On October 6, clothing company Gap unveiled a new corporate logo. It was ill-received by their critics and customer base (not to mention thousands of designers), leading the company to invite the public to propose alternate logo designs. A new wave of negative comments followed, harshly criticizing Gap for its intent to utilize crowdsourcing efforts to come up with their new logo. In the end, Gap nixed the entire project, returning to the logo they’ve used for more than two decades.
What went wrong? Quite a bit… and as a result, Gap’s definitely lost some loyalists over the ordeal.
The first public outcry was over the new logo itself. Many argued it was entirely too simple – Likening it to a design which a 5-year-old could have come up with. Others argued that the original Gap logo was timeless, while the new one was restrictive. The modern aspect of it would be limiting. Gap itself argued it’s blue box logo is outdated, having been used for twenty years.
Then, Gap jumped on the crowdsourcing bandwagon, inviting designers to submit ideas.
Crowdsourcing is a means by which companies and individuals invite others – anyone, actually – to design logos, create original illustrations, design book covers, etc. It’s widely used by startups and smaller businesses to help cut costs and select designs from a large number of freelancers. The lucky designer can receive a nice chunk of change, while all other entrants receive nothing.
On its Facebook page, Gap posted:
“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.”
This is when Gap truly got slaughtered. Thousands more designers and a number of firms jumped on the “shame on Gap” bandwagon, accusing the company of expecting designers and loyal customers to provide ideas and design work for free.
In the end, Gap scrapped the entire project, reverting to it’s blue box logo. But the damage had already been done. People are still talking about the company’s efforts to get free input, while charging top dollar for its clothing lines.
What can small business owners learn from the Gap fiasco? Several things the Gap powers-that-be should have already known.
- You need to understand your customers and why they’re loyal. If you’re not sure why? Ask them.
- Your logo helps brand everything about the company. People identify with logos, which is why so many successful companies have been careful to only make small changes and not “shock” consumers.
- Focus groups are a necessity. If that means selecting some key customers and soliciting their feedback, so be it. I’m willing to bet that had Gap done this, the company would have realized just how ill-advised changing their logo was.
Argue all you want about experts and their advice, the only people who truly matter are the customers – they speak for the masses. If customers tell you it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.
Any business – large or small – needs to bridge the gap between the company’s key decision makers and the people who pay the bills. Ignore the ones paying the salaries, and you’re bound to make a fatal misstep. By involving your customers in potential changes, the chances of making this type of mistake decrease dramatically.