GAP’s new logo design mistake.


On October 4, 2010 the Gap quietly introduced a new logo on their website. A curious initiative to be sure. There are excellent reasons for redesigning a logo, but none of them applied to the situation at the Gap. The result was the Gap’s worst nightmare.

According to company spokesperson Louise Callagy, the new logo was intended to signify the San Francisco based retailer’s transition from “classic, American design to modern, sexy, cool.” But the new logo looked more like Microsoft clip art than “modern, sexy,” or “cool.” Remember the logo is for a retail fashion company – it needs at least to have some style.

New logo fails to resonate.

The public outrage and ridicule was immediate and harsh. And management demonstrated even greater lack of sophistication in their response to the backlash by announcing on their Facebook page, “We know this logo created a lot of buzz and we’re thrilled to see passionate debates unfolding! So much so we’re asking you to share your designs…We love our version, but we’d like to see other ideas. Stay tuned for details in the next few days on this crowd sourcing project.” What? They “love” the Microsoft clip art? Really? This response speaks volumes about the Gap management. And sadly, it’s not positive.

The Brand Channel commented:

But ditching the classic logo, recognized by everyone, in favor of whatever that new monstrosity is, demonstrates a prototypical brand panic move. With things not going in its favor, the brand decides to change the one valuable element it has going for it.

Ironically maybe, the new logo is perfect for the brand. It communicates exactly the values currently embodied by Gap: A sense of being lost and a lack of clear vision and creativity.

Crowd sourcing logo design.

It didn’t take long for management to discover that crowd sourcing logo design is not an effective solution and they abandoned that experiment and finally returned to the original logo design.

This has generated a considerable amount of comment in newspapers, magazines and blogs. Let me point out something that hasn’t been mentioned: Your brand identity lives, not in the board room or the headquarters office, but rather, in the marketplace.

This reminds me of the introduction of “New Coke.” We learned a similar lesson at that time. Coke also, in response to public demand, reinstated the original Coke calling it, “Classic Coke.”

Customers and the brand.

We need to recognize that the way people relate to and interact with brands has changed dramatically over the last decade or so. The power balance has shifted in favor of customers. They now have the upper hand. Companies must understand that their brand messages are in the hands of customers. Gone are the days when a company could “push” any marketing message they want. Today customers do not automatically respond with open arms. They are accustomed to “pulling” the information they want.

Companies must be much more sophisticated in their attempt to influence their identity because it is held by customers in the marketplace. Brands today are built by those who use and endorse them. No longer do companies have complete control of their own message. They must now entrust their message to customers who will make it exciting and interesting – they invigorate the brand – or not.

Customers can identify with a logo.

The Gap logo fiasco reveals that customers identified with what the existing Gap logo has come to symbolize. And by removing the symbol and replacing it with a banal substitute, the company removed a valuable connection to a significant meaning. A meaning that the new logo did not contain.

Gap management appears to be completely clueless about the value of branding which is typical of industrial companies but very unusual for a California-based consumer retailer.

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21 Responses to “GAP’s new logo design mistake.”

  1. Michael Beck says:

    I like the re-designed logo. Tastes change with time, and the new logo represents the trend of simple, clean. It is a very delicate balance to judge the benefits of trying to change branding.

  2. Tim Stedman says:

    You have a word missing in the second paragraph under “Customer’s and their brand” (third sentence). I agree, the “new” Gap logo is atrocious: a company
    with the name Gap would be wise to consider the space between letters a little more closely.

    By the way Mr. sessions, I was a student of yours about 27 years ago. I enjoyed your class immensely.

  3. steven says:

    Great to hear from you, Tim. I remember your name. But could it really have been 27 years ago? Must be a typo. BTW, I couldn’t find a missing word in that third sentence you mentioned.

  4. Tim Stedman says:

    No longer do companies have complete control * their own message.” I imagined it was missing an “of.”

  5. steven says:

    Thank you very much Tim. Okay I DO need reading glasses. I’ll hit CVS tomorrow for a cheap pair.

  6. Leann Kocon says:

    This is something I never thought about before. Thanks for bringing it to light.

  7. Otelia Elfrink says:

    Thanks for sharing this interesting insight.

  8. Maye Valentino says:

    Thanks for sharing your insight. Quite good.

  9. Neda Throgmorton says:

    Wow, you’re right. Very nice of you for sharing this. Thanks.

  10. Kellie Janco says:

    You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will go along with with your post.

  11. BaileyQ says:

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  12. akwaria says:

    Cheers for your posting, that’s some very useful info. I’ll be back again to learn more, maintain publishing.

  13. Maurice Romeo says:

    You are a very clever person!

  14. Marci Weger says:

    Thanks for the great insight. GAP is a company in trouble and they’re grasping at straws because they don’t know how to right the ship.

  15. Vito Spurrier says:

    Very good article. Thanks for your insight. Want more.

  16. Daniel Evans says:

    My version of the GAP logo:

  17. Liz Macnaughton says:

    Great blog! I truly adore the way it’s uncomplicated and the Information is written clearly. I’m wondering how i can be notified whenever a new submission has been made. I’ve subscribed to your rss feed which I hope will do the trick! Have a good day!

  18. Bradley M says:

    With plenty of exploration done, mistakes are bound to take place and in small businesses, some mistakes can easily be overlooked. A viral campaign that didn’t take of? An online launch with low response? These failures can lead to a better future. For large corporations on the other hand, may receive a huge backlash immediately from internal and external stakeholders (and also customers. think: GAP).

  19. Terrell Blackaby says:

    A pity, some companies still don’t understand that their brand messages are in the hands of customers not management. Good post.

  20. Winifred McKie says:

    Redesigning your business logo too much can harm the integrity and goodwill of the business.

  21. Wantabob says:

    Very interesting, GAP sales are collapsing too, very interesting correlation.

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