3 Marketing Lessons We Learned from GAP’s Logo Mishap

Posted by Sydney on October 19, 2010

Change and growth in business and advertising is just the nature of the beast; however, change is not always welcome by the public, no matter how carefully planned. Last week, the social networking community was abuzz with the news of a “new-but-not-necessarily-improved” GAP logo.  Whether a true admitted failure by the company or a brilliant stunt, GAP clearly showed us in little under a week just how powerful social media and the Internet can be as a marketing tool, and even the undoing of new marketing strategies.

So, what happened exactly?  On Thursday, October 7, 2010, customers in GAP’s online store were greeted with a new logo. The iconic denim background was reduced to a gradient square of color in the corner of the image, and the skinny jean font was replaced with bold, black letters. With little more than a Facebook update on GAP’s fan page, a new identity was launched (GAP’s Facebook fan page). In the hours that followed, the results proved to be mixed:  some fans of the company were legitimately angry, others indifferent, but the common thread was confusion (here’s a spot-on open letter from design firm Mat Doplhin).

Amidst the plethora of Facebook comments and Twitter jabs, GAP attempted to turn the tables with another Facebook update announcing the open-sourcing of the creation of a permanent new logo.  They received a range of responses from sarcastic clip art to genuine design concepts. Finally, on Thursday, October 12, 2010, less than a week after the new logo’s launch, the old logo reappeared on GAP’s website. In addition, the president of the company, Marka Hansen, stated in a press release, “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. There may be a time to evolve our logo, but if and when that time comes, we’ll handle it in a different way.” From GAP’s recent mistake, large and small businesses alike can take away several lessons.

First:  Don’t underestimate your customer’s ability and willingness to identify with your brand. While unassuming, the old GAP logo had been around for over twenty years, a fact which they continued to repeat on their Facebook fan page, and that resonates with their consumers. Whether your business has been around for twenty years, two years, or two months, chances are your clients will recognize your logo. Consistency, while often underappreciated, can be the key in some cases.

Second:  When making changes, gradually introducing them to your customers can go a long way. Imagine if GAP had posted not only one Facebook update (if they were truly trying the viral marketing route), but several updates leading up to the big unveiling. A simple “Be on the lookout for our newest online addition…” might have peaked everyone’s interest rather than immediately inviting criticism.  This way, buzz is still generated about the upcoming change, but in a more positive and anticipatory light.

Third:  Be confident in your changes and stand by them. Unfortunately, critics abound in the viral community. However, as a business owner or marketing director, if you feel that it truly is time for a change and that it will positively influence your business, fear not! Like GAP, no one is immune from criticism. By giving in to the pressure of an angry few, GAP has lost creative time and money spent on their new logo. If you are confident in the services offered by your business, and that the image you present to your customers is spot-on, then the detractors will eventually lose their steam. Granted, small businesses might not generate bad press releases over a simple logo, but change in any capacity is often met with resistance.

Whether this was a stunt or a legitimate “whoopsie daisy” logo recall, one thing is for sure:  GAP’s name is definitely out there in the marketing sphere. Essentially, the new logo created media buzz and brought consumer attention to the company. It also sparked and possibly reignited a fierce sense of brand loyalty among its customers. After all is said and done, isn’t that the best outcome that any change in business could possibly have?

About the author

Sydney is currently the writer and go-to gal for internal operations at SAI Digital. A transplant Roman, she enjoys volunteering her time with various organizations and festivals in downtown Rome. Her favorite color is red, her favorite soda is Dr. Pepper, and her favorite superhero is Wolverine.

2 responses to this article

  1. Tricia said on October 19, 2010

    I really like these three simple considerations.

    And I would add a fourth: If a company REALLY wanted to value crowdsourcing as a part of the new process in branding, perhaps they would consider offering a prize or recognition (or payment even) to the winning design.

    Most folks only like giving free ideas to non-profits or worthy causes.

  2. Kim Butler said on October 19, 2010

    Great article! This is really relevant information and I will pass it along to my marketing director.

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