Gap's Logo Debacle: Clothing Retailer Cancels Transition To New Contemporary Logo

In case you missed it, Gap - the clothing retailer - recently replaced its iconic blue logo with a more contemporary emblem that set the Gap name in bold Helvetica against a white canvas. A small blue square was placed in the upper-right corner. While hopes were high, online reaction was negative. Consumer's on all social networks slammed the logo, calling the offering sloppy and unattractive. Collectively, these consumers created an outcry so intense that Gap decided to scrap the redesign altogether - just seven days after its introduction. While many internet gurus continue to cite this case as a demonstrative illustration of online power, for many others, Gap's decision to renege on its new logo is being perceived as weak. In fact, a number of analysts continue to argue that allowing such a prestigious brand to be bullied sets a dangerous precedent. While reaction to these arguments continues to be mixed, the overall chain of events has raise a number of important questions. Has Gap damaged its credibility, brand strength, and reputation by walking away from the new logo? How much should short term customer feedback influence the evaluation of a new logo, trademark, or brand slogan? And how should future companies integrate public decisions into the re-branding and re-marketing process?

In a statement released yesterday, Gap North America recognized that it may have missed an opportunity to engage with customers by quickly abandoning the new logo. Gap's leadership also noted that the online community's strong negative response was the primary motivation for the logo's shelving. While these responses show insight, I am unconvinced that Gap's decision to shelve the new logo is the correct one? As many researchers and intelligent consumers know, there is far more to logo design than first, second, or third responses. In fact, one could argue that as social media has increased the ease and immediacy of opinion sharing online, people's penchant for the familiar and desire to contribute regardless of a campaigns substance may skew the re-dressing processes negatively from the outset. Moreover, even if one accepts that the new logo lacked pizazz, the argument that people would simply no longer shop at the Gap if their logo was changed is illogical, and extreme. Isn't it worth having a longer discussion with consumers? As one insightful analyst noted recently, "if Twitter were around in the late 1800s and the French government listened, there wouldn't be an Eiffel Tower today. Bold ventures are almost always hated before the public becomes enamored." Furthermore, one needs to also ask the following question; if Gaps' new logo was openly tested on social media outlets, which consumers would be most likely to weigh in? Old loyal fans? Fence-sitters? Persuadables? Interestingly, rather than having a negative reaction, consumers within these segments would arguably have seen the new logo and thought to themselves 'Maybe there's something new here, let's go to the store take a look.' While these consumers are primarily responsible for driving Gap's sales and brand, unfortunately, those same groups are the least likely of the relevant consumer groups to contribute online. Why then, would Gap management bow to consumer pressure from groups that are not inherently responsible for driving brands sales and profitability. While the answer is uncertain, one probable conclusion is fear; fear, of alienating consumers in any category. In North American Gap, stores that have been open a year or longer have seen sales decline for six consecutive months. Additionally, Gap's parent company has not seen an increase in new annual sales since the beginning of the 2005. With this in mind, many on Wall Street believe that Gap needed the new, "sexier" logo to give some of their stores a fighting change, particularly as consumer spending lulls.