SHANGHAI: Clothing retailer Gap took five years to roll out its brand across China, choosing to focus on the shared values of young Chinese and Americans, according to a senior agency creative.

“This was a unique moment in time of GAP – no one knew anything about the brand. 15% name awareness for that brand in the country, no store, nothing. You couldn’t order Gap product,” said Nils Andersson , Asia Creative President and Greater China President, TBWA\Asia, at Cannes recently.

The brand now has more than 800 stores nationwide, from zero in 2011. A more strategic approach to expansion, rather than trying to be everywhere at once, helped Gap avoid common mistakes often made by international brands in China, such as failing to localise.

(For more on Gap’s strategic approach to expansion, read WARC’s exclusive report: Behind Gap’s five year launch into China.)

“As we went through to the different tiers, you have to be careful about the use of English. So English can be in tier one, but then as you go down tier two, tier three… so we wrote it in Chinese. The simple premise was about getting on the same platform really. America and China hanging out together," Andersson said.

At the core of the Gap brand in China is the shared values of young Chinese and Americans.

“Kids in China don't care about politics. They don't care about trade wars. They don’t care about currency debates. It really is a brave new world, liberated world out there,” he said.

What followed was an entire e-commerce infrastructure and a successful nationwide launch.

“Let's face it, if America and China don’t get on, the world’s got a problem. So we really just embraced the fact this was an American brand coming into the country, and we were taking the best of China and the best of America and putting them together.”

Data sourced from WARC