Gap’s About Turn – Strength or Weakness?

Yesterday was a big day for the retailer Gap.

Having announced that they were to change their logo just a week ago, they have now reverted back to their traditional blue box.

And the reason for this change of heart is the huge outcry and anger amongst Gap’s customers that they have expressed through social media.

Here are a couple of quotes from Gap:

“Ok. We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback. We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers. So instead of crowd sourcing, we’re bringing back the Blue Box tonight.”

“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.”

As someone who has been involved in a rebranding process for two major high street brands, I know that a logo change is an 18 month process – minimum. For Gap, this must have included customer focus groups, test marketing and a whole host of other research activities before, firstly they decided to launch a new logo at all and secondly undertake all the work necessary to ensure a transition on the ground from old to new.

So for this process to have been turned into  a costly waste of time and money inside one week, is astonishing.

I can’t think of another example of ‘people power’ that comes close to this. The Gap logo episdoe will surely become case study worthy for all students of marketing in the future.

And yet the fantastic news for Gap in all of this is that they now know, beyond any doubt, that they have a rich vein of customers who love the brand deeply. Care about it passionatley enough to feel moved to mobilise so quickly and express their feelings. This episode proves Kevin Roberts’ great truth “Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them”.

Of course Facebook and Twitter were the main vehicles for this movement. But the speed at which people were able to organise and mobilise is jaw dropping.

There are now sites selling T-shirts with the words “Logo Fail’ across the chest. This story has become huge.

And if anyone doubted that they can afford to stand by and continue to believe that they don’t have to engage directly with customers, then here is the lesson  – Engage or Die.

Of course Gap could have stuck to their guns. They could have done so in a engaging way – “We hear you, but trust us.”

They chose not to.

Do you think they did the right thing?

6 thoughts on “Gap’s About Turn – Strength or Weakness?

  1. I’m one of those who think GAP shot themselves in the foot (maybe the heart and soul too). Whatever their motive for changing a much-loved (or simply just a familiar or likable) logo, they’ve mishandled the visual identity makeover. But, I’m not so sure that the barrage of criticism that’s assaulted GAP over the social media comes entirely from customers “who love the brand deeply.” It’s more probable (I’ve not seen any data) that a network effect built-up a mass of criticism. The ripple effect, if you will. Everyone with an opinion who read someone else’s opinion just launched their own missile. It’s easy to do. Constructive criticism requires cognitive work and reasoning. Negative criticism, well, that’s just someone else’s negative thought with a personal nuance. Brands which take a mis-step are easy targets. GAP just felt the full force of SM mobocracy. We all have an opinion, whether we’re customers or not. Social media allows us to express it quickly, easily and without responsibility, with dire consequences for a brand.

    1. Thanks Phil. I’m sure you’re right. The mob mentality certainly took hold and shook Gap to its roots. I wonder if the conspiracy theories now being reported hold any truth. I confess, when I first heard I was a little suspicious. The mechanics of rebranding are huge, and it certainly looks as if Gap hadn’t committed a the usual resources behind what such a move normally involves.

      1. Hello Richard:
        One day we might know whether the conspiracy theory has any basis in truth, and if not, it will still circulate memetically, like many unproven but compelling urban myths.

        But if GAP’s management deliberately engineered the brouhaha then they weren’t very smart. First they brought attention to GAP’s business issues (declining market share, popularity, etc) which many people might not have been aware of previously. Secondly, the new logo itself, and the way they introduced it is widely perceived to be a branding mis-step which reflects poorly on the competence of their brand managers. I can’t believe they’d want GAP appearing on a list of the most infamous and egregious branding errors.

        Though one wonders if, once confronted by the torrent of criticism, GAP’s management engaged in a bit of post-rationalisation and reputation recovery, by quietly seeding the idea that it was all a deliberate concoction (‘a cunning plan’ no less!) designed to generate buzz around GAP. A desperate attempt at misinformation to save face and make them all seem so clever. Oh no, here we go again, another conspiracy theory launched into the blogosphere!

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