A lot of conspiracy theorists believe that’s more than possible. Perhaps by springing an uninspired logo on a public armed with imMedia outlets like Twitter and Facebook, the powers that be realized they would generate an avalanche of discussion and debate online, all of it featuring “The Gap.” Maybe someone very intelligent realized that presenting such a lackluster, off-the-shelf style logo would make people protest in defense of everything they believe that familiar brand stands for, thus rekindling the fires of fandom that had cooled over these past five to ten years.
Because that’s exactly what happened. Initially posted on the clothing store’s website Gap.com without any publicity, the spare new design instantly became a topic of conversation in a way that the store’s understated clothing never has been. Over the course of one short but very intense week, the public reacted with remarkable fervor about a design with remarkable innocuity. Design blogs railed, generating record numbers of comments. Someone set up a parody Twitter feed. Do it yourself apps offered ways to generate your own version.
Within three days, the intense pressure (allegedly…) forced the company’s North American President Marka Hansen to take action. She posted a blog on The Huffington Post where, in a reasonable tone, she tried to provide some background. She explained how the company had changed their product line-up to become more relevant (..the 1969 premium denim and the new black pants…), and how their old logo was, well, old (…more than 20 years…), and then she wrote a line that really set some minds spinning: “We want our customers to take notice of Gap and see what it stands for today.”
Did they ever. Such a clever ruse to get noticed, and it worked like gangbusters. Marka went on to offer up a vague promise of consumer involvement and for a few days there was talk of crowdsourcing a logo which just generated more hysteria among the design community, until finally, word came that they would hold with their old logo…at least for now.
And so the impression is that clearly, the whole thing was a carefully-orchestrated PR effort designed to accomplish their openly stated goal: get customers to take notice of Gap. It was a wildly successful head fake and the nation’s bloggers bought it, handing the clothing store literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of free impressions.
There’s just one problem with this theory: Laird+Partners.
Laird+Partners is the design firm credited with the new ‘forward looking’ logo. And though I hadn’t heard of them before, their website, and specifically their client list, seems legit.
So why would they go along with Gap’s plan to vault themselves back into the prefrontal lobes of American consumer awareness through an effort whose conversational crux was a laughably awful new logo design?
Simply put, they wouldn’t. There’s no way. As fun a daydream as that is, it doesn’t make any logical sense.
What does make sense is that we now have yet another memorable example of the raw power of these still-nascent social media platforms. From a brand perspective, Facebook and Twitter offer an unprecedented forum for crowdsourced PR. And that resulting ‘press’ can be far-reaching, brand building, even culture-changing. Which should be hugely exciting to scores of marketers.
The challenge however, remains the same as it does in any medium; engaging the right people with the right brand idea. If you can do that, social media can do the work for you at a level no brand could ever afford. Of course, if you do that incorrectly, it can still work just as hard, but with a message you never intended.
“Fall Into The Gap” indeed…
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
3 thoughts on “Did The Gap Intentionally Create Controversy With Their Logo Change Fiasco?”
What is it they say about Coke coming up with New Coke so people would get all crazy about Old Coke? ‘No company’s that smart or that stupid.’
This idea did cross my mind. Too much “Mad Men” for me I guess.