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)?
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by StephenDenny, StephenDenny and swb&r, Elizabeth Weisser. Elizabeth Weisser said: Great thoughts. RT @Note_to_CMO: The GAP Logo Fiasco: Lacking the Guts to Ignore Your Critics or Model of Sloppy Work? http://bit.ly/bSPugM […]
Nice dissection of the GAP debacle. Personally, I vote #1. A gutless move if ever there was one. GAP didn’t need reinventing, but they apparently felt it best to keep up with the times (although I can’t quite see how they would use the new/now-old GAP logo on the back of their jeans). My guess is that they over-saturated their test subjects with social media users – hence the fact that the logo is a bit “social” and they retreated at the first sign of social dissent.
There is, of course, the publicity stunt angle (admittedly a foolish thing to attempt, but not out of bounds when you consider the nature of their other two options!). Just a thought.
I enjoyed reading your break-down of strategies. Good points.
I say this was understood, and not a disconnect between creative and management – an exercise in GAP’s online social engagement. What better way to engage the online world than to soft launch an ugly new logo on their website? It was bait. Look at how they dominated all social media spheres for the last week.
1. they rolled out their logo in a soft launch on their website only
2. they then opened the channels for “feedback” on Twitter and FB, where they have combined almost a million followers.
3. They react to feedback (the logo was hideous don’t see how people wouldn’t reject it) Considering what they came up with recently for their BodyFit line http://manualcreative.com/gapbody they clearly know what they are doing in terms of creative so I don’t buy this was a sloppy mistake.
4. day after the feedback they released a response on The Huffington Post written by the president of GAP addressing why they decided to revamp the logo. The core message was “we are trying to keep up with all the changes we have made in order to keep the company evolving” So what better way to show “evolution” than to use social media exactly for what it was intended? Engage, and respond.
On Facebook alone they got 2K comments in response to this logo change. Their turnaround in posting an explanation, down to the retraction, showed they listen to their SM audience. How can this not appeal to the average Betty online?
At the end of the day, people are not going to stop shopping GAP over this. I could be mistaken. The average shopper gives a hoot about some logo recall. That is how I would measure damage/failure in these situations. But for those followers who actively interact with the brand online who did have a say, they are going to feel more connected to the brand now. The rest don’t even know this happened.
For all those reasons I think it was a good use of social media all around.
@Fred: many thanks for weighing in – I think we’re roughly on the same page here. I truly doubt that this was a clever PR ploy designed to accomplish some sort of social resurgence – this isn’t the outcome a brand wants. PR ploys are supposed to engender good feelings and exposure. This didn’t. Thanks again!
Thanks for your note – I enjoyed our Twitter exchange and am glad you were able to stop by and comment. A few thoughts –
. I really don’t see this as some sort of pre-designed social experiment. This was a logo launch, not a community outreach to gauge sentiment. They launched it and presented it as a new logo. The backpedalling started when the social media sphere started piling on.
. I’m always up for debate, but on some things I have a visceral need to stand firm: testing means projectable, quantifiable insight – and social media (like focus groups and other anecdotal/qualitative means) aren’t appropriate tools for this. Focus groups aren’t for making decisions. Social media is a subsection of a subsection of a subsection – and all of this misses the GAP customer. People on Facebook or Twitter who have an opinion about a creative execution and are moved to comment. This isn’t how you structure a decision-making study.
GAP should have known before the launch how this new logo measured up against their core customers, defecting customers, past customers, potential customers and anyone else who mattered – and they should have know this two decimal places to the right of the period. This shouldn’t have been guess work. We didn’t see any of this from them, much to their chagrin.
Again, many thanks for your thoughts and looking forward to keeping the conversation going!
Thanks Stephen, it’s been great chatting with you too.
While I understand you are vehemently sticking to your guns, and while I do see your stance, I find it really hard to believe that a giant like GAP would be this sloppy in launching a revamp. I think they are too smart and too big for that. I still think it was a soft launch. There is no documented coverage of this event aside from what ensued after they posted the new logo on their website. If they had fully intended to roll out the new logo would there not have been a tonne of press releases on the rebrand? Did you or anyone hear anything about it until they posted the logo on their website and people started talking about it online?
Yes, there shouldn’t have been guess work, provided they genuinely screwed things. I believe this was planned. When a company of this magnitude rebrands, they don’t do it haphazardly they change their retail signage, their labeling, there are ads and tonne of promos they don’t do it on a website only. I seriously doubt this was anything more than another form of advertising to engage their online audience and create a little buzz. And I believe they nailed it.
I think it was great use of social media channels.
Thanks to our discussion it has inspired me to write a blog entry on my own blog about this. 🙂
Great post. I agree particularly on the “who’s your market?” question. I really do wonder how many actual Gap shoppers are even aware of this situation outside of us social media geeks. The only way to tell if they really meant to roll that logo out is if it’s on any of the packaging in the stores now or in the Fall. (Sorry, I’m too disinterested to go to a store and look.) They wouldn’t have been able to pull that back if it were the case. If this was a stunt to get more followers, I’ll ad Gap to the list of people who are doing social media wrong. Most of the followers they picked up during this debacle were interested in Gap as a marketing case study – not as a retailer.
To both @Laura and @Jennifer, thank you both for your comments – the interesting thing (which I just included in today’s post) is that I had a long conversation with a friend who told me from considerable personal knowledge that GAP had indeed reduced its research budget significantly over the past several years and that it was likely, given this increasingly non-research oriented culture, that they probably didn’t test the new logo at all. Sometimes it pays to talk to friends who have the first person knowledge! Eye-opening, to say the least.
[…] There are lots of good reasons to look at refreshing, upgrading and re-logo-ing your identity. It should always be done with care. It should always be done for a reason. It should always have enough statistical projection behind it to validate the expense and the trouble you will go through. We discussed that at length during the Gap fiasco. […]
[…] We like people who stand up for what they believe in, who flirt with controversy and who never, ever panic and retreat at the first sign of public push-back. Do you respect these guys? Remember Verizon’s hasty retreat? Gap and their logo fiasco? […]