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Gap’s Possible Brilliance, seriously

By Steve Scheidecker -- Get free updates of new posts here

Yesterday the internet exploded with conversations about the new Gap logo that ignores almost every concept of design and good taste.  This morning I showed the logo to our accountant, and even his eye with little concept of design elements thought it was terrible.  Everyone is talking about how Gap really dropped the ball on this one.  People are even saying that this is going to speed the accelerating decline of their company.  There is no way of knowing for sure at this point what Gap is up to, maybe they did hire a couple fifth graders to take over the design department. However, I have a different take.

I think Gap intentionally designed a poor logo with intention to build buzz, here’s why:

(1)  The logo only seems to be updated in two places on their Gap.com website.  The corporate website still has the old logo.  In fact, even their address bar icon (favicon) is still the old Gap logo.

(2)  None of their products have been updated to reflect the new logo.  As a clothing company if they were seriously re-branding with a new logo, they would bring it about with at least a few clothing products to emphasize the effort.

(3)  Small point, but it appears that all the other major brand identities under the Gap umbrella have capitalized logos (Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime, Athleta) Not saying that this would be a sticking point for re-branding, but something that probably would have cross somebody’s mind.

Why would Gap do this?  With their company in the pits and no longer very fashionable to anyone they need something to ignite a spark behind them.  This perceived mis-step could set them up perfectly to do just that.  If they keep this new logo in place for a week or so, then launch a campaign to “Re-Design Our Logo” or something to the like it would have an immediate impact.  Brands have shown that they can build a loyal following by exploiting flaws and asking the masses for feedback.  Domino’s pizza has recently done just that, showing off their flaws and how they are asking customers for help.  In the case of Domino’s, it actually got me to buy one of their pizza’s for the first time in 5 years because I liked how they were interacting with people.

Fashion is different than pizza, but a logo would be the perfect show-case for Gap to publicly demonstrate why they need help without the costs associated with intentionally making poorly designed clothes.  (Although Gap does a pretty good of that)

All of this is just a thought, maybe Gap actually did make the biggest re-branding misstep of the century.  Either way, intentionally or not — Gap has the opportunity to do something big.

What are your thoughts?  Is Gap being a marketing innovator or have they sank to a new low?

Update: This was in fact what Gap was up to, read my follow-up to this post Gaps Bold Experiment

11 Responses so far.

  1. I dunno, this COULD be the case. But if so, it’s a tired new trend. Like the Drake University D+ logo – and I think there was something else recently, too.

    http://yourlogomakesmebarf.com/2010/09/02/the-drake-advantage-logo-gets-an-f/

    • Steve Scheidecker says:

      To be fair the Drake logo was more of a flaw in communication with multiple meanings rather than design. (Not that design was Earth shattering, but at least it used the traditional Drake “D”)

      Do I honestly think Gap is thinking this way, no. However, it’s interesting to think about and based on public response it may be a way for them to salvage their effort with a little dignity.

  2. ben says:

    I think that’s an awesome idea. In fact, I just created a new Logo for Info2Go with a Sharpie Mini, a sheet of reporters’ notebook paper, and roughly 10 seconds. I don’t think that Steve or Matt will mind if I hijack http://www.info2gousa.com and change the good logo to my new awesome one.

  3. […] I’m not alone in this line of thought. Could this really be a case of subversive marketing brilliance? It’d be something different. And for a brand that has become the symbol of conformity…..well, that’s nothing short of a revolution. […]

  4. Steve Scheidecker says:

    Looks like someone beat Gap to this idea and started a design contest http://blog.iso50.com/2010/10/06/gap-redesign-contest/

    Now if they heed the user generated results maybe they’ll land up with a logo that is worth something.

    Thanks Celia for the link to this contest.

  5. Evan Stewart says:

    It’s possible. I like the idea of a publicity stunt. If true, I would be more interested in the company.

  6. I like how some people are going “Oh well, I guess… BUT!!” like there’s no way any explanation is as good as their emotional response to the terrible new design.

    I think you bring up a really good point and it will be interesting to see how Gap moves forward. If you are correct, I can’t see how it won’t be obvious, if that makes any sense? That is, if in a week or two they launch some sort of campaign that’s like “DOH! Our logo sucks help us redesign it!” It will be ssssoooo obvious what part this “new” logo played.

  7. Steve Scheidecker says:

    I just posted a follow-up to this post

    http://www.ignition3.com/marketing/gaps-bold-experiment.html

  8. […] Ignition3 highlights some of the reasons my crap-detector went all tingly yesterday when I saw the new logo: there wasn’t a seamless rollout of the logo across all properties, it looks like someone spent less than five minutes on it, it’s easily replicated and not iconic at all, and so on. The post goes on to point out that other brands have had success in restoring fan faith by issuing mass mea-culpas and asking for input. People like to think they’ve “helped” a brand–what better way to ignite their passion than changing something they like (or are ambivalent about) into something horrible, asking for their forgiveness, and then requesting their help? […]

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