Defensive Strategy

Observations on the Gap Logo Debacle

14 Oct 2010  

This week Gap introduced and then promptly pulled a new visual identity. 

The new logo was a rather dramatic change and consumers quickly expressed their unhappiness with the new look.  Gap reversed course in just three days.  The company announced the decision on its Facebook page:  “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.”



Observation #1:  People care about brands.

The most astonishing thing about this story is that people actually care about the Gap enough to get upset when the logo changes.  There are a lot of issues in the world today: wars, hunger, injustice and inequality.  The fact that thousands of people take action to protest a change in the Gap logo is remarkable.

People care about brands.  A brand isn’t just a bit of packaging.  It is a set of associations.  Brands are emotional and personal.  Brands really matter.

Observation #2:  Changing a well established brand is a risk.

Any time you change a well-known brand there is a risk you will do more harm than good, so be very careful.

In general, small changes to a brand are low risk.  Companies make small changes all the time.  Indeed, consumers often don’t even notice the change at all.  Big changes, however, cause disruption, and disruption is often a bad thing.

Observation #3:  Consumer opinions matter.

In the good old days, companies could make decisions and roll them out to the market with a certain amount of confidence.  The initiative might not work as hoped but there was little reason to think people would start protesting. 

That certainly isn’t the case now.  People can easily broadcast their opinions and they are very willing to do so.   This makes things more difficult.

Leaders have to do very good market research and then listen to consumer feedback.

Observation #4:  Speed counts.

The marketing executives at Gap deserve credit for moving quickly.  Within just a couple of days, they decided to reverse course.  This was a smart decision.  Sometimes things don’t work out.  Recognizing this and then changing is difficult but certainly the best approach.

2 Responses

  1. Jonny says:

    There’s still the question about whether or not the entire thing was a publicity stunt. We’ve heard from numerous sources that Gap had no press releases planned to announce their new logo, nor was anything in motion with higher-ups on rebranding. It would seem fairly likely that this was just to drum up attention.

  2. Here here! I couldn’t agree more with your points above and am I giving the marketers at the Gap more credit than is due when I say surely they agree as well? I would like to know how they got to the new logo in the first place. Is it possible that the work was done in a relative vacuum? It’s hard to imagine anyone entrusted with an asset as meaningful and as valuable as the Gap’s visual brand id would make such a decision without reasonable vetting. Is it possible that all of the dilligent insights work that must have been done around such a significant change actually ran counter to the opinions of its biggest fans? Who’s writing the case study on this one. I can’t wait to read it!

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