When Jamie (Kohn) Gersch ’98 arrives to start her workday at Old Navy’s San Francisco headquarters, upbeat music is playing, customer reviews run across a ticker in the café, and the office itself gives off an “optimistic, playful” vibe.
Gersch “started at the very bottom” at Gap Inc. nearly 20 years ago, working on in-store and window displays. Now she’s here: senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Old Navy. Named to Forbes’ CMO Next 50 list in 2018, she has worked on such iconic marketing campaigns as Hi, Fashion; Run to Old Navy; and, recently, Size Yes.
“Size Yes is the idea that regardless of your size or shape, you should be super confident and proud,” Gersch says of the campaign. “We offer products that fit every single American.”
Advocacy is important to the company, she adds. Last year for International Women’s Day, Gersch’s team “flower empowered” six of New York City’s female statues by adorning them with floral arrangements, and they partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of America for its ONward campaign, which promotes leadership and workforce training.
Her proudest accomplishment, Gersch says, has been the 25th anniversary campaign this past July 4. “We built a campaign around celebrating the values that both Old Navy and America were founded on — belonging and inclusivity,” she says. “We created a purple Fourth of July to promote the idea of red, white, and blue coming together to make purple as a symbol of belonging for all.” The company turned its logo purple for the holiday, released a limited-edition collection of purple flag tees, and turned the outside of its Times Square flagship store purple to encourage belonging. “It was a proud moment to use our voice to make a statement for good in America today,” she says.
Gersch is in charge of “everything that drives an emotional connection with customers and making them believe that Old Navy is a place for them and their family to shop.” On a day-to-day basis, that entails overseeing a 150-person marketing team as it takes an idea from concept to completion.
The company’s marketing strategy seems to be working. At a time when other retailers are struggling, Old Navy has continued to experience sales growth during Gersch’s tenure and is branching off from Gap Inc. to become its own company.
The CMO, who comes from “a big Colgate family” — her husband, sister, and two brothers-in-law are also alumni — credits her sociology major with preparing her for her 20-year marketing career.
“I studied people and people’s behaviors, and I’ve translated that into being interested in customer behavior and customer changes,” says Gersch. “That’s the bridge to connecting with our customers through experiences and marketing.”