Wednesday, 20 October 2010

My favourite mistake

Just ask anyone who's been shoved into a pair of white tights on the Ricki Lake show - they'll tell you that makeovers don't always work. It's nice to revamp your appearance now and then, but sometimes you just end up looking like Ann Widdecombe in a ballgown

Which is how the brand team at GAP must be feeling after last week's aborted attempt at updating their image fell flat with the public. To be fair, brand overhauls often backfire - remember New Coke? Somebody in Atlanta figured 'If it ain't broke, fuck it up anyway', and changed the formula of a drink that had been successfully flying off the shelves for a hundred years. 

The public reaction was furious, as though their favourite soda had been replaced with a bottle of piss-flavoured mouthwash. Coca-Cola promptly went from backlash to backtrack, and promptly reintroduced 'Classic Coke'. And the world's rapidly decaying teeth were once again clenched in a satisfied grin. 

Perhaps the brand bigwigs who decided to reinvent GAP figured they'd have an easier job on their hands. The products are well made, affordably priced and reasonably stylish, but it's a tough brand to get passionate about. It's a little like adding yourself to the Facebook fanpage for Cash In The Attic or Vileda Super Mops

So everyone was surprised when the company unveiled its new logo last week and the public outcry began. People were horrified that so much of their beloved logo had changed - but then again, with just three letters and a blue square, there was only so much that the designer could do. 

Out went the capitalised serif font, and in came the sentence-case sans-serif alternative. Meanwhile, that all-important blue square got shoved behind the P, like an ornamental plate hanging on a pensioner's wall. 

The public reaction was swift and brutal - this was the branding equivalent of Meg Ryan unveiling her new face. GAP had no choice but to resurrect the original logo and issue a mea culpa to the waffle-sweater loving populace. 

No-one likes to admit that they've made a mistake. But the cynic in me suspects that this wasn't actually the grievous error that the press coverage would have us believe. In the end, the only thing that this exercise has proven, is that even a taupe, loose-fitting company like GAP can have an army of passionate followers. And it's managed to snag a bunch of free column inches detailing just how enthusiastic its supporters are about the brand. Someone give the PR team a pat on the back. 

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