What brands can learn from Gap’s logo debacle

Jordi Connor, head of information and insight, OgilvyAction, says brands who conduct robust and inclusive research should have confidence in key decisions rooted in the findings.

While it is always good practice to be prepared for some dissenters, particularly given the global reach of social media and the ease with which people can comment, if you are able to rationally explain why you’ve made the changes then you can boldly engage with critics.

Let’s not forget that loyal customers are key stakeholders too, so if you exclude them from major brand decisions you shouldn’t be surprised that they feel spurned and disenfranchised. By including them earlier in
the process you reduce the likelihood of your work getting a hostile reception, partly because it is harder to criticise something that you collaborated on.

Furthermore, if you change a brand too much too quickly and don’t manage expectations, the people most emotionally attached to it will be the ones who complain the loudest because it’s part of their identity too.
The Kellogg’s Cornflakes packaging has changed hugely since the 1950’s but the changes were always subtle and so didn’t alienate anyone.

In the recent case of Gap, it seems that whatever testing was done prior to launch wasn’t enough to give the brand enough confidence in their new logo once the backlash began. As such, the real failure appears to have come before the public launch and everything after has been about dealing with the aftermath.

Once Gap went public and the backlash started it had to take control of the situation quickly. Hiding its head in the sand would have been suicidal. Gap has a relationship with its consumers and sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say ’Sorry, I was wrong.’

For a major fashion brand to commit an act that shows them to be out of touch with their core consumer is pretty damning but by acting relatively swiftly Gap may have limited the damage caused. Whenever this kind of thing happens it is essential that the brand is visible, open and decisive because the conversation will still happen without them.

In this case, Gap had to take into account who was complaining, not just how many people were complaining. Not everyone’s opinion carries the same weight so if you can identify your core consumers and their influencers, their comments should be of particular interest.

No brand wants to alienate its core consumer, even when trying to broaden their appeal to other demographics. Gap has stated that its target consumers are ’millenials’ and this group will be heavily active in social media. As such, Gap needed to understand who these people were that cared about the brand enough to raise their voice, then understand what they were saying and why.

By listening to what was being said Gap was able to identify who its had upset and plot its next course of action accordingly.

Crowdsourcing offers an inclusive way of developing and checking ideas but you have to ensure that you have the right people contributing to your project to get real value. As a retailer, Gap should have no trouble identifying loyal shoppers and engaging them in the pre-launch phase.

Unfortunately, in this instance crowdsourcing has come a little too late and the market research has been conducted in public.

This creates a secondary issue. Crowdsourcing can be seen as inclusive, but it can also be seen as freeloading depending on how a brand frames it. If you say ’we’d like to work with you to work up some new ideas for Gap’, the hardcore Gap advocates are going to love it. But if you say’we’ve not go this right first time, can we have some free ideas?’, you’ll find another backlash comes your way as well as plenty of spoofs.

The worst thing for Gap would have been to ignore the logo furore completely, so it should be commended for listening to, identifying a problem and being brave enough to revert back to the old logo. However, if it had done its research properly in the first place, and asked the right people the right questions using the right methods, it would not have found itself in this position.

Arguably, it would have been more of a concern had Gap rebranded and elicited no reaction at all. If no one cares, you’re in big trouble. So while it will have been painful, if Gap learns from this experience, it could turn out to be one of the best mistakes it ever makes.

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