When Gap Inc. swapped its 20-year-old blue and white logo last week for a new black one with a tiny blue box without first consulting or notifying its customers, the company received a barrage of complaints and criticism from customers who demanded the return of the old design, as well as from the graphic arts community who just didn't like it. Thousands took to social media channels to demand the company return to the classic blue box with the white logo.
In response, a Gap spokesperson said that the company wanted to change the logo to allow customers to take notice of what the company stands for today - a retailer with a sleeker offering of clothing.
But Gap got it backward. Today where more and more companies are handing over the brand to communities of customers to decide the fate of everything from product design to marketing strategy, Gap broadcasting a new look to its customer base is about as trendy as shoulder pads and track suits.
In retrospect, Gap should have first asked its customers if they would welcome a new look and then if they agreed, the company should have brought them into the process as collaborators to help conceptualize a new logo.
But Gap North America President Marka Hansen said that the project was not the right one to offer up to crowdsourcing. "There may be a time to evolve our logo, but if and when that time comes, we'll handle it in a different way," Hansen said.
Hansen's statemet surprised me. Why would now not be the right time to apply a user-generated process to the logo design? With the growing usage of social media, now is the perfect time for a crowdsourcing initiative.
Mountain Dew recently devoted an entire year and a half to a crowdsourcing project called "Dewmocracy," which included fans' input in every step of a new soft drink launch, from design, taste, color, name, and marketing. Not only did the strategy give customers exactly what they wanted, but it generated invaluable word of mouth. The fans who participated shared information about the new drink on their Twitter and Facebook pages, and Mountain Dew also leveraged the concept in its own advertising campaigns.
Angie Gentile, Mountain Dew marketing manager called the strategy a true partnership in which the company and its customers collaborate at every stage. "Many people would think it's a huge risk to open the brand to consumers.... "In the end, it ended up being extremely rewarding."
It's time for Gap to take a cue from companies like Mountain Dew--not just in logo design, but also when bringing new designs to market. If Gap really wants customers to take notice--if it really wants to evolve, then the company also must adapt to the changing times...or risk going the way of shoulder pads and track suits.