In 2008 I wrote about the Gap losing its direction. Two years later, it seems that not much has changed.
If you haven’t taken notice, Gap released its new logo last week—a move that resulted in disbelief from thousands of Gap fans. The logo, reportedly designed by Larid & Partners, a branding agency, looks like “powerpoint 97” according to one commenter on the brand’s facebook page.
Gap, unprepared for the backlash, reacted in a perfect gap-like manner, and immediately announced the new logo was a joke designed to get some buzz. “We know this logo created a lot of buzz and we’re thrilled to see passionate debates unfolding!” Said Gap on its Facebook page on October 6th.
A day later, Gap recanted and pointed followers to a blogpost by Marka Hansen, the company’s North America President, in which she acknowledges that perhaps the Gap didn’t do a good job at creating a logo fit for the company’s fans and customers. Hansen announced an upcoming crowd-sourcing design competition to get the logo right.
The Gap, it seems, is trying to make lemonade out of lemons. “This is probably the best thing ever” someone in Marketing must have been saying this past week.
But is it?
For a company in the business of dressing people for over 20 years, Gap has shown remarkable disconnect from the very people it says it serves. A once staple in young people’s closets, Gap has been relying on the well-performing Old Navy and on-again-off-again Banana Republic brand. With high prices, lower quality, and poor selection—fans have become cautious shoppers.
Logo design for a company the caliber of The Gap can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is the identity of the company, its essence, and its tradition. For the Gap to release a logo so far from anything Gap stands for in the eyes of its fans can only indicate that the company has still not been able to put in place the right processes and right people to help it figure out how to connect with its fans today.
With over 700,000 fans on Facebook, 35,000 fans on Twitter, and many thousands more email addresses, Gap has had an incredible opportunity to reconnect with its customers and infuse the company with strategy and products that both fit today’s needs and innovate for tomorrow. Instead, Gap has been using these channels as PR and reactive crisis management tools.
The fact that Gap is doing well on its margins and has Old Navy as its cash cow, has most likely slowed down its ability (and incentive) to evolve but it may not be for much longer. Today, Gap needs to let go of its current executives for doing miserably at recapturing the brand’s spirit and bring in people who excel at strategy in a socio-digital world. It should turn the company feet-up and shake it until the old, non-customer centric thinking, leaves for good. Then, it should go back to the business of dressing people and integrate customer-infused design thinking into all of its processes, decision making, and product, until it is back to being the brand of choice for casual Americana.