Strategic Branding

Posted by: Joshua Unruh 1 year, 3 months ago

Hopefully after last week’s post, you have a better grasp on the concept of intentional branding. You now see how, with planning and purpose, a brand can work from basic concepts like a deceptively simple logo and work outward until it permeates every aspect of your brand. And you can also see that branding intentionally can make you recognizable from head to toe, near or far, even if you’re standing in a crowd of similar colleagues. That’s some pretty unbreakable branding. Almost like a Brand of Steel you might say.

I don’t know about you, but I can also learn an awful lot from a bad example. That’s what we’re going to take a look at today: someone else’s bad strategy and the lessons we can learn from it.

The Briefest of Rebrandings

Did you guys know that Gap clothing stores changed their logo back in 2010? Most of you probably don’t, and that’s okay. You see, their refreshed logo lasted a total of eight days.

Not only did the new logo last a short time, but Gap only rolled it out on their website. Not in any of their hundreds of retail locations. Not in a national campaign that connected this new look to a new line of clothing or view on their business.

Needless to say, it did not go well.

The Approach

Gap has been hurting. They’ve closed a lot of stores and haven’t shown growth in several years. The fall of the shopping mall has been hitting them hard and continues to do so. They needed a fresh crop of people to discover their brand of affordable, reasonably fashionable, and ultimately forgettable clothes.

I’m going to make some guesses here since Gap and their design firm didn’t invite me to the meetings that led to the new logo. They are educated guesses, but I’m owning my speculation.

They wanted Millennials. They decided to get them with an ironically overused font and a gradient on the one thing that harkened back to their old, recognized, and (as it turned out to everyone’s surprise including Gap’s) well-loved brand.

The Problem

There weren’t a lot of Millennials using Gap’s website where the new logo rolled out. This is because Millennials don’t hang out in the malls that have been Gap’s bread and butter. Therefore, their target audience had no idea who Gap was in the first place and simply would not be looking at their website.

However, the people who have been hanging out in malls for the last twenty years and do know who Gap is were looking at the website. They did not like the changes they saw there. They were also extremely vocal about it.

The “Solution”

The Gap took it back. Rolled their website back as fast as they could and swore they’d never use the new logo anywhere else ever again. Then they asked for those who loved their brand to submit their own ideas for a new look.

The Lessons

Can you already see how poor strategy killed this rebranding even before it entered the world?

  • Rebranding is not always a good idea. For a variety of reasons, a new logo wasn’t going to fix Gap’s problems. The company had built up a lot of equity in their existing logo--equity that could have been preserved while giving them a more modern look with a more subtle change or series of changes. Rebrandings aren’t for sharing new information; they’re for fundamental shifts in how you plan to do business. Gap didn’t have any plans for that, they just put a new coat of paint on the old store.
     
  • Gap didn’t think about their new target audience. Millennials tend to focus on individual styles that are more casual. A mall brand with a one-size-fits-all approach to business casual is not going to get the job done.
     
  • The web rollout showed another misunderstanding of their new target audience and a lack of commitment to the new look. If you’re a store well known for your mall locations, the roll out needs to encompass them. Also, while focusing on the web is a way to target Millennials, actually targeting Millennials is the worst way to target Millennials.
     
  • The new logo is boring. It implements an overused font with a dated gradient approach to a blue box that only exists to tie into a previous logo that’s apparently headed for the junk heap. Bad execution all around…
     
  • …especially when the existing customer base apparently love the old logo! Maybe that base is shrinking or buying less, but they have a passion for the Gap that cannot be denied. It doesn’t look like Gap even knew about that commitment nor did they try and leverage it.
     
  • Rolling back the new logo was almost certainly the right idea since the outcry was so large and the company didn’t seem particularly committed to the new look anyway. But the idea of crowdsourcing their new brand cheapens the work designers do, detracts from Gap’s apparent commitment to their own corporate identity, and gathered quite a bit of bad PR in the process.

Did I miss anything? Do you feel there are lessons in branding that we should discuss? Or perhaps the lessons I pulled out need more clarification. The big-picture strategic thinking is instrumental to building that branding lens. But it’s a process and will take time and we’re happy to help you in every way we can. So let me know in the comments.