Lessons We Can Learn From A Rebranding Failure


Rebranding is as an important commitment as starting a new brand. You have to make sure the conditions are right, and that the execution is right. It is a powerful method for communicating change. On the other hand, a poorly executed rebranding can damage the company’s image – as the Gap fiasco demonstrated.

Gap, who dominated the fashion industry in the late 1990s to early 2000s, has been defined by its blue-boxed GAP since its early days. In October 2010, Gap dropped the classic logo in favor of a Helvetica Gap design that looked like it was made straight out of a Microsoft Word clipart gallery. Designed by Laird and Partners, the new logo did keep an element of the iconic logo – a small blue window perched on the p – to make it more modern. The result was the opposite of the intended effect. The new logo looked uninspired, amateurish, and generic. It lacked a “wow” factor typically associated with a new logo.

As a result, Gap received strong public backlash for the new logo. Some customers on Gap’s Facebook page even threatened to boycott the brand if the company kept the new look. Within a week, Gap reverted to its classic logo.

Rebranding is not an uncommon. Shell, Starbucks, Apple, and many more have all changed logos from time to time, and they all worked. So what went wrong with Gap?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Gap has experienced some challenges that caused the clothing retailer to experience sluggish sales in the last few years. Reasons include over-expansion, ever-changing fashion styles and soft-consumer spending. Despite some losses, however, Gap INC was still pulling some serious revenue. In 2010, the company was pulling $14.2 billion.

Ditching the iconic logo was regarded as a typical reactionary, panic move. Gap was experiencing underperforming. To communicate a fresher Gap, they rolled out a new brand logo rather hastily.

Gap underestimated the attachment their customers had to the iconic logo. Just because times weren’t favorable, the company had to ditch the one valuable thing that has going for them.

The lesson here is, if it’s working well don’t mess with it. Don’t change an image simply because you think it’s time for an image change.

Don’t underestimate the savviness of today’s consumers when it comes to graphic design.

We’re in an age where even a high school student can create sophisticated logos using professional design software on their laptops. You want to “wow” your audience? Then don’t design something Microsoft Word-esque and attempt to pass it off as modern and contemporary. Your audience knows much better than that.

Rebranding calls for more than just a logo change.

You need to have a frame for the image change.  You don’t change the logo for change’s sake. A change in logo should reflect a change in product or organization. As such, you have to work at repositioning the product itself first before you change the logo. Some companies think that by changing the visual identity, they can convince consumers of brand evolution. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

You can create the flashiest logo you want, but if your product remains the same, consumers won’t take the change seriously.

Don’t launch a change with no forethought or prepared strategy.

You have to consider the possibility that there will be negative reactions to the new logo. As such, you should be ready with a response – consumers would be expecting it. Unfortunately, Gap had none – nothing on their website or press releases. It only confirmed in the minds of many that the logo change was a skin-deep decision.

Don’t backpedal.

After the public backlash, Gap reacted by asking the online community to come up with their own design ideas. The crowdsourcing was a final nail in the coffin; it further weakened their brand image. The worst thing you can do is ask the people who criticized your design to fix the problem for you. You should expect people to disagree with you, and if you explain fully well and stand to your decision. They might not like you still, but at least you have their respect.

Apparently, Gap committed many failures, including choice of design team and launch failure, but apparently it was Twitter, Facebook, and social networking community that brought the matches.

Ironically, the logo change may have deepened brand loyalty. It showed just how much the consumers loved the iconic logo. They put an emotional stake in the brand, making it their Gap more than ever.