The Ramifications of the GAP Logo Change

On Oct. 8, 2010, Gap changed its classic logo, a blue box with, “GAP,” written in white inside. The original logo, used for over 20 years, was replaced without warning.

The new Gap logo seems more apt to represent babyGap. The type was changed to Helvetica, the “A” and “P” were reduced to an “a” and “p” respectively, and the large blue background was condensed to a small blue square above and behind the “p”. Critics have denounced the new logo, stating that it looked as if it were designed in Microsoft Word.

The change began on the company’s website and was met with thousands of comments, most of them negative. Marka Hansen, president of Gap Brand North America, stated, “We’ve been listening to and watching all of the comments this past week. We heard them say over and over again they are passionate about our blue box logo, and they want it back.” Within one week, the logo had changed back to the original.

Gap has seemed to be a resilient brand, its simple styles always finding a way into our closets. After decades of use, the original logo carried the identity of the company, was instantly recognizable, and seemed to fit the Gap brand well. The move may have been an attempt to revitalize the brand whose sales have been dwindling, but ditching the original logo is giving up the most valuable company possession, a logo we all knew. It took decades to give the simple blue box with white lettering such identity and changing the logo nullifies those years.

Think about some of our favorite brands; what comes to mind is often the company logo. Coca-Cola nearly destroyed their empire in the 1990s when they attempted to overshadow competitor Pepsi by changing their logo. It isn’t the changing of a logo that revitalizes interest in a company but the changing of products, experiences and styles.

Hansen announced that the retailer “did not go about this in the right way” and “missed the opportunity to engage with the online community.” After the new logo was met with such criticism, Gap asked individuals for ideas and contributions. Such crowd-sourcing by the clothing empire was seen as petty and cheap, and was also met with a great deal of criticism. It is not unheard of for companies to ask for help; Doritos asked for customer input regarding their Super Bowl commercials, but asking customers to design a brand logo is extremely rare.

It seems that Gap did get that opportunity to engage with the online community, just not in the way it likely wanted to. With thousands of replies and the company being the subject of numerous posts on Reddit.com and other online blogs, Gap has gotten more attention from the online community than it has in quite some time.

Gap executives may blame the negative reactions on bad timing or the lack of notice to the change, but when it comes down to it, the new logo was just plain awful. Created by New York agency Laird & Partners, the new logo was seen as a step down from the original.

Hansen stated that, “there may be a time to evolve our logo, but if and when that time comes, we’ll handle it in a different way.”

Gap sales may be on the decline, but the logo is clearly not their problem. Maybe Gap could try crowd-sourcing clothing styles. Getting input on the products customers are actually buying may be a smarter way to boost sales, and would definitely be a unique approach.

The company has stated that the new logo was an attempt to reflect their updated, modern image. In reality, not much of their image has changed. Sales may be low because it is rare to see an individual get excited about the same pair of khakis he or she has seen for decades.

Take Apple computers for example. Although the color of the logo may have changed over time, the apple itself has not. Apple nearly disappeared in the 1990s, but today every lecture hall and classroom is filled with MacBooks. It didn’t take a great new logo to revitalize the company, it took new and improved products. Often, it is more about what the logo represents than the logo itself, so Gap needs to ask itself if a tired logo is the cause of falling sales or if outdated styles are killing the company.

As the holiday season approaches, be ready for the classic blue box to turn red, as Gap has routinely done for years.

Alexander Gura is a fourth-year political science major. He can be reach at agura@uci.edu.