Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mind the Boss

Gap Inc. recently received a lesson in the power of Lovemarks. Earlier this month, the clothing retailer unveiled a new version of its logo which ditched the classic all-caps blue box emblem that the company had used for over two decades. The company replaced it with a sleeker logo featuring helvetica typeface and a small floating blue square.

According to one Gap spokesperson, the redesign was intended to help shift Gap’s brand from “classic, American design, to modern, sexy, cool.” What Gap failed to realize, however, is that, like all Lovemarks, their brand doesn’t belong to them anymore; it belongs to consumers.

Only two days after the new logo was unveiled, popular outrage on Facebook was so intense that the company had to reconsider. At first, Gap responded by inviting fans to submit their own design suggestions (which sucked in 4,660 submissions from over 1,000 designers in five days). Soon after they announced that, for the time being, they’re sticking with their classic logo.

This is clear proof, as if anymore were needed, that in today’s Participation Economy the Consumer is Boss. If she doesn’t like something, she has more power than ever to make her voice heard and change things.

Gap failed to realize the strong emotional connection that its consumers have made with their company logo over the last twenty years. It wasn’t just a rabid Twitter flash mob that caused this change of heart by Gap, there seemed to be a genuine outpouring by fans who love their Gap just the way it is.

This incident, although seemingly negative, is actually good news for Gap; it’s uncovered a well of activism (and it seems, affection) for the company that Gap hadn't appreciated. New fans! Proof that the company occupies a special place in the hearts of customers.

Gap’s snap decision to nix the redesign plan shows some responsive listening. Their intuition about the new logo was somewhat astray, but like Tropicana, they did the right thing.


Philip DM said...

Marketing failure or stunt?! Wouldn't be surprised if this whole story comes from the heart of GAP themselves. They definitely succeeded in getting a lot of attention.

Richard Kent said...

Blogged about just this last week - great news for Gap!

Bernadette Jiwa said...

Hi Kevin,
I agree that this isn't all bad news for Gap. They should now take the opportunity to engage with their audience and work out what's important to their customers.

Gap forgot that they don't actually sell jeans and sweatshirts at all. What they sell isn't just what the cashier wraps up to put in the bag.

chrisMsimon bracket boys said...

Very good marketing by Gap, with new store openings in Australia and other countries with original logo already built into the 740 square metre behemoth buildings, like Melbourne. Plus, original logo linked to Gap Body and Gap Kids and new casualwear signings with Stella McCartney and a range of more youthful designers to uplift the American profile that had been falling in the U.S. Stefan Laban and team already said no real plan to change logo, (imagine the cost), but a very real plan to do some good social marketing. Also, clever how M&C Saatchi raided the original Saatchi 35 strong David Jones advertising team to manage what might become Australia's biggest retail account. Clever social marketing all round.

Susan P. said...

The debate on this issue has been very intense online and, it's often worth looking at various interest groups and what THEY are saying.

So, for example, a bunch of professional graphic designers believe that crowdsourcing on such issues as logos et al is plain stupid: on the basis that the average punter does not understand design and will simply pitch what they like in the moment.

Now, I accept elements of that logic however, PriceWaterhouseCoopers here received a load of criticism and their new logo was agency designed.

I suspect that the mid-ground isn't a bad place to be vis..having designers come up with a selection, short listing them and then allowing the public to have input.

For some businesses, public pitched logos (crowdsourcing) will work very well. There are horses for courses in most things in life and more than one way of being.

I don't necessarily agree with you Kevin that the Gap issue was an example of the power of the consumer. I mean, how is "she boss" when the company chose to pass over all the public submissions?

Or, isn't this perhaps selective listening? In other words, some wanted the status quo to remain - and some didn't. So, some consumers are bound to feel their time was wasted and no-one was really interested in their opinion all along while others will feel heartplace attention.

Yes, certainly I do agree that companies often don't realise the love people have for them (tho, they should in this social era) however, one must also consider - when thinking about the love of tradition (original brand) et al - that people in the main don't like change.

You change someone's email interface - even just via updating the version - and they tend to be thrown and uncomfortable.

So, it is part of the human condition to cling to the known. So, just consider that element when you pitch why people didn't want to see a change.