You Don't Own Your Brand

by Kevin Roberts

You Don't Own Your BrandGap Inc. recently received a lesson in the power of Lovemarks. Earlier this month, the clothing retailer unveiled a new version of its logo which ditched the classic all-caps blue box emblem that the company had used for over two decades. The company replaced it with a sleeker logo featuring helvetica typeface and a small floating blue square.

According to one Gap spokesperson, the redesign was intended to help shift Gap’s brand from “classic, American design, to modern, sexy, cool.” What Gap failed to realize, however, is that, like all Lovemarks, their brand doesn’t belong to them anymore; it belongs to consumers.

Only two days after the new logo was unveiled, popular outrage on Facebook was so intense that the company had to reconsider. At first, Gap responded by inviting fans to submit their own design suggestions (which sucked in 4,660 submissions from over 1,000 designers in five days). Soon after they announced that, for the time being, they’re sticking with their classic logo.

This is clear proof, as if anymore were needed, that in today’s Participation Economy the Consumer is Boss. If she doesn’t like something, she has more power than ever to make her voice heard and change things.

Gap failed to realize the strong emotional connection that its consumers have made with their company logo over the last twenty years. It wasn’t just a rabid Twitter flash mob that caused this change of heart by Gap, there seemed to be a genuine outpouring by fans who love their Gap just the way it is.

This incident, although seemingly negative, is actually good news for Gap; it’s uncovered a well of activism (and it seems, affection) for the company that Gap hadn’t appreciated. New fans! Proof that the company occupies a special place in the hearts of customers.

Gap’s snap decision to nix the redesign plan shows some responsive listening. Their intuition about the new logo was somewhat astray, but like Tropicana, they did the right thing.


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Kevin RobertsKevin Roberts is the CEO worldwide of The Lovemarks Company, Saatchi & Saatchi. For more information on Kevin, please go to www.saatchikevin.com. To see this blog at its original source, please go to www.krconnect.blogspot.com.I

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  1. Maybe. But don’t underestimate the public’s appreciation of good design.

    If the new Gap logo was a thing of beauty, the response would have been mixed. Opinion former voices would have spoken differently and opinion would be, maybe, unsure but interested to understand more. Which would have been a better place for Gap.

    But really, If Gap had launched it’s attempted ‘new logo’ with a clear reason for why they had changed, the relevance of logo would have paled in significance. If Gap were offering the consumer something meaningful i.e. new/useful= delightful, for example: a new approach to it’s high street retail or a compelling social platform on which they were to operate, the ‘change’ would be warranted and over time, if the innovations were well placed, the transition would be accepted.

    Imagine if they had launched something meaningful with a piece of great design…

    BUT
    Brands are NOT logos.

    The reason this happened was that Gap could not substantiate the change.

    I don’t see this as totally positive outcome for Gap either. It is true that brands are owned by consumers but any business needs to orchestrate their development very carefully. Gap’s climb down may demonstrate a public love for Gap but more importantly it demonstrates that Gap don’t understand the new basics of brand building. It suggests to me that like their latest denim range, 1969 – they’re stuck in the past and in a very vulnerable position.

  2. A few inaccuracies in this article. As far as I know – since I submitted my own ideas – the 99designs run GAP logo redesign was NOT instigated by GAP, but by 99designs as a community project.

    And it came out of the sheer number of comments from the design community on just how appalling the new GAP logo design was. It was just that bad.

    And as Paul notes above, it didn’t seem to provide to consumers any reason for the change, or a path that remotely hinted at any sort of re-branding strategy – apart from GAP’s original “crowing” about being croud-sourcing.

    It was truly an opportunity not only lost, but strangled to death by GAP.

  3. That reminds me of another company (don’t remember which one) that did not allow fans to use it’s logo for fan pages on facebook. Of course they had to give up eventually.

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