The recession that ended a while ago doesn't seem to have ended. The "system" for foreclosing on homes is an unmitigated disaster. It has been a season of woefully bad news.
So, in America, what this means is that the most pressing issues of our time are the changing -- and changing back -- of the Gap logo, and that SunChips' compostable bags are way too noisy.
And, for that, I suppose -- sigh! -- we can blame social media. When I look back on weeks like this one, I become convinced we're way off concerning what's too noisy: it's the sound of our voices, drowning out things that are really important. Like the threat of global warming -- actually trumped by people whining over a noisy bag meant to help mitigates its effects! I loved this quote from a columnist at UMass' Daily Collegian: "How high-strung do you have to be to get upset over a noisy chip bag?"
Whiner Nation, welcome back! Although, really, just like I thought when I first wrote about you a year ago, it's not like you ever went away. There's been loads to whine about in the last year, much of it showing how deeply we need a reality check.
As the requisite fake Gap logo account tweeted over the retailer's little design imbroglio: "We can argue about healthcare and immigration later. Right now we have to do something about this new Gap logo!"
(I should point out -- or maybe I shouldn't -- that the tweet was an @reply to a fake Sarah Palin Twitter account. Ugh. This is getting way too meta.)
Not that people shouldn't state their opinions, and that companies shouldn't listen to their consumers, but this is getting ridiculous. If you're Gap or Pepsico (maker of that annoying chips bag), you should start doing two things:
1) being a little
less sensitive to some of your consumers' outsized emotions and their apparent abundance of free time to express themselves,
2) putting a strategy in place to placate Whiner Nation before you go around making noisy chip bags or changing logos. Then you won't necessarily have to cave into their demands.
In Pepsico's case, it would've been useful -- without pointing fingers at the whiners -- to restate why the bag is so noisy. Write a funny commercial about it and post it on YouTube. Meanwhile, back at the lab, make sure employees are concocting a way to make the bag less noisy. Then, when the new bag finally launches, you've got another opportunity to, well, make noise about SunChips and how green Pepsi is. It's a win-win-win. (That third win is for planet earth.)
Right now, the company looks like it's only green to the point its consumers don't whine about the sacrifices it takes to be green, which means its true positioning is little different then when someone uses a fig leaf to cover his privates and claims to be fully dressed. The noisy-bag controversy is time for education, not caving. Yes, apparently, SunChips sales have taken a hit over the last year - which PepsiCo attributes to the bag - but what positioning does PepsiCo really want? To be known as a company committed to sustainable operations, or one that sacrifices doing something good for the planet to sell more bags of chips? Unfortunately, we know the answer.
I know that last section took a turn into environmental diatribe, but, it actually encapsulates part of what's so bad about making decisions based partly on how many people complain about something on Facebook. It sacrifices long-term thinking for short-term.
Gap's logo controversy is a non-starter, but not just because of whining logo reviewers. Redesigning logos in a cluttered marketplace is a stupid idea -- almost always a sign of too many designers with too much time on their hands. It's not smart to mess with your company's visual shorthand.
What's incredible is that Gap didn't realize going in that people would hate the new logo. Why? Because people always hate new logos. That said, if it was so hell-bent on changing its logo, it should've been prepared to stay the course. Instead, it's caved into Whiner Nation, potentially paralyzing it from making further long-term decisions that -- unlike logo redesigns -- might actually benefit the brand.