When you are driving down the Expressway, and you see the golden arches ‘M’ in the distance, you immediately know that a McDonald’s outlet is not far away. Your best friend has just bought a new pair of shoes, and the swoosh symbol on them tells you that the brand he has bought is Nike. These and innumerable other logos have become so iconic and synonymous with the brands they represent, that they have replaced the brand’s name as the key element of brand recognition.
Many a time companies and brands change or tweak their logos in order to announce that they are growing, becoming more modern and innovative, expanding their product portfolio, or basically just changing. But this activity can either be a fruitful exercise giving rich dividends, or a grave mistake that can cost the company dearly. One company that has learnt that changing one’s logo is no child’s play, is The Gap Inc., which announced its new logo in October 2010, but had to revert back to its original logo within just one week!
On October 6th, 2010, Gap did away with its 20 year old logo of a solid blue box with ‘Gap’ in white serif font and introduced the online world to a new ‘Gap’ in black Helvetica font, with a small blue square overlapping the ‘P’ of the name Gap. Gap Inc. explained that this change was done because they wanted to give the brand a more modern and contemporary look. But this did not go down well with their customers, followers and fans. Public criticism and ridicule poured in through e-mails, blog posts, and particularly in the social media space on Facebook and Twitter. Thousands of tweets and Facebook statuses, and even a Gap logo generator, showing how easy it was to create this logo, went viral on the internet. Comments like ‘it looks like clipart’, ‘so cheap and tacky’, ‘looks as if it was designed by a kid’ etc. came out against the new logo. This forced Gap Inc. to retract the logo within one week, and revert back to the old one.
Gap Inc. could have prevented this disaster by keeping in mind some of the following advice:
1) Get a public opinion before taking the leap
Before making such a drastic change, Gap should have asked people around what they thought of the old iconic logo and whether they felt it was not contemporary enough. Getting the customer point of view on high profile logos is a must, as they have a strong emotional connect with their loyal customers. Conducting FGDs, taking online polls or surveys, asking customers in-stores, concept testing, etc. would have provided valuable feedback on the existing logo that could have saved them much embarrassment as well as a lot of money.
2) If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it
The old logo was obviously greatly liked by the public, given the strength of the negative backlash. No one was complaining about it and it never gave off any negative vibes with regards to the brand. The question then arises is, why you would change it, if it had not created any issues for the brand?
Many a time the management likes to create change for change sake.. maybe a new marketing team felt they needed to justify their role.. maybe they felt pressured by the new emerging clothing brands like Diesel and Jack & Jones that projected themselves as more modern and youthful.. Who knows?
If Gap did want to convey that they are becoming more modern, they could have done it by making small, subtle changes to the logo instead of going all out. Iconic brand identities are evolved very gradually by their owners, a case in point being Tiger Beer in Asia, or the global oil giant Shell.
The new Gap logo did not bear any resemblance, even remote, to the old logo and it did not retain the classic look that so defines Gap as a brand even today. It tried too hard to be modern, and that is why it was disliked by the public. They could not relate to or recognize the Gap brand in the new logo.
Brand owners, beware! It takes years for a brand to develop a strong identity and image in the mind of the consumer. So while change is inevitable, be cautious in how you approach that change ….. always give due respect to your loyal consumer’s opinion and consent. And most important of all, never mess with the heritage of your brand.
This blog post has been written by Nehal Munshi, Associate Insight Consultant, Global MR at Brandscapes Worldwide
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