Pass the band-aids, please – Gap’s taken a whuppin’. You may have heard about the rebranding imbroglio that flared up last week – for those that didn’t, here’s a quick timeline of the major events:
Monday October 4th
Gap proudly unveils its new logo, calling it “a more contemporary, modern expression.”.
Tuesday October 5th – Sunday October 11th
Monday October 12th
To me, this whole incident proved that the public can quickly hijack a majority share of your brand – if you let them. This is far more than a price hike, or a change in the product lineup. By folding so quickly on an issue as critical to the company’s future as their brand, it tells me that they a) never truly believed in the rebranding effort in the first place (so why do it?), and b) roll over easily to public opinion.
Whether or not the logo was garbage (it was), the bigger issue here is the implication that Gap can be held hostage by public criticism. What happens when they decide to get rid of chinos? Or roll out Ikea-style cafeterias? Or any one of a billion other possible initiatives that will spur some people to stand up and proclaim “That’s not the Gap!”?
So, what are the lessons?
- Listen to what your customers say, of course, but also remember that people usually hate change – until they love it. Just ask Steve Jobs about the backlash to his little-known flop, the iPad (heard of it?)
- Focus groups are easier than ever to perform today, and can save you one hell of a PR migraine
- Think very carefully before you backtrack – you cede so much control to your customers when you do. Consider the recent trials and tribulations of Digg, and its user uprising against the version 4 redesign. How long do you think it’ll be before they dare roll out version 5? How much do you want to bet there’ll even be a version 5?
What do you guys think, should Gap have stuck it out longer, or were they right to cave? My brain is an open receptacle for your knowledge – fill it!
It appears that Starbucks had the stones to continue with its own rebranding despite Gap’s public flogging – customer backlash be damned. I wish them luck, although on the face of it, this redesign is far less head-scratchingly egregious.