Using Social To Reboot A Gap In Mindshare

It's gonna be a lovely day...

The past couple weeks have seen two major organizations revamp their identities with new logos: MySpace, the waning social network and Gap, the financially distressed clothing retailer. Both companies are desperately struggling to stay afloat among the fickle and increasingly fragmented consumer audience they covet.

I actually don’t mind the new MySpace logo. It’s a bold departure from the simplistic iconography they’ve used in past. In the case of the new Gap logo, well, someone once said there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Love it or loathe it seems like a strange half-baked visual concoction. The huge public outpouring by Gap’s loyal customers, impassioned design advocates, and marketing types echo the sentiments “why’d they do that?” The number of people coming out of the woodwork feeling compelled to voice their opinion on this story has been nothing short of overwhelming. I won’t regurgitate all the details here but I will say, from what I’ve read, the overall consensus is that the new Gap logo is a complete failure.

But is it really?

I believe the Gap logo debacle is not a mistake, but a resounding success. Coverage by Fast Company, Forbes, CNN, @GapLogo on Twitter and countless other sources reflect a cleverly—perhaps inadvertently—concocted PR strategy. The broad media coverage, which has now extended into the social space, has created a renewed sense of brand awareness at a time the Gap is clearly faced with the challenge of reigniting slumping sales.

If this was a PR/marketing stunt, it’s actually quite brilliant.

Create an ugly logo on purpose that gets consumers in a tiff; tell everyone crowdsourcing the logo redesign with an open contest is the answer; capitalize on the social media coverage by telling consumers “ok, we’ve listened to you, yeah we were wrong to change it; we’ve actually decided to revert back to the original logo design”.

Sounds absurd right?

People are talking, tweeting, blogging, sharing and creating mash-ups of the new Gap logo everywhere—though mostly in protest. Some of these mock-ups have gone viral. Social media has fueled the growing buzz and if nothing else seems to be boosting brand awareness in a strange way.

Somewhere a senior Gap marketing exec or creative is laughing, maybe singing Bill Wither’s Lovely Day (they used this song in a Gap AD campaign back in 1999), thinking yeah, let the mob ramble on and on in cyberspace about how much they hate the typographic treatment or the much debated misuse of blue box element (part of Gap’s old logo). These matters are ultimately trivial when you consider Mashable and a host of other high traffic sites are covering the story to the tune of several hundred Diggs and several thousand Facebook ‘likes’. Ultimately this is free publicity in the digital space —and who’s really having the last laugh?

The reality is you, the social media centric digerati horde, and people like James Yu and his now viral makeyourowngaplogo dot com, and now ironically bloggers like me with posts like this, are playing right into the hands of Gap’s senior marketing executives. The truth, unbeknownst to the sharing public, is that the Gap have played the digital space to their advantage, whether intentionally orchestrated or not.

Let’s see what happens.