Gap Scraps Their New Logo – The Worst Case of Design-By-Committee … Ever?

gapJust for a moment let’s ignore the gradient in the blue box, and indulge me by pretending you’ve never seen Helvetica used in a logo this way. Let’s pretend that the logo doesn’t have flaws and it’s something we’ve never seen before. You’d still hate it. And the reason you’d hate it is because you are yet to have any emotional attachment to it.

Imagine if some flash Gok Wan type in thick-rimmed spectacles had just come along and chucked your favourite Levi’s in the bin and presented you with a brand new pair. You’re understandably resistant. They feel stiff, they make your shoes look old and, more importantly, not one member of the opposite sex has ever said how good your backside looks in them!

You’d want your old pair back wouldn’t you? And no doubt your moaning would perpetuate until at least a few compliments about the new pair had been heaped upon you. By this time, though, you would have probably realised you like the new pair just as much as the old pair, if not more! It’s no different in branding. Change is uncomfortable, but in the long run, it’s needed.

That’s exactly what has happened to the Gap re-brand, except they’ve just fished the old pair back out of the Brabantia and kicked the designer out of the back door. Personally, I think it’s a big mistake and I can’t help but feel that the middle-of-the-road clothing giant has reacted in a rather spineless way by dropping the new logo after just one week.

A logo is a mere emotional trigger for the brand’s values; brand values which in this case have not been given any time to stand up to proper scrutiny. This new direction was always going to come up against resistance and Gap should have been prepared for the backlash.

We live in a time where mobilising hate via all of the different social outlets has never been easier. If you took the 5000 or so Facebook and Twitter users who joined the ‘campaign of dislike’ for the new logo and put them into a percentage of loyal worldwide customers they would certainly pale into insignificance.

Mark Hansen, President of the Gap brand in North America told The Guardian, “We’ve learned a lot in this process. And we are clear that we did not go about this in the right way. We recognise that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community”.

I’d agree with Hansen that engaging with the online community could have had a positive effect for the Gap brand, but only in terms of their values. It would be beneficial for assessing how well they communicate with customers, the way their stores work for people and how they could improve generally, but not the success of the new identity.

If Gap was fully behind Laird & Partners, the New York-based branding agency commissioned to create the new logo (who have a pretty good track record with the existing brand by the way), they would have respected that the creative forces there knew what they were doing and backed them whole-heartedly. I have no doubt at all that the new brand would have been fine if it had been allowed to find its feet.

Everyone in the creative industry knows that design by committee doesn’t work. Clients need to trust an agency to work through ideas to form an opinion and create end results that can be defended with professional integrity. Caving in when the first wave of criticism hits the shore smacks of a brand that doesn’t really know what it wants to be.

I would rather go with ‘confident and assured’ than ‘spineless and fallible’. Maybe that’s why I’ve never owned a pair of Gap’s famous Chinos though?!

Sam Allen

A strategic thinker who ensures that Zeta and all of our clients keep striving forward. A marketing expert addicted to all things digital.