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Mind the Gap
Breathe easy, folks - Gapgate is officially over.
By now, we've all probably seen the new Gap logo - introduced on the clothing retailer's Web site last week without much (read: any) fanfare - but it's still not clear whether the botched rebrand was a fake, a fail, a bad idea or a brilliant crowdsourcing campaign. After a week of Internet buzz (and, presumably, scads of clicks to Gap's Web site, Facebook page and other assets), company president Marka Hansen blogged last night on Huffington Post that the old blue box logo will officially stay.
"While last week I mentioned that we'd be tapping into the outpouring of passion from customers for design ideas and feedback, we realized this wasn't going to work," she writes. "It wasn't the right project for crowd sourcing. In fact, all roads were leading us to the classic blue box."
Regardless of whether Gap pulled a Blair Witch Project on us, the flood of publicity that ensued from the announcement and ensuing retraction has definitely brought the brand into the center of the spotlight. If you're of the "any PR is good PR" school of thought, this is the sort of attention money can't buy - although the same could be said if you're of the persuasion that an ill-executed branding move is equivalent to corporate suicide.
The question remains, though: How much of the whole Gap rebranding episode was legit? Corporate crowdsourcing is everywhere these days, from Pepsi's Refresh Everything campaign (a well-received reaction by the company to the indulgence of ever-pricier Super Bowl ads) to clothing retailer Uniqlo's online ads encouraging buyers to tweet about specials in order to lower the price for everyone. In the case of Gap, though, if the crowdsourcing effort was genuine, no one took into account the backlash from the creative community, many of whom saw the invitation to redo the Gap logo as a call to work for free on something that was poorly executed in the first place. (Global design guru Erik Spiekermann merely commented "It's sad that I have to keep quoting that old advertising dictum: 'It's not enough to have no ideas, you also have to be unable to express them.'")
If it all sounds like New Coke to you, you're not alone - comparisons to the benchmark for botched rebranding abound. However, the rules have changed in the 25 years since New Coke was on again, then off again - back then, we couldn't tweet, blog or bombard Facebook with angry comments on the soda switch. With Gapgate, the moral of the story (so far) seems to be that while the immediacy of social media reaction can derail your corporate plans, it also provides an opportunity to quickly and accurately gauge what your next steps should be. After all, it took three months for New Coke to become Old New Coke - Gapgate, a little more than a week in, is now a non-event.
What have you done, as an individual or company, to scope out potential social media reaction to a big move? Has what you've heard changed your mind? Let us know in the comments.