The dust is now settling on the Gap re-branding fiasco. The classic Gap logo has been reinstated on the company’s website and shoppers need not update their collections of Gap branded t-shirts and sweatshirts. Now that a few days have passed, let’s consider some of the marketing lessons that can be learned from Gap’s logo blunder.
1. The adage that “all publicity is good publicity” is well known. But does this episode support or refute it? This marketing scandal got peoples’ attention around the world and put Gap’s brand front and center in their minds. Yes, that’s certainly a benefit of free publicity. However, the public’s ridicule of the new visual identity and Gap management’s misguided handling of the launch backlash damaged the company’s brand image. They did recover somewhat by listening to customers and reinstating the classic blue icon. Still, jokes continue to appear on the internet about the Gap brand snafu. It is too soon to tell whether this will all quickly be forgotten. Even so, I posit that, when a company claiming to want to make its brand “more relevant to our customers” misses so badly that its solution is resoundingly rejected by the public, the fallout is not good publicity.
2. Whether you are launching a refreshed brand, introducing a new product, or kicking off another type of marketing campaign, always have a “worst case scenario” plan developed just in case things go awry. Gap clearly didn’t. When the controversy broke, first the company’s management responded by saying that “we love our version.” Soon after they announced they were going to do crowd sourcing and invite new design ideas. Then they turned around and declared that the previous logo would be reinstated.
Their behavior seemed highly reactionary, indecisive, frazzled and fickle. Such erratic actions cause customers to wonder about the quality of the company’s management, which in turn can make them question the quality of the business’ products. Don’t make the same mistake. Use your back pocket and have a backup plan in it.
3. If you are going to re-brand an company that has been in business for many years, tell someone that you are doing it. Issue a press release. Post on Facebook or tweet about it. Don’t just put a new logo up on a website and see what happens. It may not go well. In Gap’s case, it went horribly. Customers don’t want surprises. They want to understand the rationale for the change. They are invested in the brand and should be brought into the conversation so they can buy into and embrace the brand’s evolution.
4. Customers want their opinions heard. The Gap episode made that crystal clear. Brand marketers should regard themselves as curators for their brands, not their brands’ outright owners. Even if you work at a small or mid-sized company, when you re-brand, let your customers know that you value their input. If they have passion for your brand, they will want their voices to be heard.
When you develop a new logo as part of a brand identity update, solicit customer feedback long before the final selection is made. Use a social media platform to share the logo finalists with your customers. (Gap would have been wise to have done this.) Ask your customers to vote on their favorite design. When the voting is over, tell them which visual identity was selected, even if it was not the top vote-getter, and the reasons why it was chosen. You’ll learn a lot from your customers along the way and they’ll likely feel even more loyalty for your brand for having been asked.
These are some of the lessons learned from the Gap-lash episode. What other takeaways do you have?