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

October 21st, 2010

Some observers have suggested that the whole rollout/rollback process was actually a clever campaign on the part of Gap: Announce a logo that your customers will hate, then show everyone how well you listen to customers by “reversing” yourself. That seems unlikely, though. It’s not costly to trot out a bad logo, but it would be very expensive to develop a bad logo as a stunt. Like creating a bad Web site, it’s just as hard to create an intentionally bad logo as it is to create a good one. (And if customers like the “bad” logo, you’ve got a real problem.)

On the other hand, testing new E-tailing ideas in one corner of your site can be tricky but useful—even ideas you’re not sure are good ideas. Are customer comments likely to swamp you with work, trying to weed out spam and offensive material? A small test is a lot easier to manage, and rolling it back if it turns out to be a mistake is much easier.

What about letting customers click to see products in different colors or combinations—say, mixing and matching clothing on a virtual mannequin or a 360-degree view? That comes across as gimmicky if the tech isn’t polished well enough, and it looks cheesy if there’s not enough server power and network bandwidth available to make it work for customers. A corner-of-the-site pilot can put something new in front of customers but still keep it low profile until it’s ready to expand to the entire site and possibly even to in-store kiosks—or, if it turns out to be unworkable, to kill quietly.

In fact, almost anything that could generate a strong reaction from customers or require a lot more IT resources to run or manage is easier to test on your E-commerce site. Just remember that, if the time comes, it’s easier to kill, too.

Back to that Neurofocus report. It was an interesting scientific analysis, an attempt to put into words (make that “very expensive words”) what most consumers instantly recognized: The new logo was quite bad.

Whether it’s over-analysis or not is hard to tell. Quoting from a summary of the report Neurofocus put out: “When words overlay images, the brain tends to ignore or overlook the word in favor of focusing on the image. In the new logo, the ‘p’ superimposed over the blue square is essentially bypassed by the brain. The brain tends to ignore the word in favor of the image. Not a good thing when that’s your brand name.”

The next part of the analysis pushes the credibility limit. “Forcing the brain to view a sharply angled box behind the letter ‘p’ provokes what neuroscience calls an ‘avoidance response.’ The hard line cuts into the rounded shape of the letter. We are hard-wired to avoid sharp edges—in nature, they can present a threat. Our so-called modern brains are actually 100,000 years old and they retain this primordial reaction.”

So our Neanderthal inner caveman saw the logo and feared it would hurt us? Well, if it hadn’t been for the Web testing, the inner cavemen at Gap might have been on the right track.


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