Gap Evolves Its Marketing Strategies With Its New Digital-First Brand Hill City

When Gap Inc. launched the men’s activewear label Hill City in September, it marked its first new brand in a decade, and its first-ever foray into digital-first territory.

Hill City has some notable differences compared to other DTC companies – like corporate ownership and a running start with distribution in 50 Athleta stores (Gap’s activewear brand for women).

But Hill City will bring the ecommerce startup mentality when it comes to focusing on data-driven marketing.

“We really believe the future of marketing and retail is one-to-one,” said Eric Toda, Hill City’s director of marketing. “Any time you interact with Hill City we want to use all the insights you’ve given us for this to be a personalized experience.”

The brand’s marketing mix to start has been about 40% social media (primarily Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), 20% search and 40% programmatic. But Toda said those numbers will shift fluidly based on what’s performing and the brand’s day-to-day marketing priorities.

“When you’re predominantly digital, the number one thing that hurts you is not being able to accurately credit all the channels,” and Hill City is working on an in-house multitouch attribution algorithm, he said.

Hill City works with Amobee as media-buying vendor and strategic partner, a vendor relationship Toda brought from his previous job as global head of social marketing at Airbnb. And the Gap brand is also piloting a partnership between Amobee and Oracle Data Cloud to coordinate efforts across walled garden platforms and the programmatic ecosystem.

“If you were to roll back six or seven years ago most people in the industry expected there to be an online marketing ecosystem with data flowing freely, and that’s clearly not the case,” said Philip Smolin, Amobee’s chief strategy officer. Instead, the walls have gotten higher around platform users.

The Amobee-Oracle Data Cloud product allows Hill City to push the same custom audience segments out to different platforms and adjust or suppress campaigns based on activity in other channels. If an Instagram user buys a product, for instance, Hill City can halt that campaign across other social platforms, or if a user has been heavily targeted via programmatic, Hill City can suppress social targeting.

“That portability between social and programmatic, our two largest consumer touch points, is critical for us,” Toda said.

Hill City made hundreds of changes to its site in only a few weeks based on connections between social, search, programmatic and on-site traffic, he said. “Now it’s about being able to make that degree of change and personalization with the media plan, not just the site.”

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