Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account can hardly have failed to notice the outcry last week when Gap dared to change their logo. Not, you would think, an entirely unreasonable thing for a now elder-statesman of a high street company to do: a chance, perhaps, to pep up their image and remind everyone what they stand for - or what they want to stand for, anyway. But within minutes, and with the ferocity you'd normally expect to be unleashed on stories of child labour abuses or sweatshop factory scoops, shouty internet groups were forming. Such was the online outrage that Gap were forced to retract, and a statement from Marka Hansen, president of Gap North America on Tuesday read:
"Last week, we moved to address the feedback and began exploring how we could tap into all of the passion. Ultimately, we've learned just how much energy there is around our brand. All roads were leading us back to the blue box, so we've made the decision not to use the new logo on gap.com any further. There may be a time to evolve our logo, but if and when that time comes, we'll handle it in a different way"
Handle it a different way? Oh, I just bet you will. In baby steps with social networking consultation at every change of pixel, I would imagine.
The storm of protest clearly shook Gap: and I can't say I blame them, because it took me aback. Why, honestly, do people care so much about a little logo? Yes, the new one was a bit amateur-looking (not so much Photoshop as the first version of Word you ever used, in truth) but what difference does it really make - a logo is just a marketing tool, stamped on bags and in shop windows but not worn on you.
Ah, but that's the problem, isn't it? Because that logo - or variants on it - frequently are worn on you. Personally, I have never understood why people want to buy a jumper that's essentially a travelling billboard for the shop they bought it in but these hoodies, whether they be Gap, Calvin Klein or Dolce & Gabbana are undoubtedly big business. So a move that threatens to change the logo on them - even if the change is mainly to do with typesetting - is a risky one.
It's also, presumably, a very costly procedure, so Gap will be considerably out of pocket. When BP unveiled a new logo back in 2000, it was said to have cost £4.5 million in brand research. One can only hope that Gap didn't spend anything like that - and if they did, that they kept the receipt... Perhaps Gap will also get some sympathy from the Prime Minister: when he ditched the traditional Tory torch for a scribbled tree logo, Lord Tebbit described it as a "bunch of broccoli" - and I think we can assume that Lord Tebbit is not a fan of the green vegetable.
My theory is that, actually, Gap should take the whole fuss as a compliment. Certain brands have been around for so much of our purchasing lives, are so embedded in our chain-filled high streets and shopping centres, that we feel like investors in them. We may not get the dividends or bonuses, but we feel properitorial. In some ways, we feel we own them. We know them as they are, so how dare they go fiddling around with the instantly recognisable signs of safety in our confused consumer worlds. Mind you, if Gap think they took a lot of flak over this, imagine what would happen if Marks & Spencer announced they were changing their name...
By: Kate Carter
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