers know. So you have to walk the line pretty carefully and consumers also have to be more proactive and figure out that if they turn on my location services on my phone for all of my apps all of the time, then probably someone knows what my location is and if that's something that I don't want a company to know, then I should probably disable that function on my phone.

"Are we actually setting trends or are we identifying trends?"

Brian Kenny: You do a lot of work in the e-commerce space. Are you finding that this new generation, these digital natives, people that have grown up with this technology, are they more or less comfortable with this kind of personalization that may occasionally cross that line?

Ayelet Israeli: I don't have work specifically on that, but I know of work on this issue and there is an interesting thing that people will give away a lot of their private information for very little gains. Think of the number of times you gave your email address to get a coupon or something pretty minor from a company and once they have your email, they might collect more information on you. They might have third party databases that contain your email and what was shipped to you or where you bought, or a million other things that your email can reveal about you that you don't think about in the first place.

Brian Kenny: It'll be interesting to see how that affects strategies like the one Peck has set out to do here so…

Ayelet Israeli: Right. But personalization is only one part of this strategy and I think that's something that they've done even before this move. What is different here is trying to collect aggregate data from various resources that is not necessarily about personalization or about one person and from that trying to spot new trends.

Brian Kenny: Okay.

Ayelet Israeli: This trend-spotting idea is what's really new and exciting here, because there is this tension in the case and between when you think about creative directors and the more analytical way of thinking of, are we actually setting trends or are we identifying trends, are we spotting trends? And when you move into something like, okay, now we're going to use data, you're probably moving away from setting trends to spotting trends because the data already has to tell you that that trends exist somewhere.

Brian Kenny: So you're sort of reacting to trends that are already happening.

Ayelet Israeli: That's the danger here. It could be the case that you have very sophisticated algorithms that are able to detect it very, very early. But I don't know what their capabilities are.

Brian Kenny: How did others in the industry react when Peck decided to take this different approach?

Ayelet Israeli: There were a few comments about exactly that. Can you be a fashion-forward brand if you are (following) the average trend in the market, or spotting a trend that already exists? Then the question goes back to what is the Gap nowadays? Is it actually a fashion-forward brand or is it something else? And I think all of this ties back to: What is the Gap? How has Gap changed over the years? Is it important for it to be fashion forward nowadays? Can they just do this big data thing? Maybe they have amazing capabilities that they can spot trends that no one else can spot. That would be really interesting.

Brian Kenny: Have you discussed this case in class?

Ayelet Israeli: Yes, absolutely.

Brian Kenny: I'm sure the students are familiar with the brand, obviously. What kind of reaction do you get from students?

Ayelet Israeli: Students are surprised to learn that the Gap was ever a fashion-forward brand, especially our millennial students. For them it's a basics brand. How much fashion forward can you go with khakis and a turtleneck?

Brian Kenny: Mark Zuckerberg's done okay with that.

Ayelet Israeli: Absolutely. But I don't think anyone thinks he's a visionary fashion director or anything like that. But because of that, I think they are more likely to be okay with this big data idea because if you're just selling basics, then maybe it's okay to sell the trend that everyone else is selling. If you're selling something that is more fashion forward, then you're in a bigger problem because you need someone to create this new trend and not just spot the trend that everyone else is doing.

We didn't really get into this, but the other part of his strategy is essentially to shorten production cycles that they had at the Gap. They were from traditional companies that take about 10 months, almost a year, from when they decide on something and it reaches stores. Now they shortened it to about eight to 10 weeks for most of their product categories. So that's the back end of the strategy, which I think everyone agrees is necessary. But the front end of how exactly you use data, and do you do it in a collaborative process or is there a creative director that dictates the brand, that's the core question here.

Brian Kenny: And the jury is still out. So may be there'll be a “B” case a couple of years down the road.

Ayelet Israeli: Yes. And I think we know that Gap has different brands, Gap, and Old Navy, and Banana Republic. The answer might be different to each of these brands just because of how fashion forward they appear to be.

Brian Kenny: So just on those other brands, it's interesting because, Gap is, you mentioned khakis and t-shirts. Banana Republic is obviously more sophisticated than that and then they've got Athletica and other brands. How do they take this sort of data-driven approach and apply the fashion sensibility so that it's specific to the audience of each of those brands?

Ayelet Israeli: One of the things that is part of the plan is essentially having a brand filter that identifies what is special about this brand and whatever trend you identify, go with this trend through the filter, and then come up with a design that is appropriate for the brand. So let's say, and I'm simplifying by a lot, that we figured out that polka dots is the trend for next season.

Brian Kenny: Could happen.

Ayelet Israeli: Don't tell anyone, so then polka dots would mean something different in Old Navy versus Banana Republic and you would have different designs with that that are applied through what we think the brand is or what the belief at Gap that this brand stands for.

Brian Kenny: So we look forward to seeing how it all turns out. Ayelet thank you for joining us today.

Ayelet Israeli: Thank you very much, this was very fun.

Brian Kenny: If you enjoyed this episode of Cold Call you should check out our other podcasts. After Hours features Harvard Business School faculty dishing on the happenings at the crossroads of business and culture. Managing the Future of Work features experts discussing how to survive and thrive in the age of artificial intelligence and learning machines. Subscribe to these and others on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. I'm your host Brian Kenny, and you've been listening to Cold Call, an official podcast of Harvard Business School.

 Read more

Brian Kenny: Karl Lagerfeld. If you're not into fashion, you may not recognize that name, but Karl Lagerfeld is to fashion as Wayne Gretzky is to hockey as Mick Jagger is to rock and roll as Steve Jobs is to consumer tech. He is, according to industry insiders, nothing less than a fashion god. Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1938, he designed his first line of clothing at the tender age of 17. His meteoric rise is legendary among creative directors and today at 83, he still has tremendous influence in the fashion world as creative director at Chanel and Fendi. Lagerfeld proved over decades that he had the creative vision to know what consumers would want next before they even knew themselves. He once said, "I am not a marketing person. I don't ask myself questions. I go by instinct." But in this day and age, when one wrong vision could prove very costly, is that still a winning approach for a fashion brand?

Today we'll hear from Professor Ayelet Israeli about her case entitled, Predicting Consumer Tastes With Big Data at Gap. I'm your host, Brian Kenny, and you're listening to Cold Call.

Professor Israeli is an expert in channel management, pricing, online marketing and ecommerce, among other things. She teaches marketing to MBA students at Harvard Business School. Thank you for joining us today.

Ayelet Israeli: Thank you so much for having me here.

Brian Kenny: People know Gap, obviously a very well-known brand. Many of us have Gap clothing in our closets. Do you shop at Gap?

Ayelet Israeli: Absolutely. I think what's interesting about Gap is that it's such an iconic brand and nowadays maybe, some younger folks or millennials don't really know what it stood for in the past. But in 1996, Sharon Stone wore a Gap turtleneck to the Oscars. It was that cool.

Brian Kenny: It was that cool. They had this great commercial, you may not remember it. It set the tone for them, back in the 90s where and everybody was wearing exactly the same thing. It was like Khakis and black top, so they were part of that iconic movement where everybody was sort of dressing in the same way and Gap had sort of set the tone for that.

Ayelet Israeli: Right. And then in the 2000s it became the butt of the joke. There is the famous scene in Crazy Stupid Love where Ryan Gosling just yells at Steve Carell to be better than the Gap.

Brian Kenny: I don't remember that, but that's a good line and I get exactly what you're talking about. Can you just set the case up for us? Who's the protagonist and what's on his mind?

Ayelet Israeli: The timing of the case is early 2017. Art Peck is CEO of the Gap. He's actually one of our MBA grads here at HBS. At the time of the case he's been CEO for about two years and sales have not been doing too great. They have been dropping in the last two years. It's a $15 billion dollar brand in sales, so not doing too great is relative, but still sales are dropping and you want to do something [about it]. What Art decides to do is that he thinks that maybe it's time to eliminate this creative director that you talked about at the outset and instead turn to big data to predict what the big next designs are going to be. That's the core question of this case.

"He really transformed the way that Gap does digital in very influential ways"

Brian Kenny: What prompted you to write this? This is what we call a library case, meaning that it was written with publicly available information, so Gap was not directly involved. What inspired you to write the case?

Ayelet Israeli: It's one of these magical cases where you read the Wall Street Journal in the morning, you read a title and it seems so interesting to you that you have to write a case about it. And the title said, “Peck, the CEO of Gap, is trying to go for data instead of design.” It detailed how he wants to eliminate creative directors and use data instead. This is how it started.

Brian Kenny: That's a huge deal in the fashion industry. Can you talk about the creative director…?

Ayelet Israeli: We call them visionaries and artistic visionaries, but essentially it's kind of the head designer of the brand and what the brand stands for. So they would be establishing what is the look and the feel and the tone of the brand. Usually they create a few inspirational pieces and then lower-level designers and merchants figure out how to create multiple designs from this for consumers. They kind of give you the vision of what the brand should be. Gap is about a 50-year-old brand. This is the way everyone in the business has been doing it. You have a creative director that starts the design process and at the end of the day, which could be a few weeks to months to years, the item lands in the stores and reaches consumers.

Brian Kenny: Peck is interesting because he came up through a different route within the Gap. Can you talk a little about his background?

Ayelet Israeli: Right before becoming CEO he was the president of growth, innovation, and digital. He is very well known to be this analytical guy that believes in hard data. He really transformed the way that Gap does digital in very influential ways. Peck really tried to make sure that consumers can essentially shop online or offline and move across channels so easily, almost in a transparent manner, that you start shopping in this store and finish online or vice versa. He did that in a very, very impressive way.

Brian Kenny: So he is what we would call a “quant” in the MBA world.

Ayelet Israeli: Probably yes.

Brian Kenny: Pretty analytical and in an industry where creativity is prized above all other things.

Ayelet Israeli: Right.

"All of these things are really harming fashion in general and Gap in particular"

Brian Kenny: So Peck inherits a situation that's a real challenge, but Gap for a long time had sort of been one of the leaders in this industry under the direction of Mickey Drexler, who is another character that you mentioned in the case. How was he successful and then what sort of happened to him?

Ayelet Israeli: So I think what's interesting … is that Peck is this quant guy and Drexler, according to what I understand about him, was the exact opposite. He was this executive visionary creator. He was known to be able to predict brands, to predict trends, to know what's going to work. He predicted the fact that casual was going to be a thing. He led Gap for about 20 years … then somehow lost his magic touch around the year 2000. After about two years of declining sales, he left the Gap.

Brian Kenny: Peck steps in and has to figure out where to go from there. What were some of the strategies that he started to migrate towards?

Ayelet Israeli: The time that Peck steps in is only 15 years later. During this time they've been trying to do sort of the same things they were doing before, trying to predict what is going to be big, what is going to work out well. The way Peck sees it they made a few wrong bets on design, on product, on creative directors. And he has to change that course, but that's not the only thing that's going on. The fashion industry is suffering so much because of different global or more macro trends that are going on.

Malls are closing, shops are closing, consumers move to buy online. There's something called fast fashion that are brands that essentially can create product very, very quickly. Traditional brands take about 10 months from the time that a design is chosen until it ends in the store, and these fast fashion brands like Zara or H&M could do it within weeks. So that's something new that they have to deal with. And that's not the way Gap worked at all. Millennials are more interested in a unique brand. They don't want to be like everyone else. They want something special, they don't want this huge company. They want to identify themselves with something local, something smaller. All of these things are really harming fashion in general and Gap in particular.

Brian Kenny: So what does he set out to do?

Ayelet Israeli: It's a huge, huge, huge challenge and I think what he decides to do is change course. He says, we believed in these creative directors—I think there's a quote where he even calls them false messiahs. And…

Brian Kenny: Heresy in the world.

Ayelet Israeli: Exactly, and we are going to eliminate them from the process and create something that is based on big data. I know big data is a buzzword that means different things to different people, but the way that he sees it is essentially collecting data either from their own website, from social media, from Google trends, understanding what people are searching for, what people are interested in, and from that kind of mining to understand what is the current trend. And then instead of the process starting with the creative director, we start from this trend that we identified from data and then start our process.

Brian Kenny: It's hard for people to find good examples of where big data is relatable to their day-to-day lives, but this case actually makes it pretty clear that lots of information can be captured about consumer buying patterns both through their online and their in-store experience, and they can use that to drive decisions, which is what any business ought to try and do, right? You're in business for the customer.

Ayelet Israeli: Right.

Brian Kenny: One of the things that I thought was really interesting was the way he tried to bring the online experience and the in-store experience together more closely.

Ayelet Israeli: One of the things that Peck did was to create this ability to start buying online and then deliver it to the store or the product is waiting for you in the store. Another is to identify your location and then show you what are the sales in your area or where are close stores in your area. You can also start shopping offline, leave the store and then get special promotions online, so essentially trying to make this seamless, the move between online and offline seamless because nowadays we do shop this way. We do go both online and offline. And he found clever ways to do that.

Brian Kenny: The case mentions this, but there is sort of a fine line between knowing your customer and knowing your customer too well. That's when we cross over into the sort of the creepiness category and Peck seems to be aware of this.

Ayelet Israeli: I think identifying that line is a very challenging task. That's what a lot of companies are trying to figure out these days with a GDPR and privacy policies and what exactly you know about consumers and whether consumers should opt in or opt out and how much do consumers know. So you have to walk the line pretty carefully and consumers also have to be more proactive and figure out that if they turn on my location services on my phone for all of my apps all of the time, then probably someone knows what my location is and if that's something that I don't want a company to know, then I should probably disable that function on my phone.

"Are we actually setting trends or are we identifying trends?"

Brian Kenny: You do a lot of work in the e-commerce space. Are you finding that this new generation, these digital natives, people that have grown up with this technology, are they more or less comfortable with this kind of personalization that may occasionally cross that line?

Ayelet Israeli: I don't have work specifically on that, but I know of work on this issue and there is an interesting thing that people will give away a lot of their private information for very little gains. Think of the number of times you gave your email address to get a coupon or something pretty minor from a company and once they have your email, they might collect more information on you. They might have third party databases that contain your email and what was shipped to you or where you bought, or a million other things that your email can reveal about you that you don't think about in the first place.

Brian Kenny: It'll be interesting to see how that affects strategies like the one Peck has set out to do here so…

Ayelet Israeli: Right. But personalization is only one part of this strategy and I think that's something that they've done even before this move. What is different here is trying to collect aggregate data from various resources that is not necessarily about personalization or about one person and from that trying to spot new trends.

Brian Kenny: Okay.

Ayelet Israeli: This trend-spotting idea is what's really new and exciting here, because there is this tension in the case and between when you think about creative directors and the more analytical way of thinking of, are we actually setting trends or are we identifying trends, are we spotting trends? And when you move into something like, okay, now we're going to use data, you're probably moving away from setting trends to spotting trends because the data already has to tell you that that trends exist somewhere.

Brian Kenny: So you're sort of reacting to trends that are already happening.

Ayelet Israeli: That's the danger here. It could be the case that you have very sophisticated algorithms that are able to detect it very, very early. But I don't know what their capabilities are.

Brian Kenny: How did others in the industry react when Peck decided to take this different approach?

Ayelet Israeli: There were a few comments about exactly that. Can you be a fashion-forward brand if you are (following) the average trend in the market, or spotting a trend that already exists? Then the question goes back to what is the Gap nowadays? Is it actually a fashion-forward brand or is it something else? And I think all of this ties back to: What is the Gap? How has Gap changed over the years? Is it important for it to be fashion forward nowadays? Can they just do this big data thing? Maybe they have amazing capabilities that they can spot trends that no one else can spot. That would be really interesting.

Brian Kenny: Have you discussed this case in class?

Ayelet Israeli: Yes, absolutely.

Brian Kenny: I'm sure the students are familiar with the brand, obviously. What kind of reaction do you get from students?

Ayelet Israeli: Students are surprised to learn that the Gap was ever a fashion-forward brand, especially our millennial students. For them it's a basics brand. How much fashion forward can you go with khakis and a turtleneck?

Brian Kenny: Mark Zuckerberg's done okay with that.

Ayelet Israeli: Absolutely. But I don't think anyone thinks he's a visionary fashion director or anything like that. But because of that, I think they are more likely to be okay with this big data idea because if you're just selling basics, then maybe it's okay to sell the trend that everyone else is selling. If you're selling something that is more fashion forward, then you're in a bigger problem because you need someone to create this new trend and not just spot the trend that everyone else is doing.

We didn't really get into this, but the other part of his strategy is essentially to shorten production cycles that they had at the Gap. They were from traditional companies that take about 10 months, almost a year, from when they decide on something and it reaches stores. Now they shortened it to about eight to 10 weeks for most of their product categories. So that's the back end of the strategy, which I think everyone agrees is necessary. But the front end of how exactly you use data, and do you do it in a collaborative process or is there a creative director that dictates the brand, that's the core question here.

Brian Kenny: And the jury is still out. So may be there'll be a “B” case a couple of years down the road.

Ayelet Israeli: Yes. And I think we know that Gap has different brands, Gap, and Old Navy, and Banana Republic. The answer might be different to each of these brands just because of how fashion forward they appear to be.

Brian Kenny: So just on those other brands, it's interesting because, Gap is, you mentioned khakis and t-shirts. Banana Republic is obviously more sophisticated than that and then they've got Athletica and other brands. How do they take this sort of data-driven approach and apply the fashion sensibility so that it's specific to the audience of each of those brands?

Ayelet Israeli: One of the things that is part of the plan is essentially having a brand filter that identifies what is special about this brand and whatever trend you identify, go with this trend through the filter, and then come up with a design that is appropriate for the brand. So let's say, and I'm simplifying by a lot, that we figured out that polka dots is the trend for next season.

Brian Kenny: Could happen.

Ayelet Israeli: Don't tell anyone, so then polka dots would mean something different in Old Navy versus Banana Republic and you would have different designs with that that are applied through what we think the brand is or what the belief at Gap that this brand stands for.

Brian Kenny: So we look forward to seeing how it all turns out. Ayelet thank you for joining us today.

Ayelet Israeli: Thank you very much, this was very fun.

Brian Kenny: If you enjoyed this episode of Cold Call you should check out our other podcasts. After Hours features Harvard Business School faculty dishing on the happenings at the crossroads of business and culture. Managing the Future of Work features experts discussing how to survive and thrive in the age of artificial intelligence and learning machines. Subscribe to these and others on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. I'm your host Brian Kenny, and you've been listening to Cold Call, an official podcast of Harvard Business School.

Post A Comment

In order to be published, comments must be on-topic and civil in tone, with no name calling or personal attacks. Your comment may be edited for clarity and length.