The public response to Gap’s ill-advised attempt to change their logo created a backlash of an established brand that stirred up memories of a previous transformation in which, New Coke, nearly made Pepsi truly the choice for the next generation. In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company tried to change the formula of their legendary soda. The company did not listen to their customers and replaced the standard-bearer soda in the world with one that was roundly panned as inferior. Two basic principles of this text-book case for how not to change a brand have not changed. In addition, the startling power of social media only multiplies the impact of decisions companies make. However, it’s possible that the decisive customer feedback and swift reversal by the Gap could help them avert the damage that would not have been known until it was too late.
Listen to your customers – By unveiling a new logo in the dark of night, Gap missed a terrific opportunity to engage their customers and create excitement. Customers hold the key to understanding a company’s strengths and weaknesses. They obviously like the company’s products and services well enough to spend their money and their disaffection can be crippling. Engaging your customers in branding concepts via surveys, focus groups is not only a sound practice for learning what you currently do well, but is also instrumental in improving products, services and procedures. From a contact center perspective investing in voice of the customer analytics, you can track keywords, identify trends and mine data that will keep you in tune with what your customers want in the future.
At least Gap was swift to revert to the fan favored logo before they went too far. Perhaps someone at their headquarters learned from Tropicana, whose sales dropped by $33 million after their updated look fell flat.
Gap has seemingly learned from this and sponsored a contest for customers to submit new logo concepts. Marka Hansen, President of Gap said that “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.” Had they done this from the onset, the buzz would have been palpable. How many well-known brands have created the opportunity for a customer to create a logo that would be seen by millions of people? This “make-good” might only be a knee-jerk response to the insular process that failed, but it is a rather smart one.
Quality is King (Still) – This seems the most obvious, yet frequently ignored principle in business. If you are not going to involve your customers, either actively (focus groups, contests) or passively (listening), then you better deliver something that will meet their expectations from your brand. In this case, thousands of dollars were paid to Laird and Partners to design a logo that looks like a Microsoft PowerPoint template. Yes, the previous logo incorporates a simple aesthetic. However, there is a difference between simple and elementary. The new logo was inconsistent with the classical font and simple background that is recognizable around the world. Tweaking a logo is one thing, creating an entirely new logo for a generic word actually diminishes brand equity.
Social Media : friend and foe – By not involving customers in such a significant rebranding and presenting a logo that was perceived as amateurish, Gap created a perfect storm for social media fallout. The fallout, and the passionate creativity, was astounding. From thousands of comments on their Facebook page and blog postings, to new Twitter accounts, @gaplogo and @oldgaplogo, this was an amazing display of how customers can voice their opinions.
As more brands are realizing, it is not enough to create Facebook and Twitter accounts and fill them with marketing jargon. You need dedicated team members who are trained in how to properly utilize tools, communicate with customers in accepted language (i.e. scripted or formal “Dear Mr/s.” shows a lack of understanding of the medium) and be empowered to engage customers immediately. Increasingly, this is becoming a role for an elite sub-set of call center agents. This is a channel whose popularity will only continue to skyrocket.
One silver lining for Gap is that social media, the primary conduit for disaffected Gap fans, has allowed Gap to change directions before it was too late. In the end Gap reverted back to their original logo – which ultimately was what their fans wanted…Had it not been, their customers would’ve certainly informed them otherwise.