All Blog Posts

Calm Down, The New Gap Logo is a PR Stunt

Mike Santoro

There’s been a firestorm of anger after the Gap revealed a completely revamped logo earlier this week. It’s been called everything from a “dumb idea” to “a complete debacle”. AdAge called it “something a child created using a clip-art gallery”. Crap Logo Yourself quickly popped up to let people make their names in the same style as the new logo. One survey put the negative response at above 90%. Overall, people are surprisingly pissed about the new look.

But here’s the thing. It’s not really their new logo. It’s all a publicity stunt.

There's been few official statements. No official press release. No big brand launch. They quietly launched the logo and let the viral message run. After they let some backlash play out the Gap announced via their Facebook page:

Thanks for everyone's input on the new logo! We've had the same logo for 20+ years, and this is just one of the things we're changing. 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.

So what are these guys doing? They are trying to build buzz in anticipation of a large crowdsourcing project to redesign their logo. The hope is that the upfront buzz will lead to additional buzz as they go through their actual rebranding.

Crowdsourcing creative has become all the rage lately with brands hosting large public campaigns to drive a new ad campaign, direct mail piece, or television commercial. Unilever’s campaign instantly comes to mind, but there are a number of others that have come out in the last year.

One big benefit of going this route has been the publicity, but brands are seeing diminishing returns on this front. As more companies open up their creative to a crowdsourced competition, the PR value of doing so has faded. It’s no longer interesting enough to discuss.

So how do you bring it back? Release an awful concept, let people stew for a few days, generate a ton of publicity, and then announce a contest to rebrand the new Gap.

In theory it’s a decent idea. You’ve heard the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity?” We’ll if you believe that, this move has been a huge success. There have been 113 news stories written about this and 202 blog posts. I can’t count how many comments are on the original AdAge article and 331 people have tweeted about the Gap since I started writing this article.

If you could do something that would have 113 outlets writing about your brand and tens of thousands of people discussing it online, you’d want that. Right?

The trade off is that people now hate your brand. You’re getting press, but it’s not good press. I’d love Alterian to run an SM2 query to see what the sentiment has been. Based on the news coverage, it must be overwhelmingly negative.

To me that’s not a good tradeoff, but I am going to hold off completely judging the campaign until it wraps up. It could be a huge success. People might joke that the Gap gave us a good trick and their rebrand could be a greeted with cheers. Top companies, like Google, fool us every year on April Fool’s Day and we laugh about it.

Unfortunately, this is different. People are angry and saying some really bad things about the Gap right now. The Gap isn’t a company that’s on the way up. It’s been struggling as of late and losing market share to competitors. Supposedly screwing up your logo is a great way for people to remind you of how far your brand has fallen from its peak.

It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. It takes a ton of guts to do something like this, so in a way I applaud the Gap for taking a chance. At the same time, it requires an incredibly savvy PR team to manage this strategy and make sure it doesn’t backfire. Here’s hoping that this ends up being the PR case study of the year, but at this point all signs are pointing to total disaster.

One last note. If this really is their new logo - holy crap. It’s a terrible decision for about 100 reasons. If it’s real, expect another blog post diving into that, but it can’t be. Until I see it in print or on a store, I won’t believe it.


UPDATE: I guess I was completely wrong. I keep waiting for the "Just kidding! This was never intended to be our logo." press release, but it's not coming. AdAge has published two separate official comments from the Gap acknowledging that the new logo was a misstep. It was simply a major mistake from a brand that I credited with being smarter than this. And based on their comments I still don't believe they understand what mistake they made. Sad.