Written by Noemi Pollack on October 12, 2010.
It’s finished. It’s over. Gap has retracted the new logo and put back the old one – for now. The company has acquiesced to a consumer outcry that flooded the Internet with derisions, mockeries, parodies as well as amateur re-design suggestions, as the new logo rolled out. The whole journey, from new logo roll out to retraction, took just a few days.
But it took two years for the company to develop a new logo earmarked to better represent the evolving Gap brand, one that is “more contemporary and current and honors the heritage of the Gap brand with the blue box but takes it forward” according to Louise Callagy, a Gap spokeswoman — plus an untold sum of monies spent.
The social media frenzy that followed Gap’s new logo roll out, could probably have been predicted, given that the brand is such an iconic one and so beloved by the very generation that view themselves as bona fide, self-proclaimed and self-appointed critics and use social media as their main communication tool.
As a matter of fact, had Gap’s recent logo change been based on a social media experiment strategy, it would have been brilliant, for the unplanned rapid fire online reaction has all the elements that would make any marketer salivate. The problem is that it wasn’t planned and it seems to have caught Gap by surprise, causing them to scramble in response with knee-jerk reactions.
Initially, the hastily made-up response came from Gap’s president and its corporate communications VP, who spoke of the logo as only “starting a conversation,” although clearly after the fact and not the original intent. Then the company opened up this “conversation” by indicating that it would be pursuing a “crowdsourcing project” in the near term. Whether that project was earmarked for a logo or not, time will tell, but the timing of it is certainly coincidental.
Based on the Gap case, marketers would do well to consider as to who owns their brand and who decides a brand’s corporate identity – the corporation or its mass audience? Or better yet, who leads it, the corporation or the crowd? Can a brand’s identity even be Crowdsourced?
Brandchannel commentor Gunter Soydanbay notes that, “without any kind of even mildly specific strategy or direction, crowd-sourcing anything is a futile exercise. Unless Gap is actually suggesting that the brand is crowd-sourcing a business plan.”
In the end, it is a game. Look, it’s not critical whether a logo is blue in one corner or the other, or whether the font is Helvetica or another. What is critical is that consumers today want a say as to what ensues with their beloved brands and corporations of such iconic brands and will need to be aware of this and find a means to be inclusive, well before a logo change is planned, implemented and monies are wasted.
It might be smarter to choose to CrowdSource a logo, or have a social media competitive design competition with input by brand advocates who are not necessarily design professionals (but can be also), and then take it all back to the drawing board and come up with a look that “feels” inclusive, assuages the masses, but still has the corporation in charge of their own brand identity. Or have a well-prepared plan in place to better prepare consumer advocates for a coming change.
The Gap case feels like a chicken and egg story. What comes first?