Like many companies that cater to or hope to draw in a younger demographic, Gap (GPS) has its own Facebook page that fans can “like” and a Twitter feed that fans can “follow”. When they changed their logo last week, their fans flocked to Facebook to comment on something that seemed to anger them to their cores.
Some blamed the design firm, the marketing consultants and advertising agency, others said that Marka Hansen, President of Gap Brand North America, needed to “fire herself”, while still others said that the change of logo was a “seriously flawed decision”, an “uninspired cheesy mess”, and some even threatened to begin shopping elsewhere to “avoid coming in contact with such poor design” and worried that the change in logo might reflect larger changes within the clothing line, changes that would be unwelcome.
No wonder the logo that had been released quietly and without fanfare on Monday, October 4, was revoked one week later with an official statement by Hansen on the Gap website as well as with Facebook and Twitter announcements. These statements all cited the fans’ feedback as their reason for pulling the plug on the redesign, and the fans responded with many thanks and overwhelming gratitude for the reversion.
This is not even remotely the first time that social media sites have been used as a forum for discussing an issue. Facebook in particular has become a legitimate means of communication that allows any individual to voice his or her opinions and actually be heard by a significant audience.
With the creation of a Facebook group, which anyone can do in five to ten minutes, and a decent amount of Facebook friends, an individual can access hundreds, thousands, even, on occasion, millions of people. One simply invites his friends to join his group, and those friends invite their friends and so on until people all across the country and the world have signed themselves up to receive messages, notifications, and even more invites from the creator of the group. And not only can these ‘nobodies’ find an audience, but businesses, corporations, political campaigns, and more have been turning to Facebook and Twitter to reach an audience that might otherwise be uninvolved and uninterested.
Many companies now have Facebook pages where they promote new products and distribute coupons, and during the 2008 presidential race, millions of people, many too young to even vote, were members of groups that supported Obama, and today more than 14 million people on Facebook “like” the President and get daily, often hourly updates from the White House on what Obama is doing, what issues he finds most pressing, and how he thinks people can become more involved in their communities. Facebook allows fans, customers, supporters to voice their opinions and concerns casually and quickly in a forum where there is a real chance of their being heard. And in turn, these businesses, corporations, and politicians are rewarded by the increased exposure.
Social media sites are essentially cheap, if not free, publicity, and as some of the Gap’s more adroit fans have observed, the last week has resulted in massive amounts of publicity for the brand, not only via social media sites, but through legitimate news sources, from the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal to the Christian Science Monitor and the Huffington Post and just about every other news source in between, who have been covering the issue because of the public outcry.
While Gap would have us believe that the logo change was just part of a move forward for a company that has been around for many years and needed some sprucing up, the idea that the poorly designed logo was a marketing scheme to get the company some media attention seems far more cunning and ingenious, and is frankly a more delectable answer to why this whole thing has played out as it has. For a company that sells classic, American clothing, nothing too trendy or over-the-top, and has been doing so for over twenty years under the same widely recognizable logo, any change to that logo would be a bad idea, but especially a change to a new logo that many say looks as though it belongs to a bank or a telephone company, and in no way improves upon the original design.
On top of that, Gap, Inc.’s stock has been plummeting since April of this year, and has recently seen an upturn that might be, at least in some part, attributable to their recent publicity. Comments on Facebook show that many people are finding it hard to believe that the same agency that was behind so many of Gap’s popular advertising campaigns could have failed so miserably. That coupled with the fact that no promotion was put into the redesign has people questioning the true motive behind the new logo.
Could it be that this was just a manipulation of the Gap customer base, as well as the popular media, for some much needed publicity in a world where audiences for television commercials, the old bread and butter of Gap advertising, are now significantly decreased thanks to DVR, TiVo and iTunes? We may never know the answer to that question, but we have learned a lot about the power of social media sites and where marketing and advertising are likely headed in the years to come.