The newest “new face” of Old Navy is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, at least after Amy Poehler took her beautiful face elsewhere. And, if you go by the demographics of the clothing brand’s recent spokeswomen as any indication, Old Navy’s target audience should be between 44 (Poehler) and 54 (Dreyfus) years of age, female, and fans of comedy. But you know what they say about assumptions – they don’t fit very well in skinny jeans. So we took a deep dive into the consumers of Old Navy to see who they are, where they live, what they like, and who they look to for lifestyle inspiration.
Spoiler Alert: Our initial guess was totally wrong about Old Navy’s age demographic.
Old Navy = Young Women
First of all, we noticed that our Old Navy consumer is about twenty years younger than the brand’s most recent celebrity spokeswomen. A whopping 92% are women, married, college educated, and make a moderate income of between $40K-$70K per year. Most live in Texas or California.
What (These) Women Want
Apparel, Fashion and Beauty rank high in their interests – but on a budget. In fact, Old Navy’s biggest competitors for this population are Target, Walmart and Kohl’s, brands known for delivering the latest trends for low prices. Their top ten favorite celebrities, however, are anything but bargain-hunters. They include include not one, but three Kardashians (Khloe, Kim and Kourtney, in that order), as well as Snooki, Ellen Degeneres, Michelle Obama and George Lopez.
The mix of pop-culture fashion icons and comedians is an interesting one, and validates the brand’s choices in funny women like Poehler and Dreyfus as spokeswomen. However, it’s interesting to note that neither of these women show up in the top ten celebrities followed by the Old Navy demographic. Not even the shows for which these celebrities are best known appear on the favorite TV shows list (reality television and talent and variety shows take top billing, like The Voice, Duck Dynasty and Jersey Shore). Maybe the next spokesperson should be a Kardashian? Or, hey, maybe Snooki’s free.
Meet Jenny, Old Navy’s Marketing Persona
According to Tom Wyatt, president of Gap’s Old Navy chain from 2008 to 2012 who was primarily responsible for updating their sales strategy, Old Navy’s target buyer persona is named Jenny, a 25-34 year-old mother who earns $50,000 and is pressed for time. “Jenny,” although fictional, has been responsible for the brand’s recent store facelifts, clothing styles, as well as the busy-mom-marketing campaigns featuring Poehler and Dreyfus. Wyatt said in a 2011 interview with the Seattle Times that “We have 45,000 associates that literally talk about Jenny . . . What that did for us was normalized what the interpretation of what the product should be.”
But we wonder how effectively ads with Dreyfus speak to their target audience, because in our research, “Jenny” isn’t just a young, harried mother – she’s also a Kardashian fan, a reality show junkie, and is more likely to fill her grocery cart with Pillsbury cookies and M&Ms than make a “turpigin” (a chicken in a pig in a turkey – the pièce de résistance of Dreyfus’s holiday table in last winter’s commercial).
However posh Dreyfus’s characters are, however, the emphasis of these commercials are always on the great deals to be found – and that is a message that resonates with shoppers.
In fact, Old Navy’s highly targeted ads (thanks to Jenny) have caused the store’s profits to eclipse the profits of Gap, even though the price of a pair of jeans at Gap is more than double the price at Old Navy. In fact, as of early in 2015, Old Navy has been outperforming both of its more expensive sister brands – Gap and Banana Republic.
Gap is falling behind, which can’t entirely be attributed to the economy (which is recovering). We think it’s more likely due to Old Navy having a crystal clear, accurate marketing persona, whereas Gap’s branding has been all over the place in recent years.
Even though neither Julia Louis-Dreyfus nor Amy Poehler are mirror reflections of Old Navy’s target audience, they’ve still been doing good work (the numbers don’t lie). We think the magic lies in the messaging – every ad and commercial is carefully crafted for the budget-oriented, fashion-conscious family in mind. But we still wonder, would that message be even more effective from Khloe Kardashian’s lips?