Gap's Bad Plastic Surgery

Gap logoUpdating a logo is like plastic surgery. Sometimes it makes something old look young again. Other times, not so much. Gap learned this the hard way in October. Ivy Ross, creative director of marketing, said Gap was moving to "a clean look that represents modern America and is aimed at people who enjoy style and technology." As part of that effort, the company quietly changed the familiar blue-box logo on its web site to plain black type on white with a small blue box in the corner. It mimicked the layout changes already used in the brand's advertising.

But ads are one thing; a 20-year-old logo is another. The social media world went nuts, roundly scorning the new logo and spawning parody accounts. About 2,000 mostly negative comments filled up Gap's Facebook page.

Three days later the company made another strategic misstep. On Facebook, it acknowledged the passion of its critics and said it would crowdsource ideas for a new logo. The design community was then doubly incensed, feeling that Gap was too cheap to pay for a professional designer. Faced with the onslaught, Gap ditched the crowdsource project and reverted to its old look, wrinkles and all.

The "modern" logo lasted barely a week.

The upside for Gap was the wave of free media exposure generated by the controversy. On NBC's Nightly News Brian Williams treated the return to the old logo as breaking news.

But the media may have missed the real scoop.

Resentment against gentrified logos happens. But the fierce and nearly instant backlash against crowdsourcing is newer. Professional content creators angry about the crowdsourcing trend were smearing Gap's reputation in the very creative circles the company wants to attract. Any brand considering user-gen content would be wise to pay attention. In some markets, the crowdsource backlash is starting to grow horns.

And come on, would you crowdsource a nose job?

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