Did Sales Decline Trigger The Gap's Disastrous New Logo?

Last Updated Oct 8, 2010 12:28 PM EDT

The Gap's redesign of its logo bears all the signs of morphing into a full-fledged PR disaster. Yesterday, the 24-hour-old logo was merely causing a kerfuffle in the design community. That's annoying but not fatal to a brand in the long run.

Today the mainstream media has jumped in (see here and here and here and here) and Gap (GPS) responded with this backpedalling statement on Facebook (which still carries the old logo):
Thanks for everyone's input on the new logo! We've had the same logo for 20+ years, and this is just one of the things we're changing. We know this logo created a lot of buzz and we're thrilled to see passionate debates unfolding! So much so we're asking you to share your designs. We love our version, but we'd like to... see other ideas. Stay tuned for details in the next few days on this crowd sourcing project.
Crowd sourcing? Forgive me for thinking that the new design had probably come from Gap's in-house creative team or one of its agencies, Laird & Partners or MDC Partners' (MDCA) Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

There's a clue to what might have triggered the misstep in the fact that same-store sales at Gap are down 4 percent (see page 21) following a 10 percent decline the year before. Gap would not be the first company to convince itself that its problems can be solved by new marketing. Brand managers need to resist that temptation when they see revenues decline. There are lots of reasons sales might be down -- the recession, lack of discounts, off-trend product -- and not all of those respond to a new trade dress.

Gap is now being punished for failing to resist the rebranding temptation: The new logo is taking on a life of its own. Its got its own fake Twitter stream. Sample tweet:
The marketing team is huddled in a corner eating Ben & Jerry's and drinking scotch, Jenna the intern is still crying and our ACD is missing.
And the fake Twitterer has already been interview by Fast Company. Some joker has published a website where you can create your own knockoff logos (here's one for BNET), it's called Crap Logo.

The whole thing is shaping up in much the same way as Pepsico (PEP)'s redesign of Tropicana's orange juice boxes. In that case, consumers so hated the trendy new design by Peter Arnell's Arnell Group that the company ditched them and went back to their old look. The tweet stream had this to say:
Peter Arnell just called. He didn't say anything â€" all we heard was laughing on the other end of the line. What a dick.
Ironically, the new logo is actually closer to Gap's original logo, seen here on its first store in San Francisco in 1969, than the one it replaced.

Related: Image of first Gap store from Gap Inc.

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