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Category winner: Predicting Consumer Tastes with Big Data at Gap

This case won the Marketing category at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2020. #CaseAwards2020

Presentation of the trophy for the Marketing category 2020

Celebrating the win

Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we were unable to present the authors in person with their trophies for winning the Marketing category in 2020.

Even though we couldn't make it to Boston, their trophies have started to!

We are delighted to celebrate Ayelet and Jill's win by sharing this picture of Ayelet and her award - congratulations!

Discover more about Ayelet and Jill's winning case below.

Find out more about the Case Awards here.

The case

Art PeckWho – the protagonist

Art Peck, Chief Executive Officer of Gap Inc.


Gap was one of the creators of speciality retailing, in which a retailer focuses on a particular product category rather than carrying a wide assortment, and produces its own private label goods.

Gap logoWhy?

Art was struggling to turn around Gap’s fortunes, with it being in the midst of two years of declining sales in an environment where many brick-and-mortar retailers were under pressure. In reality, the company had been struggling since 2000.

Art hoped to improve operations by eliminating the position of creative director for each of the firm’s fashion brands and by replacing them with a more collective creative ecosystem fuelled by the input of big data and predictive analytics.


It was February 2015 when Art took over as CEO of Gap, and January 2017 when troubles came to a head.


Gap was founded by American couple Donald and Doris Fisher in 1969 in America, with its headquarters based in San Francisco, California. The company operates stores globally.

Key quote

“We have cycled through so many, and each one has been proclaimed as the next saviour.” – Art Peck doubting the value of creative directors.

What next?

Art was betting that market intelligence fuelled by big data could outperform a creative director predicting the future fashion tastes of consumers. Could data-mining replace the artistic vision of a creative director?

Interested in finding out more?


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Predicting Consumer Tastes with Big Data at Gap
Ref 9-517-115
Spanish language version

Ref 9-518-S30
Teaching note

Ref 5-518-053

The authors

Ayelet Israeli and Jill Avery

Ayelet Israeli and Jill Avery

Ayelet and Jill discuss the use of academic research and focusing on teaching objectives before writing a case.

Teaching the case

Ayelet said: “I am thrilled that other instructors have been using this case. I love teaching it and thinking about the challenges it highlights, and I am happy others have found it beneficial as well.”

The struggles of traditional brands

Ayelet commented: “In this day and age, many companies are struggling with similar issues.

Amazon package“First, the so-called ‘retail apocalypse’ has left many traditional brands behind, including the iconic Gap, the subject of this case.

"Second, the advent of big data and analytics are impacting how many firms reimagine their business models.

"Third, predicting customer preferences is an important marketing problem, and new technologies offer new challenges as companies attempt to do so.

"Fourth, the Amazon piece in the case is also of timely importance as many brands are figuring out if they can survive on their own or have to be on Amazon to stay relevant and successful.” 

Using academic research

Jill added: “One of the highlights of writing this case was connecting the current managerial challenge facing Gap with academic research on consumer preferences.

“Students often have misperceptions about their own and other consumers’ preferences and how they are formed and influenced by marketers and other creative producers in the culture.

“It was interesting to explore how to bring in academic research related to tastes, fashions, and preference malleability into the case setting.”

Jill Avery teaching at Harvard Business SchoolTeaching objectives

Jill concluded: “Always start with your teaching objectives before you start writing. Which concepts do you hope students will learn? This will help guide you on what to include and what to leave out of the case.” 

About the authors

Ayelet Israeli is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.
e aisraeli@hbs.edu

Jill Avery is a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School.
e javery@hbs.edu


View all the 2020 winners