GAP’s Branding Blunder

25 Apr

Monday, April 25, 2011

Here’s a poll to set the stage: From the two logos below, which one inspires you more? If you said the one on the left, then this is just for you!


Here’s one for the record books – possibly up there with New Coke (remember that fiasco?). [You can find out more about that at]

Without so much as a press release or social media teaser, GAP furtively revealed a new (plain and boring) logo on their website in late 2010 in order to position themselves as a modern and cool company. However, almost immediately there was buzzing across the internet criticizing the “cheap” look the new logo portrayed. Yes, GAP is positioned as a casual and  low-priced brand, but the new design spoke greater volumes. 

GAP claimed that the new logo was a “crowdsourcing project” and only the first step in the creation process. With a little backpedaling, but still standing behind their design, GAP released a statement on their Facebook page asking fans to share their designs:

“Thanks for everyone’s input on the new logo! We’ve had the same logo for 20+ years, and this is just one of the things we’re changing.
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 crowd sourcing project.” 1

Here’s the thing: Not only did the new logo turn out to be  a bad idea, but the contest wasn’t successful either. Thousands of designs were submitted, but GAP ultimately ignored their fans and decided not to use any of them. This would have been a huge opportunity to get fans involved and take ownership in the brand. Instead, lets chalk it up to a whole other flop! My thought is that they should have just skipped that part all together and listened to the feedback they were receiving about going back to the original logo.

Why exactly was the logo change a mistake? 

For any rebranding campaign to be successful, the brand perception as a whole must be revamped. That means that the philosophy — lifestyle, if you will — of the brand has to be repositioned in the minds of consumers. It has to be more than just a change in logo. In fact, a new logo design should be birthed from this new philosophy, not the other way around. And to make the rebranding even more successful, it helps to prep consumers by sending out social media teasers and invitations…creating a positive buzz previewing the new direction. GAP certainly could have benefited from that.

GAP later admitted that “[a]ll roads were leading us back to the blue box[.]” It took less than a week for the disapproving comments to force GAP’s backtracking and they reinstated the old logo. GAP North America President Marka Hansen said, “We’ve learned a lot in this process and know we did not go about this in the right way.” 3

Is this truly a blunder or a clever PR stunt?

We’ll probably never know the true answer to this question. You have to admit that in the end, GAP received a lot of publicity. It’s not exactly the kind of publicity you would want, however. So my guess is that this was a blunder with sloppy results. If it were a PR stunt, the open design contest should have been a huge success. What do you think?

So what can we take from this? Lesson: Don’t mess with a good thing! (Or if you’re dying for a change, “[u]pdating the essence of the company, the products and the service, must always come first before updating the company’s image. 4)

*GAP logos courtesy of LogoTalks.

2 Gap Inc.

3 The Week

4 LogoTalks

More posts from this series:
Winter Classic: Save!
Coffee, Wii Bowling, Yoga and…Banking?
Success in China: KFC
Bird-Watching: It’s Not Your Grandmother’s Hobby Anymore

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