Mind The Gap

Logo and packaging changes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  Some companies introduce new logos to make their brand look more dynamic, like the stripes added to the IBM logo in 1972.  Others find their logo no longer fits their business well, leading to the UPS decision to delete the parcel string bow from its shield.  Then there are companies like Mobil Corp. that fell out of love with its big red O in the 1990s and  brought back the Pegasus for no apparent reason.  And now, there’s The Gap, which non-launched a new logo and then ditched it in less than a week after howls of rage and derision on the Internet.

The designer/bloggers, and it appears they were almost all designer/bloggers, were bitchy about the re-design but livid when The Gap then invited them to help improve the new logo for free.  Fake Twitter feeds with names like “oldgaplogo” sprang into being.  Traditional media reported the story as if actual customers were complaining en masse and The Gap itself rescinded the logo change stating that the customer had spoken.

Assuming for a moment that this wasn’t a publicity stunt by The Gap to attract attention, this logo episode is another illustration of the echo chamber effect of social media in its current form, constantly spooking companies into over-hasty reactions to web-borne hostility.  This development is best understood as another manifestation of the confusion aired recently by Malcolm Gladwell, in his justly praised New Yorker piece about the inflated impact of social media.  The speed and virulence of social media memes rightly alarms companies caught in the cross-hairs.  What they are missing is that the very speed of these vectors operates in the opposite direction as well.   Ad Age commissioned an Ipsos poll that showed 80 percent of consumers were unaware of the change.

As our experience with social  media grows, we should have better examples of “subsidence” alongside the many examples of onset.  Learning how to distinguish a pandemic from an outbreak will become a critical communications skill.



2 Responses to “Mind The Gap”

  1. mathisworks Says:

    Hello Dr. Hirsch. Hope you’re well!

    As a designer/blogger who’s been following this, I feel a shared sense of distaste with the Gap logo design and its uncerimonious launch. Still, designers do tend to bitch subjectively about EVERY new logo. There’s even a website for it. Criticism is all part of the redesign process and needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

    The Gap took it to heart, and compounded their problems with the crowdsourcing initiative (deeply frowned upon in the design community) and then a complete 180.

    A risky PR stunt if that is what it was, and a reason for all stakeholders to question the management of the company.

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