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GAP and the trouble with logos

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28 October 2010

The GAP had passionate fans

In preparation for our soon to launch logo experiment RAAK asked brand meister Wybe Magermans of WMH to give us his thoughts on Gap’s recent logo fiasco.

As often in life and marketing, it is not what you do, but how you do it. This also seems to be the case with Gap and their debacle that has been unfolding on and offline over the past weeks. For anyone who either doesn’t care about Gap or logos, GAP had to retract their newly designed identity after thousands of ‘customers’ complained about it in various forums, blogs, Facebook groups, etc.

Was it the logo design itself, the way it was launched or how Gap dealt with the online onslaught that could be up for ‘worse marketing moment 2010 award’?

I will not discuss if the design of the new logo was indeed a ‘good piece of design’. Too many people have done so already, but I am sure it wouldn’t have won any awards for innovative and engaging design. Yes, people get precious about logos, but people also are fickle and forgetful. Although it will never become UK’s most loved identity, the 2012 Olympic logo for London will also not temper Londoner’s enthusiasm for the Games.

It was surely the way how Marka Hansen, Gap’s president for North America, launched and retracted the logo that lacked every sense of confidence or conviction. Even yielding to her ‘passionate customers’ days after the launch by asking for their logo ideas, before a total surrender a week later.

Marka however shouldn’t feel too embarrassed though, as she has joined an established (and growing) ensemble of badly executed rebrands, from Royal Mail to Tropicana.

The new identity could have worked if Gap would have truly believed it was the right thing to do. Did Gap actually need a new logo? If it did for reasons that only Gap would know, than the whole company and its identity launch communication should have spoken with more certitude.

I personally have only bought something at GAP once in my life and this was for my 3-year old nephew. I also have very little admiration for a brand that has as much character as Gordon Brown sitting in a silver Vauxhall Astra drinking tap water. Yet even people I know who are Gap fans say that it isn’t the brand anymore that it used to be in the Sarah Jessica Parker campaign days. If the marketing department at Gap thought it needed a new logo, it was possibly because of that. Are they losing relevance and the connection with people; and would a new identity have solved this problem?

A funny take on corporate logo design

Gap’s marketing department should know that their brand is not just their logo. Just like an ad campaign is not a brand. And if you think it is, then you will end up with the likes as FCUK. Any agency, marketing consultant or brand blogger will tell you that a brand in 21st century is much more expansive. A solid brand survives attacks to a particular equity of their brand, as they will have a host of other equities that will overcome this.

Get your product right (Apple), get your story right (Ben & Jerry’s) and get your tone right (Your M&S). If Gap had these ducks in a row, then a badly redesigned logo wouldn’t have created so much uproar. People will always find a reason to moan, but we are also forgiving when brands get other things right.

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  • Posted by Gerrie Smits
    October 28, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the nice post, Wybe!

  • October 28, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Wybe it seems to me you are saying, get your product right first?

    Can a logo & branding make a positive difference for an ailing company?

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