I was in London a couple weeks ago, and was reminded how I always like the simple phrase that asks you to be careful as you step from the Underground subway car to the platform, “Mind the Gap.” But I think marketers need to mind a different gap, the one between the frills of image marketing and real customer value. And guess who is there to teach us that lesson today? The Gap. Yeah, that Gap, the one that sells jeans and other casual clothing in just about every mall near you.
The big story about The Gap (you might call it “The Gap Flap,” although of course I never would) is how a fierce outcry in social media forced The Gap to take down its new expensive logo in favor of the old one that its customers love. You can take a gander at both below to see what everyone is up in arms about.
Now, what I know about logos fits snugly in a thimble, so this is the last place that you should expect me to wax poetic about the pros and cons of either logo. I sometimes shop at The Gap and I can’t imagine that the logo has anything to do with that, although I suppose it would probably be something I was unaware of. But this isn’t about the logos.
No, you say, it is about the power of the social media, right? Well, perhaps. But it’s more about what you get conversation about in social media. 99% of The Gap’s customers probably couldn’t care less about the logo, but a very vocal 1% do, and that is who you hear from in social media. Once those 1% start talking, then a lot of the 99% hear what they say (the 1% have framed the issue for them) and then some of them say, “Yeah, what’s wrong with that old logo that I love?”
And because it is just a logo, there is nothing wrong with it. There is nothing that you can defend as to why you changed it. You might have focus groups that show how more people are attracted to it and you might have research that show that it evokes a whole new image for the company and that sales go up 20% but how can you tell that to your customers? At best, they will feel like you are manipulating them.
So, I am wondering if the days of making well-researched changes to logos might be nearing an end, at least for businesses that inspire some level of passion about their brand. Or perhaps The Gap needed to involve the 1% in the process of changing the logo, rather than springing it on them after lots of secrecy.
No matter. What is important is that in an age of transparency, it’s harder and harder to tell your customers that you just sank millions into redesigning your logo instead of doing something valuable for them. Instead of making higher quality clothing, or lowering prices, or improving service, or increasing selection, or something else that many customers care about, you redesigned your logo.
By doing so, you annoy that vocal few that actually revere your brand in a religious way, and you can’t defend what you are doing to anyone without looking slick. The big story here is not that social media forced The Gap to revert to its old logo. The story is that social media forces companies to do things that help their customers, and changing the logo is probably not high up on any of their customer’s list.
Social media isn’t all that complicated, folks. If you change your logo, people are going to talk about your logo. But is that where you want the focus? Try changing something you want them to talk about and see what happens. So the next time you are considering a marketing change that is more about image than customer value, you might want to mind the gap.