Gap's Reversal on Changing its Logo is a Testament to the Power of Social Networks.

In a stunning reversal, US retailer Gap introduced a new logo, and then, four days later, bowed to consumer pressure not to change it. The story here isn’t Gap’s misstep, but the amazing ability of social networks to influence significant decision-making on such an important issue. The ability to learn about, think about, and respond to new ideas is a demonstration of the new social collective and its impact on many things, especially business decisions.

A decade or more ago, businesses made strategic decisions and implemented them. Their key audiences eventually found out and responded. But the dissemination of the information took much longer, and the responses were much more fractionated and not as simultaneous. The recent Gap story should have marketers everywhere asking how to best employ the new social environment to vet out ideas, test hypotheses, and learn before committing big blunders.

Gap has been an amazing retail success. Founded in 1969 in San Francisco, Donald and Doris Fisher built an enormous following, and has subsequently acquired or developed such well-known brands as Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperline and Althea. It is the largest specialty retailer in the U.S., and a very important player globally. The well-known blue box logo is 20 years old. This simple yet iconic logo is the beacon of a brand that visually and verbally speaks in a simple yet sophisticated language that is part of the Gap brand. By being unpretentious, the GAP badge became cool. It had, over time, found the right balance to appeal to a wide range of consumers without becoming too trendy.

So it was not a big surprise when there was pushback. We live in difficult times where consumers are nervous. For the most part, they want safety and security to be able to trust the brands they have adopted. So a change needs to be carefully thought through and tested before rocking the boat. And the new Gap logo caused waves.

I really respected the GAP response… “Now, given the passionate outpouring from customers that followed, we’ve decided to engage in the dialogue, take their feedback on board and work together as we move ahead and evolve to the next phase of Gap.” I believe them. They are the beneficiaries of the results of an unintended research study. And it has taught them something about the value of their brand equity.

The bigger issue here is that markets can respond both positively or negatively to change. The speed of communication is blinding today, and marketers must think differently in order to ensure that when they introduce a new idea, it resonates. Companies must not only develop innovative new ideas, but test them in order to prevent what Gap just experienced.

The good news is that even in branding, democracy works. In this case, consumers have the vote. What has changed is the speed of the quorum in deciding and expressing their opinions.

Think about this in the reverse. What if a change was a very good idea… it could also spread like wildfire. So marketers can use social networks to more rapidly then ever get maximum exposure of new thinking. This opens up exciting new opportunities.

Question… would you have moved to the new logo to make the brand “more contemporary and current?”