New Logo Design Mistake

On October 4, 2010 the Gap quietly introduced a new logo on their website. A curious initiative to be sure. There are excellent reasons for redesigning a logo, but none of them applied to the situation at the Gap. The result was the Gap’s worst nightmare.

According to company spokesperson Louise Callagy, the new logo was intended to signify the San Francisco based retailer’s transition from “classic, American design to modern, sexy, cool.” But the new logo looked more like Microsoft clip art than “modern, sexy,” or “cool.” Remember the logo is for a retail fashion company – it needs at least to have some style.

New logo fails to resonate.

The public outrage and ridicule was immediate and harsh. And management demonstrated even greater lack of sophistication in their response to the backlash by announcing on their Facebook page, “We know this logo created a lot of buzz and we’re thrilled to see passionate debates unfolding! So much so we’re asking you to share your designs,…We love our version, but we’d like to see other ideas. Stay tuned for details in the next few days on this crowd sourcing project.” What? They “love” the Microsoft clip art? Really? This response speaks volumes about the Gap management. And sadly, it’s not positive.

The Brand Channel commented:

But ditching the classic logo, recognized by everyone, in favor of whatever that new monstrosity is, demonstrates a prototypical brand panic move. With things not going in its favor, the brand decides to change the one valuable element it has going for it.

Ironically maybe, the new logo is perfect for the brand. It communicates exactly the values currently embodied by Gap: A sense of being lost and a lack of clear vision and creativity.

Crowd sourcing logo design.

It didn’t take long for management to discover that crowd sourcing logo design is not an effective solution and they abandoned it returning to the original logo design after one week.

This has generated a considerable amount of comment in newspapers, magazines and blogs. Let me point out something that hasn’t been mentioned: Your brand identity lives, not in the board room or the headquarters office, but rather, in the marketplace.

This reminds me of the introduction of a reformulated sift drink by the world’s leading soft drink marketer a couple decades ago. We learned a similar lesson at that time. In response to public demand, they reinstated “the original formula drink.

Customers and the brand.

We need to recognize that the way people relate to and interact with brands has changed dramatically over the last decade or so. The power balance has shifted in favor of customers. They now have the upper hand. Companies must understand that their brand messages are in the hands of customers. Gone are the days when a company could “push” any marketing message they want. Today customers do not automatically respond with open arms. They are accustomed to “pulling” the information they want.

Companies must be much more sophisticated in their attempt to influence their identity because it is held by customers in the marketplace. Brands today are built by those who use and endorse them. No longer do companies have complete control their own message. They must now entrust their message to customers who will make it exciting and interesting – they invigorate the brand – or not.

Customers can identify with a logo.

The Gap logo fiasco reveals that customers identified with what the existing Gap logo has come to symbolize. And by removing the symbol and replacing it with a banal substitute, the company removed a valuable connection to a significant meaning. A meaning that the new logo did not contain.

Gap management appears to be completely clueless about the value of branding which is typical of industrial companies but very unusual for a California-based consumer retailer.