When Change is Bad

A blatant example of insulting the customer is Gap Inc., when the company changed their iconic logo brusquely in 2010. Overnight, the classic logo turned to something that felt shabby and cheap. It insulted loyal consumers who thought the new logo insulted their taste and integrity.

The change resulted in the internet being on fire with criticism from design bloggers, customers and other reviewers.

“It demonstrated the passion our customers and the community in large have for our brand” was the official company line. That’s another way of saying it sucked. Gap mistook how its loyal customers felt about the logo and brand identity. The company also misunderstood social media where customers can and do voice their opinions with lightning speed. Did the company spent as much time on the logo as they would on a change in the supply change? People will always comment on the new, and Gap Inc. should have recognized it and proactively managed that process.

Obviously, brands have to make stops and reconsider strategies. Gap North America President Marka Hansen said their company were making changes to their products and the new logo was a part of that. Gap’s iconic line of clothing wasn’t changing drastically. The Jeans and T-shirts hadn’t been reinvented. So why the mega logo change? Why lose sales from customers? Logos have value.  The logo as the only change to the company made customers feel confused not enlightened. A change in logo should be researched and appeal to consumers.

On October 11, 2010, a few days after the change of the logo, Gap announced a reversal to the original immediately. This was due to customer backlash. In between the fracas the new logo created and the decision to pull it, Gap also tried to get customers to submit their own designs for a new logo. A strategy that also failed.

Gap didn’t communicate that they were going to change their logo beforehand. These types of changes are generally preceded by research or groundwork, and launched with media coverage and advertising.

To no one’s surprise, Hansen was replaced and there was a lot of reshuffling, specifically Gap’s creative team.

The debacle serves as a reminder about checking in with your audience. A logo for a brand as large, prominent and consumer oriented as Gap is very important to its brand and audience.

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