I suppose there are two ways to look at The Gap’s logo flip-flop. One view is that the company really listened to their customers and the graphic arts community at large and wasn’t too proud to admit they made a mistake. I’ve seen quite a few articles that take this stand. And this could very well be the case. On the other hand I have two words for you: New Coke.
For those of you too young to remember the New Coke flap, Coca-Cola made a huge deal out of changing their formula. Ostensibly, it was a move to compete with the sweeter, youth-appealing taste of Pepsi. They rolled out a big campaign about the change. The only problem was, people didn’t like it. Huge backlash. So they eventually brought back the old formula as “Coca-Cola Classic” and sales shot up.
Like the logo situation with The Gap, Coca-Cola was both praised and vilified at the time. Personally, I believe that the folks at The Coca-Cola Company were too savvy to get the formula change to wrong and planned the whole switch-a-roo thing. If that makes me a conspiracy theorist, so be it.
Speaking about the conspiracy theories, Donald Keough, Coca-Cola’s president and chief operating officer at the time of the controversy, is quoted as saying, “We’re not that dumb, and we’re not that smart.” Clearly, I believe they were that dumb and that smart.
Similarly, I am convinced that The Gap did very much the same thing with their logo. I have no proof, mind you. But I believe that they planned the whole thing. And I think it was a stroke of insidious, disingenuous genius. How else would the major networks have mentioned The Gap on the air if not for the logo gaffe? And the coverage I saw was pretty positive. There was a hint of “how could they allow this to happen,” but it was all but drowned out by “… but they showed that they are listening.”
The bottom line for me is this: there was no compelling reason to actually change the iconic logo. But there was a reason to create a marketing-driven ruse about changing the logo. Often the most plausible explanation is the one that is true. And I think the marketing ploy is the most plausible explanation.
By the way, the “new” logo was horrible. But I thought the same thing about the Seattle’s Best logo. And I guess that one stuck. So maybe I’m just wrong.
I’d be interested in what you think. I could be convinced that this was unplanned. Please. Try me.