Dear Gap –
Ya, so you kinda screwed up, didn’t you? Releasing a new logo is fine, companies do it all the time, your sales were lagging and board rooms think that their old, musty logo must be to blame. Rebranding is as American as blue jeans, and Gap, whether some like it or not has become an American Institution. Out with the old, in the new, so they say. But your “new” wasn’t very refreshing, was it? In fact it was downright boring, and derivative, and comes across like a strange last-gasp prescription medicine meets American Apparel merger gone wrong.
Did you realize this when you chose this logo? Surely you had HUNDREDS to choose from right? Surely, this wasn’t some “downtime” project for the in-house marketing team to tinker around with when they weren’t thinking up new ways to incorporate Lenny Kravitz or his child into an ad full of white space and Helvetica? Surely there was careful strategy and thought and bold, energetic, exciting brand extensions attached to this selection, right? I have yet to hear which highly creative, methodical authority on branding you went with for this little marvel, but I have a hunch there wasn’t much to this whole exercise in the first place. Which brings me to my main point of contention.
To rebrand is natural, even with a bad logo. It happens to the best of them, lots of your big corporate friends made some pretty silly rebranding decisions over the last couple of years (Pepsi, I’m looking at you). It’s, as I said before, an American institution. But so is complaining. When you quietly released your logo earlier this week, and it slowly began to get notice on branding and design blogs, people started to share their opinions, all kinds of people, not just designers or branding specialists, everyone has seemingly jumped on the Gap logo hate-wagon. So, what do you do? Do you keep your chin up and say “Just you wait and see what’s in store, this new logo is gonna knock your socks off”? No, you kowtow to a very vocal, very whiny minority, and say “we welcome your opinions and designs” and even announce a “crowdsourcing” competition, to see which one of these armchair logo critics can whip up something better! For shame, Gap, for shame.
I don’t expect a clothing company to understand things like “brand integration” and “corporate wide identity strategy”. But I do expect a multi-billion dollar company to put those assets and ideals in the right hands. Now the wolves have you, the internet trolling, social media squawking “graphic designers” of the world, each and every one of them have the tools to create a logo, hell, anyone with pen and paper can doodle one, and now you have to answer to them. All of them. This slippery slope could have been avoided. No branding agency worth their salt would have allowed this to happen, they would have bolstered your new ID with fancy commercials and animation, they would have SOLD it from the start. But you lobbed your new logo out there like a scared toddler feeding her first pet bird. Pathetic.
My suggestion, at this point, is to either retreat with your tail between your legs to your old true blue square, and let this whole “situation” become a very small footnote in your history, or run with what you got, “work it” as they say in fashion circles, I believe. You chose it for a reason, you must have thought it had potential, stop all this “let the people design it” nonsense and quit while your still somewhat ahead. You got some press, right? Any press is better than none, right? If you let the world tell you what to do, you will be left with something nobody is happy with. “Crowdsourcing” a new logo is like asking a for a million soup recipes and then making them all in one pot. You will be left with crap, and non-strategic crap at that. You will be left with a logo that the whole world argued about and then moved on to something more interesting. And in the mean time you forgot to sell your clothes. “Crowdsourcing” is great for things like fund-raising, or finding a face on Mars, it is not, however, a good tool for developing lasting marketing and branding positioning.
Do the proper thing and hand this all over to professionals. Brand gurus and top brass who do this for a living, who are educated far beyond Microsoft Paint, who know that a company does not live or die by it’s logo, but that a logo is a small but integral piece of a much bigger machine.
Someone once said that opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. Which means everyone also has an ass, that needs to covered by some clothes. And Gap can only truly get back to that when this whole little debacle is behind you.
I write this as an “open letter” in the hopes that maybe some lowly marketing intern reads this, and perhaps emails a link to their boss. I write this because, while I haven’t shopped at Gap for over a decade, I hate to see a company go down the wrong path. And finally, as a branding and design professional, I hate to see bad design potentially get even worse.
Update: According to Gap representatives, Laird and Partners developed the new logo.
Update no. 2: According to AdAge, Gap has decided to jettison their new identity in favor of their previous brand. Read here.