I’m disappointed with GAP. I’m not sure exactly why, but regardless, I am.

First of all, I like GAP. I like their look, their stores and their clothes. I’m wearing a GAP T right now (black, no pocket).

But coming from twenty or so years of marketing for a living, often heading up departments of big brands, this logo thing has set me off.

One of two things happened with their recent logo disaster, and neither is good. And again, it’s a disaster not because the logo design itself was good or bad – neither you nor I know whether it is or isn’t unless we’re sitting on the consumer data – but because they mismanaged the entire catastrophe.

Either GAP knew what it was doing and prematurely retreated at the first sign of trouble or it didn’t know what it was doing and admitted it. Both are bad.


Scenario 1: GAP knew what it was doing and still ran at the first sign of trouble.

GAP knew by virtue of statistically relevant insight gathering that their current-I-mean-old-I-mean-current logo was dated versus their desired brand image and against reasonable alternatives and then embarked on a logo redesign project for all the right reasons.

They tested multiple new versions against their core and potential customers, defecting customers, former customers who no longer shop at GAP and a host of others, and determined that the “NEW GAP LOGO” was the best one available – not just of the new designs tested, but also compared to the old logo. And compared to competitive logos, too.

Then, the Twitter-verse collectively said it left them cold and instead of calmly telling the self-proclaimed experts on Twitter the facts, the brand beat a hasty retreat rather than defend their hard fought and well-reasoned work.

Verdict: bad job, GAP.

Scenario 2: GAP didn’t know what it was doing and when the Twitterverse threw up on the work, they quickly surrendered.

GAP was bored and decided to throw a few logo ideas around. When they found one that the internal group thought was best, they picked it and ran. No testing, no nothing. Just gut.

Then, the Twitterverse objected and someone at GAP asked the uncomfortable question, “You guys tested this stuff, right? Right?” The resulting unhappy conversation unfolded behind less-than-soundproof walls and those still upright and breathing came to the conclusion that the next time they go donw this path, they should handle things more professionally. But for now, just put the old logo back up. Quickly! Is it up yet?

Verdict: bad job, GAP.

If you didn’t do your homework, shame on you.

There’s no excuse for not testing your creative, particularly on something as integral to your public face as your logo.

Creative isn’t magic. It’s business. I know, this makes most of the creatives in the room burst into tears, but this is an important lesson. The creative is there to help the business. Not to win awards, flatter the agency or tickle anyone’s fancy. Its job is to embody all the DNA-level things that your brand is at its core. And it has to matter to those customers who matter. I’m assuming that GAP did, so if you know differently, please tell me so in the comments.

If you did do your homework, you don’t have to run at the first sign of push-back, particularly by people who don’t matter to your brand. And by “people who don’t matter to your brand,” I mean you, handful of self-proclaimed experts in the Twitterverse who think that your carefully trained eye knows the difference between a logo that works and is preferred by what I would guess to be the roughly 2 to 3 million people who shop at GAP every week.

To those who would say, “But Steve, really, you unreasonable basterd, can’t you see that GAP listened to their market and reacted accordingly?” I say, “Who’s your market, who are you listening to and what constitutes the sort of ‘reaction’ I’d expect from the key executives in whose hands I’ve placed fiduciary duty? I pay you guys, right?”

Twitter isn’t the market. It’s a very vocal minority (including me, thanks) that love the idea of self-publishing and tend to talk to other like-minded people. You don’t make decisions based on absurdly biased samples. The loud ones drown out the others, just like focus groups.

I’m perplexed (flummoxed, really) by this as a marketer and find it inexcusable from a leadership perspective. You’re paid to figure this stuff out, to have your homework done and then to have enough backbone to stick with your decisions even when the snipes come in.

Either way, GAP has performed poorly in this situation from everything I’ve seen to date. If anyone at GAP is reading this, I’d love to hear the back story as to how this decision was made – and most importantly, what you did to validate the new logo before you went down this path. If you did validate it, I’d love to hear why you abandoned ship so quickly. If you didn’t validate it, I’m asking why you didn’t. Love your T’s.

Do you disagree? Do you think they did this right?

Are you a conspiracy theorist and think this was all part of “The Event”?

Do you think that Twitter is somehow the new quantifiable and statistically valid panel now? (And if you do, leave a comment because I’d really like to hear why)?