Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Gap and its logo 360 turnaround

This month saw one of the more embarrassing about turns in the last year and I am not talking about RooneyGate. No this comes from that well know purveyor of clothing Gap. Gap actually started in 1969 in San Francisco and since then has grown to its current position of owning 5 leading store brands including Banana Republic and Old Navy and now turns over $14bn a year.

Gap, as you may or may not know, is also quite famous for using its own name and logo splashed over its clothing. Of course many clothing brands do that but Gap has always been known to do it in a very American way and sometime in your life you have probably seen someone wearing a sweatshirt with GAP in large letters on the front.

Its name and indeed its logo, with Gap in white text sitting in a blue box, is one of the more recognisable logos in the world. So much so that I was surprised to see that it was considering changing it. I was even more amused during the following 7 days of extreme embarrassment for the Gap board.

On October 6th Gap announced it was changing its logo, removing the blue box and changing the font. Within hours the new logo was universally panned with some descriptions not right for this family newspaper. The kinder ones related it to something created in 5mins in Powerpoint or that it was more geared towards a new piece of accounting software, ouch!

Social media sites were flooded with comments, virtually all negative. Within 3 days Gap’s senior management announced that the new logo was being retracted and that they had decided to start a “crowdsurfing project” to come up with better ideas. Now I had never heard of that one either and presumed that they came up with it while in a more lenient coffee house considering the current debate in California to legalise marijuana.

Most commentators renamed its “crowdsufing project” to what it actually was, an embarrassing u-turn. However that’s not where it ended, on October 12th just 6 days after it started and 3 after the announcement of its first change of policy, the president of Gap North America announced that it was withdrawing its “crowdsurfing” strategy and returning to its original logo.

This spectacular 360 degree turn of policy quite rightly attracted large amounts of media attention. Interestingly many commentators concluded that this was all an extremely clever piece of press manipulation designed to create large brand awareness. They simply could not believe that a company as large as Gap could make such an almighty hash of such a big thing. I could almost buy that argument if they had just stopped at the “crowdsourcing” point and ended up shortlisting some of the thousands of received logo suggestions for a worldwide integrated campaign using a social media driven vote on a new logo. But they didn’t, they turned face again and went back to the old saying they had “learned a lot in this process”.

In my opinion this was a simple case of a very public mistake that they took too long to correct. Logos are an emotive subject and often overplayed. Take Tesco, its logo has been subtly tweaked over time, but it’s pretty much the same as it has been since I had hair and it hasn’t stopped it taking over the world. Changing your logo will not turn your business round. Understanding your customer needs and delivering products solutions to them will. I hope in Gap’s case the management has learnt its lesson.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant – follow him on Twitter @timyoungman

Friday, 1 October 2010

Tablet Wars - iPad vs the Playbook

The problem with brand new shiny toys is that after a short while they are not so new and not so shiny. This is pre-built into all of us when as children we realise that our new toys from birthday or Christmas within a couple of weeks are not so new and not so shiny due to excessive use. After that something else invariably catches the eye and becomes the next object of desire.

Some have argued that this is what keeps the world economy turning and they may be right but its especially true with technology. A couple of years ago you could sit in a coffee house playing with an iPhone and feel the envious stares at you. Today there are no stares as everyone is playing with their own smartphone from various makes and the iPhone seems, dare I say it, a bit old.

Luckily I have had the pleasure of feeling the stares again for the last few months as I have sat working on my iPad. I have even happily given people demonstrations of the shiny toy as I do truly love it. However, as with all new shiny toys, when one stands out other toy makers up their game to get a piece of the action.

First against the iPad were the Galaxy Tablet from Samsung and the amusingly named Streak from Dell, although its 5 inch screen puts it on the small side. Last week however a more serious contender was announced; the Playbook from Blackberry.

Blackberry is a major player in the smartphone market. In the US in July, according to figures from research firm Comscore, they lead the marketplace with a 39.3% market share followed by iPhone at 23.8% and Google Andriod phones at 17%. Blackberry has also traditionally been the business smartphone of choice and its this market, rather than the consumer market, they have targeted this new tablet computer at.

The new Playbook comes with a 7inch screen and front and rear cameras allowing video conferencing and has been geared for the high security network systems that businesses like. Unlike some of its competitors it has no 3G capabilities but does have wifi and Bluetooth. Although they have not announced a price it is expected to be high especially as they described it as “professional grade” which means “we are going to charge a lot for this”.

Some analysts are predicting that sales of the iPad will reach 12m by the end of this year. Hewlett Packard CEO Todd Bradley said last week in a speech announcing its own tablet effort, that they believe that the tablet market will be worth $40bn a year in a next few years. So its pretty obvious why manufacturers are looking at how they can get a slice of the pie. Blackberry is hoping that its business relationships will help them gain a big slice of that pie. Calling a proposed serious business machine the Playbook rather than the rumoured Blackpad or Blackbook I would argue however was one big mistake.

Still whatever happens, the coffee houses of the UK will soon be filled with people surfing the web and checking emails on screens large enough to actually read what they are looking at. It is even rumoured that Aldi are going to launch a branded version. You could argue these are just toys but if you are a website owner you should be quietly pleased that more people can access your site wherever and whenever they want. More importantly on a screen they can actually see what you are offering.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant