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5 Things the Gap Logo Flip-Flop Can Teach You About Branding

The Gap (GPS)'s decision to spike its new logo -- which everyone hated -- teaches us five things about brand management:
  1. Consumers own brands, not management. Your brand doesn't exist, doesn't have any equity, except what's inside the minds of your best customers. You might feel your business needs to be rebranded or relaunched, but your opinions are irrelevant: You work for the company. You're so "inside" you can't see outside. Proceed with caution!
  2. Consumers are savvy about design in just the same way as they are about media and advertising. The 21st Century has really stripped the mystery from design and advertising. Most consumers have better software on their laptops today than professional designers had on their desktops 20 years ago. You can't pass off lame work in quite the same way you could back in the day.
  3. As a result, consumers expect more from professional design. One of the main problems with the Gap's new logo is that it used a typeface -- Helvetica -- which everyone has available on their own computers. Similarly, the graduated blue box is also something that virtually everyone can do after just a few minutes fooling around on the most basic graphic design software, such as Apple's Word Art. This left Gap open to the legit accusation, "My kid could do that!" Redesigns need to be a lot more subtle and complex -- even if the aim is to to be simple and clean -- than they used to be.
  4. The move saves Gap some money. Changing back its web site is a lot easier than changing back all its store interiors, point-of-purchase material, catalogs, etc. The company has arguably avoided the Tropicana scenario, in which Pepsico (PEP) waited several weeks before reverting a trendy new box design back to its cheesy original look.
  5. The change removes uncertainty from the brand. Gap could probably have gotten away with keeping the new logo. Fashion and product trends drive Gap's business, not typefaces. Most people didn't even know the logo had changed. Indeed, Aol created a similarly horrible new logo for itself and no one batted an eyelid. But that was all on the "if" side of the equation. With the blue box back on its throne, the risk goes away.
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