Gap’s New Logo All Wrong—Except How It Was Launched

Written by Frank Hayes
October 21st, 2010

Apparel retailer Gap may not know logos, but it’s not completely clueless about E-Commerce. The $3.8 billion chain unveiled a new logo this month (Oct. 4) and was immediately hit with a firestorm of complaints on its Facebook page from customers who hated it. A week later, the new logo was gone, replaced by the familiar blue box that Gap has used for 20-plus years. Now the second-guessing is in full swing—including an analysis from a market-research company called Neurofocus, which claims Gap botched its new logo by violating “neuroscience best practices.” Uh huh. Right.

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that the now-defunct new logo was pretty dowdy; it looked like a subway sign that someone defaced with a square blue sticker. But Gap made use of one very good E-tail practice: It launched the logo on its Web site a month before it was scheduled to appear in stores. That approach isn’t limited to questionable rebrandings; by piloting anything from new products to loyalty programs to customer reviews on a retail Web site, you can get a good read on customer reaction—and pull the plug fast in case of a catastrophe.

In Gap’s case, the new logo turned out to be a catastrophe with customers. But the chain was able to delete it so completely that we couldn’t find a sample anywhere on Gap’s site to show you what it looked like—and just in time to not show up in Gap’s upcoming global E-Commerce rollout.

That backpedal wouldn’t have been possible in the past. If consumers hated a rebranding, a retailer usually had to stick with it, hoping customers would eventually get used to the new look. It would have been kept secret from competitors until the last minute, so it could be rolled out in as many stores as possible for a big-bang unveiling. Stepping back from that kind of logo launch—say, ripping new signs out of 1,100 stores—would almost never happen.

This time, though, Gap didn’t try for a single big bang. It launched the new logo on its Web site first—not to test consumer reaction, apparently, but just because the retailer could throw the switch there much faster than signs could go up in its stores.

The result of that impatience was a stroke of dumb luck: A fierce, immediate backlash on Gap’s Facebook page. Within two days, a company spokesperson was backpedaling, saying Gap was looking for suggestions on the logo and claiming it could be improved through a crowd-sourcing project. A week after the logo launched it was gone, except for online news stories and Web sites ridiculing it.

Yes, it was a failure—but it was a very successful failure. Brick-and-mortar Gap customers never saw the failed logo in a store. Online customers were only annoyed for a week.

Rebranding is tailor-made for an E-commerce site. Gap could have done it a lot more smoothly, maybe rolling out the new logo just on one section of the site to keep the impact to a minimum until it got a read on customer reaction. But in the end, the new logo was rolled out, and then rolled back up, in record time.


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