Debbie Laskey – Guest Expert

In October 2010, everyone was talking about how a certain clothing company presented itself to its customers and competitors. The discussion was not limited to professional marketers and advertisers as consumers and members of the media also chimed in. Oddly, the discussion wasn’t focused on product quality or the launch of a new line. The buzz was a result of The Gap’s new logo. While The Gap may have been hoping to re-brand itself, they were shocked by the response.

A week after the new logo’s introduction, The Gap announced it would revert to using its original logo and discard the new one. This decision left everyone scratching their heads. Why go through all the work to develop a new logo, unveil it to the world – only to revert to the original within a week’s time? Some critics believed the entire campaign was just a campaign to generate publicity and chatter in social media channels. Others said that marketing and advertising personnel within The Gap had lost their marbles due to the lack of creativity in the new logo. Despite the buzz on the Internet, TV, radio, and in print media, the simple fact is that the new logo just didn’t resonate with consumers and the company’s loyal customers.

The logo fiasco raises several questions. Where was The Gap’s leadership team when the concept of a new logo was proposed? Was the decision made by one person or an entire department? Did the process take five minutes, as some critics believed, or many months? Were employees introduced to the new logo ahead of time and did they understand their roles as brand advocates for the new logo?

As a Marketing expert, I also had questions regarding the logo itself:

  • What does the new logo tell customers?
  • How is the new logo’s story different than the old logo’s story?
  • How does the new logo fit with the company’s culture and mission statement?

The uproar caused by The Gap’s logo change is reminiscent of Coca-Cola’s unsuccessful launch of New Coke in 1985. As a result of customer dissatisfaction, the company returned to the original formula less than three months after New Coke was released. Coca-Cola, arguably one of the world’s most well-known brands and a marketing powerhouse, survived that hiccup as a Senator later announced the reintroduction of the original formula on the floor of the U.S. Senate by calling it “a meaningful moment in U.S. History.”

Successful companies drive their customers to develop strong attachments to their brands and once customers develop these attachments, the customer develops a sense of ownership and familiarity with the brand and the company. Tampering with a familiar brand is obviously a tricky scenario because when a company changes its logo, it is a very personal matter to their customers. Companies must tread very lightly when altering the face of their brands – or risk the wrath of their customers. In this case, it is obvious that the management team was asleep at the wheel as the logo change made so little sense on so many levels.

Debbie Laskey’s diverse marketing experience ranges from the high-tech industry to the Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris in France to non-profits to insurance. She has 15 years of marketing experience, an MBA Degree, and is currently a marketing consultant to non-profits and start-ups. Debbie has been recognized as a “Woman Making a Difference” by the Los Angeles Business Journal, a “Member of the Month” presented by the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce, and a judge for the Web Marketing Association’s annual web award competition. Debbie’s posts about marketing, management, and leadership can be found at Debbie Laskey’s Blog.

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