GAPgate: Lessons to be learnt
By now we’re all familiar with “GAPgate”: First, the unceremonious launch of a new logo for US clothing empire, GAP, followed with a quick but equally unceremonious retreat, and not before setting the GAP brand careering headlong into a potential public relations disaster.
So, with the beauty of retrospect, we can now ask ourselves what lessons can we derive from one of the biggest retail rebranding debacles in recent history.
First and foremost, in a process that reportedly took place over a two-year period, one can’t help think that this whole mess could have been avoided had the creative been adequately tested with their target audience. In an initial statement, a spokesperson from GAP claimed the logo had been ‘well-received internally’. Well, that’s because it was possibly also designed internally… and perhaps by someone using Powerpoint.
There is a saying in the design industry that ‘a camel is a horse designed by committee’ – this logo reeks of camel. One can’t help wonder if this logo had sound beginnings, grounded in research and strategy – only to be systematically deconstructed by egos and opinions of the best-intentioned, yet chronically unsuited.
The missing characteristic of our camel, it appears, is testing. Clearly GAP is a brand with a loyal, passionate and if not somewhat noisy following. Had some of this noise been captured, distilled, and actualised earlier in the process the ensuing drama might have been averted.
The second shortcoming was GAP’s failure to realise and plan for the influence of social media. In an online environment that is, at every moment, being trawled for fresh, news-worthy content – a flurry of heated discussion by a tribe loyal GAP followers was clearly heard. GAP’s tardy response to the social media commentary saw this vehicle quickly hijacked and used as a magnificent vehicle for dissent.
This demonstrates the critical importance of a sound social media strategy. A strategy that responds constructively to consumer feedback – and is robust enough to manage the negative and leverage the positive.
Ordinarily a social media-marketer could only hope for proliferation of this magnitude – however, when the nature of this media is an outright brand assassination – what can one do?
In what appeared to be an attempt at reining-control, GAP quickly, and somewhat haphazardly, refashioned this marauding beast into a crowd-sourcing exercise, where they invited designers to submit alterative logo options for consideration-of-the-masses. Oh dear.
What ensued was a free-pitch of global proportions – again, trivialising and undervaluing the strategic and creative process that was so notably absent from their initial offering.
And, surprise, surprise – five days later, a humbled and battle-weary GAP President announced that, in response to overwhelming customer feedback, the original GAP logo will remain unchanged. For now, this act of transparency and accountability appears to have appeased the ‘angry mob’, and as such GAPgate will likely be remembered as a mere cautionary tale.