For many of the Gap’s loyal clientele, the design/marketing community, and the curious retail shopper the recent company logo change was a bizarre failure. Although short-lived, the new logo puzzled many in what seemed to be a gigantic marketing mishap from one of the best marketed retail chains around. The GAP is renowned for its great marketing campaigns and is best known for its catchy and powerful TV advertisements: the Gap’s ‘khaki swing’ commercial brought swing music back into the mainstream in the late 90s; Sarah Jessica Parker singing ‘I Love Being a Girl’ capitalized on SATC’s influence over the fashion world; and every holiday season millions of shoppers watch as cute kids and beautifully hip adults parade around in the newest holiday attire. With a history of marketing brilliance many outsiders could not grasp how such a big mistake was made in changing the iconic blue-square with large white letters to the new, non-improved logo. In my opinion, the GAP logo change was not actually a marketing disaster but advertising brilliance.
As many devoted Coca-Cola drinkers remember, Coca-Cola changed its original formula in the mid-eighties unveiling a ‘new Coke’. As Coca-Cola declares on their company website (see: http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/heritage/cokelore_newcoke.html ) this change in their soft-drink formula “spawn(ed) consumer angst the likes of which no business has ever seen”. Loyal coke drinkers united and fought for the original coke formula – the coke that they loved. This fight not only gained massive amounts of press for Coca-Cola, but it also reminded people about the Coca-Cola taste that they enjoyed. It evoked feelings in consumers reminding them that they had an emotional connection to coke. It caused customers, past and present, to take a moment to reminisce about experiences that they had while drinking a coke. Due to the demanding and large response that Coca-Cola got to bring back the original Coca-Cola formula they did just that – the original formula for coke was re-stocked and aptly re-named ‘Coca-Cola Classic’. Although Coca-Cola states that ‘new coke’ was a poor business decision many marketing professionals and business school professors disagree, feeling that it was actually an amazing advertising plan that was covered up to look like a mistake in the eyes of the consumers. At the time of the ‘new coke’ fiasco Coca-Cola was losing their share of the soda market – the Coca-Cola company was admittedly “lethargic” (see: http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/ ). After the ‘new coke’ was moved off of shelves Coca-Cola restocked its classic soda and regained its position as the unchallenged soda-champion leading to tremendous growth for the Coca-Cola brand and the Coca-Cola company. It was the marketing genius of the planned ‘new coke’ flop that prompted Americans to re-spark an emotional connection with the soda that they loved – the original Coca-Cola.
This exact marketing genius can be applied to the above mentioned Gap logo change. Why would an advertising mammoth like the Gap make such a bad decision? Perhaps Gap just wanted to remind its consumers that they also have an emotional tie to the Gap. By taking away the Gap logo that customers know – the logo that is sewn into the pants, shirts, dresses, and accessories that they have worn when experiencing their first date, living away at college, or just spending time with their friends and family – the Gap pulled at the heart strings of many of their clientele. This response is extremely similar to the reaction Coca-Cola gained when they threatened consumers with the end of the original formula of Coca-Cola. Gap customers cried out for the return of the old logo, all while the Gap gained massive amounts of press as a result of the logo modification. I believe that the marketing pros at the Gap took a page out of the book written by the marketing pros at Coca-Cola – and they did it just in time for the holiday shopping season. In a statement to Bloomberg.com, and in support of my theory, Louise Callagy from Gap declared, “We’ve learned just how much energy there is around our brand, and after much thought, we’ve decided to go back to our iconic blue box logo.” It turns out that Coca-Cola is not only good at developing a winning soda formula that has proven to survive the test of time – they have also succeeded in developing a winning marketing formula.