A blatant example of insulting the customer is Gap, when the company changed their iconic logo brusquely in 2010. Overnight, the classic logo turned to something that felt shabby and cheap. Loyal consumers felt slighted because they thought the new logo insulted their taste and integrity.
The change resulted in the internet being set 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 voice their opinions with lightning speed. Did the company spend as much time on the logo as they would on a change in the supply? People will always comment on the new, and Gap should have recognized it and proactively managed that process.
Obviously, brands must stop and reconsider strategies. Gap’s North America President, Marka Hansen, said their company was changing 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. Since the logo was the only change to the company, customers felt 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. 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 they were going to change their logo beforehand. These 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 to check 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.