Clothing giant Gap feels social media heat, scraps new logo

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In another clear sign that the social media masses are exerting tremendous influence over corporates, American clothing giant, Gap, decided to scrap its new logo and go back to the old one after an outpouring of criticism on Facebook and Twitter.

Gap is one of the world’s largest specialty retailers, with approximately 3 100 stores and 2009 revenues of US$14.2 billion. It operates five of the most recognized apparel brands in the world — Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta.

The saga began a week ago when Gap introduced its new logo from out of the blue, accompanied by a story on the Huffington Post by Gap President Marka Hansen which explained the changes.

Hansen reported that “the natural step for us on this journey is to see how our logo – one that we’ve had for more than 20 years – should evolve. Our brand and our clothes are changing and rethinking our logo is part of aligning with that.”

The outpouring of scorn and derision was immediate and universal.

“New logo sucks”, “It looks like a powerpoint presentation” and “Uninspired cheesy mess” were just some of the over 1 000 comments that followed the announcement on Facebook.

The Gap has over 720 000 Facebook fans and it uses the channel to make most of its major marketing and product announcements. It was unprepared for the level of hostility that was levelled at the new design, and began to scramble with a questionable move that made things go from bad to worse.

Marka Hansen posted this status update. “…We know this logo created a lot of buzz and we’re thrilled to see passionate debates unfolding! So much so we’re asking you to share your designs. We love our version, but we’d like to see other ideas. Stay tuned for details in the next few days on this crowdsourcing project.”

This really got the crowd heated up. According to marketing publication Advertising Age, “The company became the whipping boy of designers, who besides merely disliking the new logo were enraged at the suggestion that design professionals should help fix the mistake by offering up ideas for free.”

The crowdsourcing idea came at a particularly bad time and seemed to entrench the idea that even the Gap didn’t like their new logo. Twitter accounts sprang up, such as @newgaplogo and @gaplogo and added further fuel to the fire.

Comments such as this one on Facebook were the order of the day: “Asking designers to re-design your logo through this spec work stunt is completely appalling and beyond unethical! You are blatantly DEVALUING an already devalued profession. I am boycotting Gap and all it’s affiliates from here on out. You should be truly ashamed of yourself. And btw, since I am re-designing your logo for next to nothing, would you mind giving me about ten thousand pairs of jeans that are especially designed just for me for free? After all, designing jeans is EASY and FUN, right? So it should be done for next to nothing. Thanks.”

At this point, Gap decided to pull the plug on the whole short-lived disaster and tried valiantly to turn it into a PR strength, highlighting its delight that so many people were so fond of the original logo.

But the company did admit that they had made mistakes and acknowledged the power of the crowd by saying “we’ve learned a lot in this process. And we are clear that we did not go about this in the right way. We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community. This wasn’t the right project at the right time for crowd sourcing.

“There may be a time to evolve our logo, but if and when that time comes, we’ll handle it in a different way.”

The Facebook fans were appeased and happy to have been heard, while ironically, a recent survey found that over 80% of Gap’s customers never even knew that the logo had changed or had changed back again.

Marketing maven Edward Boches, Chief Social Media Officer at integrated marketing agency Mullen summed up it best: “None of this is about a logo. It’s about decision making, social media, crowd influence, and transparency.”

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