Gap on New Logo: Never Mind

Discussion
Oct 13, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

A poll of RetailWire readers last week found that
54 percent thought Gap Inc. made a mistake when it decided to dump its old
logo in favor of a new one. As it turns out, Gap management came to the same
conclusion and is going back to the original.

The retailer came under intense
criticism after the new logo was unveiled last week and announced
that it might make changes after going the crowdsourcing route. That too, the
chain decided, was a mistake.

"We’ve learned a lot in this process. And we are clear that we
did not go about this in the right way. We recognize that we missed the opportunity
to engage with the online community. This wasn’t the right project at the
right time for crowd sourcing," said Marka Hansen, president of Gap North
America, in a statement. "There may be a time to evolve our logo, but if
and when that time comes, we’ll handle it in a different way."

Gap’s
management has come under criticism for how it handled the new logo launch
and its subsequent decision to go back to the original.

"Management, in my humble opinion, should not have tapped instantly into
the world of social networking to gather feedback on the logo alteration before
it was out there for a few months. I think management should have been management,
meaning launch the new logo, put it on the shopping bags, in store, online signage,
and on the airwaves," wrote Brian Sozzi, an analyst with Wall Street Strategies,
in a research note. "By the end of the holiday season I fancy many consumers would have reacted positively to the new Gap, maybe perhaps
forgetting what the old logo was altogether. It’s nice to have social media
to accumulate intelligence, but if management would have put the revised logo
out there, executed upon the delivery to consumers, I think the outcome would
have been much different."

Discussion Question: What lessons are there to be learned about managing brands
in the era of social media based on the Gap experience?

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26 Comments on "Gap on New Logo: Never Mind"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

There are very few corporate logos that should be considered untouchable (the Apple “apple” and Target “bullseye” come to mind), so The Gap certainly had an opportunity to freshen its brand identity. The lesson learned from its reversal is not to undertake a major change without some underlying research. Whether it’s online feedback (in the era of social networking) or old-fashioned focus groups, clearly The Gap didn’t do its homework.

This is not the kind of misstep that compares with New Coke or the Edsel, but it’s a good illustration of how carefully any company needs to manage its brand identity.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 6 months ago

The mistake GAP made wasn’t changing its logo in the first place. It was letting go of the opportunity to crowd-source the new one.

They were given a golden opportunity to keep the issue alive and actually turn it into a fantastic brand re-birth. Think about it; Mountain Dew kept the world hanging for months over something as inconsequential as a new drink flavor. GAP could have at least ridden this out for a few weeks and enjoyed some really good PR. Hey, they might have even ended up with a really cool new logo. Instead, they freaked out and rushed the whole thing to an underwhelming conclusion.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

It is natural for manufacturers to want to shout “new and improved” whether it is a logo or a product. However, Gap has learned people attached a far greater degree of emotion to a logo than they do their laundry detergent.

In our experience, people resist change and when you ask them about it they will tell you that they don’t like it. Especially when it’s new. As pointed out in the article, in this case the customers never got a chance to adapt to and adopt the new logo. Would they evidently accepted it, probably. Embraced it? Unknown….

Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Gap may have made some blunders, but in the process they generated millions of dollars in publicity and did little to hurt their brand. Instead they reminded people about their brand and initiated a conversation about their brand values. As we are about to enter the busiest shopping season of the year, what’s so bad about that?

Marge Laney
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Customers be damned! I disagree with Mr. Sozzi. I think this should be a wakeup call for all retailers that consumers have a voice and through social media a way to use it. Management needs to listen to their customers and act on what they hear rather than taking the “I know better than you what you want and need” approach. That attitude is old school, demeaning, and not customer-centric! Better that the Gaps of the world make real structural changes that respond to the marketplace, rather than just putting a new shade of lipstick on the same old pig.

Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
10 years 6 months ago

Social media gives consumers the chance to band together and voice opinions as never before. As mentioned by other posters, retailers can use this to their advantage. Gap should gave presented several new logos to customers on its Facebook page and had a vote (with keeping the old one as an option). This would have generated interest, publicity and goodwill at virtually zero cost (except for logo design).

Also, brands should be aware that as society keeps changing and technology advances, there is an increased yearning for the “good old days” when things were simpler and more innocent, so maintaining links to the past can be a smart move – ironic that the late ’60s in this case are the “more innocent” days!

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Makes you wonder why GAP felt compelled to change its logo. Companies spend countless millions trying to create an icon; is GAP so underperforming its competition that a change of image was required?

CPG companies have had a tendency to change packaging for no good reason except a brand manager wants to leave a mark on the business before moving on. I’ve always pushed people to ask whether sales will be better with a package change. If not, don’t change it. I’m wondering whether their reasons for a change had sales implications or was it just to do something new?

Bob Phibbs
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

A brand in trouble, grasping at straws. Look to their discounting with Foursquare, their Groupon “validation” and their ugly 1969 prototype in SOHO that looks like it was a popup that ran out of money for flooring. Who is GAP and who exactly has a consistent vision?

I expect we’ll be seeing some of these “visionaries” leaving after the holidays. That is, if they don’t rebrand as “New Navy”….

Rick Moss
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

What made me cringe more than the look of the new logo was Gap’s announcement that they would use crowdsourcing to fix it. I’ve designed enough logos to know that the last thing you want to do is open up the discussion to a room full of suits, let alone hundreds of thousands of customers.

Logo design is a specialized skill. Asking customers to help in the design is like asking airline passengers if they think the wings are too short. As our wise Creative Director is so fond of quoting, “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.”

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
10 years 6 months ago

As Richard Seesel suggests in his comments today, you need to do your homework (research) and use focus groups or some form of online feedback to understand if your change is good before you make it. New Coke is a great example of not doing your homework although the media serge after that launch did boost Coke’s market exposure as did the current GAP logo debacle.

The upfront research on this attempt was not where it should have been, but GAP may still gain from the media exposure it received. Like New Coke, was that GAP’s intent? We will never really know.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 6 months ago

The reality is that Gap is losing customers steadily and needs to figure out how to appeal to Gen Y. This is a daunting task that, first, requires a new assortment and merchandise sensibility along with an incredibly thoughtful approach to maintaining existing customers while attracting new ones.

The apparel world has a terrible track record at doing this smoothly. Think of the struggles of Talbots and Brooks Brothers. The only large company that has been truly successful at this is Tiffany and that took over three years. By the way, marketing came last and the logo never changed.

Phil Rubin
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Based on what’s been reported and written about regarding the new GAP logo and subsequent retraction, Gap’s primary mistake is one that is all too common among marketers: not putting customers first.

They clearly referenced this in their release about bringing back the old logo, stating that, “At Gap brand, our customers have always come first.” If this was true, they perhaps wouldn’t have changed the logo in the first place, or perhaps might have had the confidence–based on data–to stick with their decision.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Customers like to think that they share some ownership in the brands they value, and Gap found this out the hard way. But the return to the established logo may also backfire; teens I talked with liked the new logo, and indicated that they thought that Gap was turning into a geezer brand. Time will tell.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

When all is said and done and the air clears, no one is going to remember this when it comes to deciding where to shop. Yes, Gap made a tactical mistake in the way they handled this. Could it have been planned differently and the new logo accepted, yes. That is yesterday’s news now.

Gap will eventually change their logo because it is obvious they want to do it. What they need to concern themselves more with is how to generate more foot traffic in the stores and filled Gap logo bags leaving the store. Their proto-typical customer is growing older and shopping elsewhere. Who will be replacing them?

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 6 months ago
I guess the good news for GAP is that somebody cared about their old logo. The bad news is that people actually care about a company’s logo. A logo is a communications vehicle. The most enduring and famous logos are nothing more than comfortable icons that shout a brand. While a logo can communicate something more than recognition, the most lasting ones do not. This was hardly a hiccup for GAP. In the end they got considerable attention and will likely come out better for the connections they made though social media. However, maybe the new logo was actually a better one. Once upon a time MOBIL had a Flying Horse for a logo. In the early ’70s a consultant recommended that they change it to what is now the familiar MOBIL logo. No one from the company wanted to make the change. Research indicated that the old logo was much preferred by consumers, by almost 6 to 1. However, the consultant knew the purpose of logos and made a presentation to the MOBIL hierarchy.… Read more »
Janet Poore
Guest
Janet Poore
10 years 6 months ago

What Rick Moss said.

The only thing I’ll add is to ask “didn’t they do any consumer research on the logo and if they did, did they use a professional brand research firm?” A few years ago, I led rebranding of my company and we used online research to test 3 logos. It was structured on communication, appeal and how well it related, but was not just a beauty contest. Crowd sourcing is just making it into a beauty contest without knowing why the logo works or doesn’t work.

Colin Jephson
Guest
Colin Jephson
10 years 6 months ago

So Gap gets lots of column inches plus huge exposure on social networking sites, all focused on the values and heritage of its brand. This was achieved through the “unveiling” of a half-baked logo that looks like it took half a day to create! For sheer value for money that looks too good to be true. C’mon guys! That logo was never designed to fly–it did exactly what it was supposed to do!

Mark Burr
Guest
10 years 6 months ago
Gap ranks 78 on Bloomberg’s 100 Best Global Brand List for 2009 and 77 for 2008. That’s nothing to fool around with in any way, shape, or form. Considering the nearly infinite numbers of ‘brands’, to be even close to being in the top 100 a carries a value that is almost incalculable, at least from an intrinsic point of view. Recently the car brand ignorant leadership at GM decided among themselves that they would forbid the use of ‘Chevy’ and always refer to their brand as ‘Chevrolet’ only. They too may have learned the same thing from the ire of their consumers. They quickly back peddled on their memo. Although, even in back peddling, it remains unclear if they learned anything or simply reacted to the painful hand slap. That is the question that will remain in for Gap also. Now, for or against the change, it matters not. On either side, the question now posed equally on either side remains. Does Gap really have a handle on their customer, let alone their brand… Read more »
Charles P. Walsh
Guest
Charles P. Walsh
10 years 6 months ago
What an incredible display of over reaction by the GAP (Gap). I don’t believe the issue is at all with the logo itself and whether they should or shouldn’t have changed it. All companies must creatively tear down and rebuild in order to stay relevant. I believe what was revealed here with the company’s reaction is a peak behind the curtain in what must be a company in factional and functional turmoil. One possible scenario? The Gap faction consisting of key marketing executives and aligned with key merchandising executives are seeking to redefine and re-merchandise the stores to appeal to current and future customers. The GAP faction, a more conservative group of executives, opposes them and sees such changes as destructive and counter productive. The blogosphere facilitated the voices of those who really cared about the change (evidently those who cared about the logo change DON’T LIKE IT)and it was their voice that rang like a claxon and swung the balance of power to the GAP conservative faction who screamed “See, do you See?” and… Read more »
Brad Attig
Guest
Brad Attig
10 years 6 months ago
Let’s face it, the old logo wasn’t exactly a work of art either. What could have worked great was for GAP to use social marketing to generate some hype up front. Offer say 3 choices of new logos and get people to vote, like, twitter and more. Have some fun, build an iPhone app, have a contest. I blogged at MyRetailCareer.com that I thought the new logo looked like Garmin the GPS company. Now that they have reversed themselves I’d start a new marketing campaign. “We lost our new logo.” Tie in with Garmin, put the old “new” logo in odd places, set up a geo-catch treasure hunt with prizes. Have people take pictures when they find the logo and upload them to Facebook. Get their target customer, who lives in social media, involved. Over time, they might just start using the new logo. Step out of the box. Of course unless they fix their assortments, it won’t matter. Also, I’d short any stock recommendations by the analyst; he seems to be pretty out of… Read more »
Topper Hull
Guest
Topper Hull
10 years 6 months ago

This was obviously a social media test on the GAP’s part. It is free advertising at its best.

Keep on playing with the logo and stir up as much free press as possible.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Like many here, and as I indicated a few days ago, I am of the mind that this whole brouhaha was nothing more than a publicity stunt dreamed up by GAP’s marketing department and if so, it was a good one: hundreds of column inches of free coverage and the impression that “GAP cares.” The alternative isn’t so great: management spent thousands–millions?–for a new logo, came up with a dud, didn’t bother to test it first and abandoned it overnight (literally) at the first sign of trouble…hmmm.

Doug Fleener
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

All this over a logo? Amazing. If anything this is the most passion I’ve seen people have for Gap in 20 years. I’d keep it alive. Rather than starting over why not use it as an opportunity to engage their customers on a deeper level? I also wonder how much those loudest voices actually spend at Gap…..

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

The value of a logo is measured when one recognizes the brand even when the name of the brand is not used. One can put any 8 letters in Coca Cola color and script and recognize that it is Coca Cola. It is even recognizable in Arabic. There are many logos that reflect that same recognition. All marketers should wish to be so recognized.

In revisiting the old, now the current and the new and now canceled logos for the GAP, I wonder if the old one has achieved that status. Could we substitute F-U-N for G-A-P and still have people recognize it as GAP? I would not, but I am not a GAP customer.

However, looking at the now canceled logo, I could imagine very quickly that any 3 letters in that logotype, with a blue square in the upper right hand corner, would readily communicate GAP.

As I asked in my first post, has GAP missed an opportunity?

Joel Rubinson
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

This is different from the Tropicana false step. That was about shopper insights (making it harder to find that which you are looking for because they changed the geometry and color of the package). The Gap? I’m not sure that a refresh like this couldn’t have been managed through transition communication. I think they overreacted and could have managed this change.

Karen McNeely
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

1) Gap handled it poorly in the beginning by not putting it front of the public first. And no, it isn’t decision by committee, you put out options that you are all ok with, and then decide among the pre-approved list. People love to join in and it gets them engaged in the brand.

2) They recouped the whole thing by making a major media thing out of the gaffe. Almost makes me wonder if it wasn’t planned from the start. Great free publicity. I don’t remember the last time I heard this much about the Gap.

3) I really wonder if they had already ordered the bags with the new logo on them and if so where they were in production. Not good publicity if those bags are going to waste.

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