Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gap logo change = disaster

If you’ve been paying attention to our little corner of the blogosphere, one thing you know is what my counterpart and I do to make our modest (MODEST) livings – he’s a journalist and I’m in public relations and marketing. Funny, right? We’re supposed to hate each other according to the standards set by our respective trades. But hey, we’re all about breaking barriers and building bridges here at The Unusual Suspects camp.

One hot topic in the PR/marketing world right now is retail giant Gap changing its logo (as you can see). A logo change from a huge corporation is always big news – it’s kind of like a celebrity undergoing major plastic surgery, only more extreme. No one is sure why they did it, everyone wonders how it will affect their personality and there’s sure to be mishaps along the way.

Typically, a logo change will take months from the idea phase to the unveiling of the new design and brand promise. The company usually employs an ad firm that does extensive research on consumer trends, demographics, emerging trends, psychological predispositions, purchasing behaviors, organizational culture, blah blah blah, and eventually, after hours of research, brainstorming and architecting, brings the client the IDEA.

The client then gives the ad firm a dozen reasons why the IDEA isn’t correct.

After much back and forth between the two parties, a watered down, often bastardized version of the initial IDEA comes to fruition. And this, mind you, is after seven or eight people from the client company, who have little-to-no educated insight into branding, have weighed in.

The Gap logo in its most recent form undoubtedly fell victim to this process. In a recent poll of PR and marketing executives, 88 percent of the 300+ respondents just plain don’t like it, and for many different reasons. One creative director said it’s the worst he’s ever seen. Ever. Ouch.

So on to the fun part: Gap’s response to the criticism. On its Facebook page last week, the company stated “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.”

How does this sit with you? I suppose there are two ways you can look at it: 1) Gap is making a noble attempt at engaging its audience and fostering a two way conversation with those who proudly wear its clothing. OR 2) Gap, a major corporation, probably worth billions, is looking for free design work. Like they’re some local, nonprofit health and wellness center, funded solely by grants and donations.

I’m somewhere in the middle of the road on this issue. One of the main reasons companies get involved with social media is to get people talking about its brand. So when a conversation is started, it only makes sense to get involved and contribute to said conversation, hopefully guiding it to a positive outcome. But asking users to submit their ideas? For free no less?

Hundreds of companies use needles and threads to manufacture shirts… but people don’t purchase shirts per se. The logo is the face of the brand, which, like it or not, is what people purchase. So what exactly is the IDEA worth to a company like Gap? Obviously not much if they’re asking for it for nothing. It’s a sad message to send to those who make a living off their creativity.

See you right back here at 4 p.m. EST.


  1. Yesterday The Gap announced that they're ditching the new logo and going back to the old one.


  2. Could this be a Coke/New Coke situation? I am, admittedly, not the most fashionable person, but when was the last time Gap created a buzz? Back when they had those commercials everyone knew about? While they may have lost money with the new logo, they are most likely getting tons of publicity over this.

  3. @Julie - Haha, I know! Of course that would happen! Some people are saying the whole thing was a publicity stunt... I think they're wrong, but stranger things have happened.

    @Mike - Until this happened I didn't know Gap was still a functioning company. And yes, they absolutely got tons of publicity, for better or worse. At this point though, it seems the only people that came out of the situation with a bad taste in their mouths are graphic designers.