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Mind the Gap Logo – Part I

Have you heard? Last week Gap Inc. quietly debuted a new logo for its leading store brand. But these days, with the internet bully pulpit available to all, changes as significant as that one don’t stay quiet for long. Gap customers took a look and the resulting outcry echoed across Facebook, Twitter and beyond.

The posts on Gap’s Facebook page make it clear that people did not like the “updated” interpretation of the Gap logo. A classic, international icon had been desecrated and the public let management know it.

What happened next? Close to end of business today, the Gap did an about face and announced that it is keeping its 20+ year old iconic brand, as is. The customer spoke loudly and the company listened. Bravo to the Gap for being responsive to its customers. Some people accused Gap of engineering a publicity stunt. We’re assuming that what transpired was a gaffe and not ploy. So, what could have been done to avoid this episode, which is all too reminiscent of the New Coke debacle?

This post is not about whether the new, but soon-to-be-history, logo was brilliantly designed, or whether it was something that any of us could create in PowerPoint using Helvetica font in less than five minutes. Instead, it’s about the realities of brand management today and how Gap’s team could have made the logo project a positive experience for the company and its customers.

This episode confirms that brands matter to people. Brands are intangibles that live in customers’ minds. Consumers are very passionate about brands whose promises they believe in and they can feel a sense of ownership for those brands.

Gap’s actions show that their team hadn’t fully realized that brand management today is about consumer engagement and participation. The days of one way communication are over for established brands. By changing the Gap logo and then unveiling it to the public, Gap’s one way communication path ran straight into a brick wall. Then the internet amplified the negative response into a loud roar. The brand was tarnished and the company was scrambling.

Gap should have incorporated its customer network into the company’s internal logo discussion. It missed an opportunity to gain more evangelists by publicly soliciting customer input about the Gap’s updated logo concepts early on.

At last count, the Gap has 722,402 people liking it on Facebook and 35,618 following it on Twitter. The company should have used social media platforms to dialogue with its customers openly about its logo plans, and gained their feedback long before it was launched. Had they done so, Gap management would have had a better gauge of the public’s response and could have redirected, or aborted, the logo update process.

Brands are defined by how well a company responds to moments of truth. Gap just lived one of those moments. Consumers and their cash will determine how well Gap’s management handled this marketing mess.

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