Gap’s Marketing Lesson: Don’t Mess with A Beloved Logo


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Man walking between two large rocks, Rear view, elevated viewEver since the debacle of Gap  unveiling its new logo last week, I’ve been a rather outspoken critic of not only the design, but Gap’s somewhat bizarre and poorly articulated attempts to make it appear that the rebranding effort was all part of one big crowdsourcing exercise or a PR stunt. (Why is it every time a brand does something odd in the digital space, we have to label it a “PR stunt?”)

It wasn’t.

News this week that Gap was abandoning its new logo—after just seven days on the market, and before the new logo had even hit stores or merchandise (the new logo was rolled out via a “soft launch” on Gap.com—left me wondering one thing: Does Gap even realize how badly it’s hurting it’s brand right now?

It’s one thing to roll out a new logo after months, if not years, of market research on the implications a rebranding effort will have on your customers, brand affinity, brand recognition, etc. But to roll out a new logo, after having one of the world’s most recognizable brand marks, then receive a torrent of negative feedback, only to claim the new logo is part of a crowdsourcing experiment, and then, finally, revert back to your old logo after only seven days, is not only bizarre but indicative of a brand losing its edge and sense of where it fits in the market.

Still with me?

In a recent Ragan.com article discussing the new Gap logo, I offered some thoughts on why the logo redesign may be detrimental to the once-vaunted Gap brand:

“A global company with as rich a history and as strong a brand affinity as Gap doesn’t spend millions [of dollars] on redesigning its logo and rebranding efforts if it intended all along to crowd-source ideas and reaction to the logo once it’s launched. That’s a coverup for a rebranding effort that has clearly gone awry.”

And I still don’t buy Gap’s assertions that this was all part of some big crowdsourcing experiment that has now clearly gone awry. Had Gap been engaging in some type of crowd-sourcing activities all along—say, with the development of a new line of jeans or in picking the next Gap model—then absolutely, this new effort would make sense, and I’m sure would be welcomed. But when it comes to your company’s brand — often the most recognizable and profitable physical attribute of a company — engaging in any type of digital experimentation can have expensive consequences.

Ultimately, brands live and die by two things: brand recognition and brand loyalty. And when you start messing with one of those two, you had better be sure you’re 100 percent certain it’s for the right reasons and you have the research and backing of your customers and key stakeholders to back it up.

Gap clearly lacked all of that, and it’s now learned a harsh lesson on rebranding in the digital age.

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