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10 Dumbest Things on Wall Street in 2010 (Part 2)

Gap Loves New Logo Enough to Abandon It

In October, Gap(GPS - Get Report) executed one of the most inept efforts at branding since the Omega-house initiation in "Animal House." With no apparent need to replace its iconic blue-box logo, Gap half-assedly tossed out a new one onto its website. And then, all heck broke loose....

Originally published on Oct. 8 -- Quick, quarantine your C-suites! Apparently, Pepsi's (PEP) virulent strain of logo-killing mad-executive disease has spread to the offices of Gap (GPS - Get Report).

Last week, the once iconic and culturally relevant retailer quietly introduced a stunningly dull redesign of its logo to its Web site. No fanfare. No 80-foot billboards in Times Square. Not even a dashed-off press release filled with marketing drivel about how the new logo reflects man's constant drive to achieve universal harmony through ill-fitting jeans and multi-colored scarves. Hey, at least that would have showed they cared.

No, there was nothing. And in lieu of all that, within a day, the design community had pounced, with vitriol and mockery exploding on blogs and on Twitter. As Bobby Solomon, on art and design blog put it, "This is some shabby work.... There was a lot of brand equity in that big blue square and they didn't move far away enough from the source for this logo to even begin to feel new or exciting."

A lot of equity indeed. According to a study conducted by Interbrand, Gap is the 84th most-valuable brand in the world, valued at nearly $4 billion.

Then, with the backlash building, Gap decided to make everything worse by backtracking in the worst way possible. The company took to its Facebook page and Twitter and declared that it was "thrilled to see passionate debates [about the logo] unfolding!" (Uh, no debate here ... the logo just sucks....) "So much so, we're asking you to share your designs. We love our version," (read: "Oh my god, what the hell have we just done?!?") "but we'd like to see other ideas." (Read: "like ideas on how we can save our jobs; OMG, we are so fired.") "Stay tuned for details in the next few days on this crowd sourcing project."

See, this isn't a massive marketing gaffe. No, no, no. It's the start of a "crowd sourcing project." And one that was oh-so-cleverly never introduced as such. Gotcha! Oh, and Gap "loves" its new logo, but is totally willing to chuck it out the window should anyone else come up with something better. And for free, please.

By Thursday night, Gap brand president Marka Hansen had taken to The Huffington Post, of all places, to try to explain things.

"We chose this design as it's more contemporary and current," wrote Hansen. "It honors our heritage through the blue box while still taking it forward." Too bad most people thought this "honor" was a giant step backward.

On Monday, Oct. 11, Gap faced reality about its blunder.

"We've been listening to and watching all of the comments this past week," said Hansen in a press release. "We heard them say over and over again they are passionate about our blue box logo, and they want it back. So we've made the decision to do just that -- we will bring it back across all channels."

Hansen goes on to say that the royal "we" at Gap "learned a lot in this process. And we are clear that we did not go about this in the right way. We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community. This wasn't the right project at the right time for crowd sourcing."

The bigger question is why does anyone who's been to business school, much less someone in charge of a brand like Gap, need to learn this lesson in the first place?

Look, tinkering with your logo, even online, is a sure-fire way to draw negative publicity -- just ask Tropicana! But doing so in such a half-assed way begs significant questioning of Gap's management. Would Coke "crowd source" a redesign of its script font, or Nike slap a smiley face on its Swoosh? So, Gap, maybe it's not the logo that's the problem here. Maybe the problem is you.

TheStreet Says: Turns out, there are plenty of good ideas out there. Perhaps Gap could take a half dozen of them into the fitting room?
This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.
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