Marketing Lessons From The Gap

Marketing Lessons from The Gap

The recent brouhaha over Gap Inc.’s attempt to change its logo is a cautionary tale for all brands.

Brand building is just that – brand “building.”  It’s about building the brand through an ongoing consumer relationship.  That’s especially true with women, because a woman’s loyalty to a brand in particular is tied to the relationship she feels with the brand, and how much she feels connected to it.  It’s about knowing how to talk to women, and how to listen to her.

Logo aside, I think Gap has more pressing issues.  Like many women, Gap became my go-to store when I had my son.  The durable, high-quality denim and expandable waistbands in their children’s department meant I got maximum wear (and style) out of the purchases I made for him. And the products worked for me as well.  They had a great selection of jeans in a large variety of cuts and washes. But over the years the quality and style began to decline.  The denim was thinner, and the jeans felt cheap.  And to add insult to injury, the price was not lowered to make up for the lack of quality. Eventually, I stopped going to Gap or even shopping its online site, and as a result the brand became invisible to me.

The Gap brand currently seems trapped between several fashion category trends.  Women like to mix low-priced basics from Target or Wal-Mart with expensive signature pieces from premium brands.  Unlike Abercrombie & Fitch, which has a deep understanding of its consumer and what makes them “tick,” Gap seems to have lost relevance with its consumers, or to even be able to identify its core target audience.

Yes, this was a massive miss for Gap, right up there with New Coke. To make matters worse, their “crowd sourcing” spin seems to have ticked off the entire graphic design community as well.

But most importantly, Gap’s trials and tribulations over the past few days really highlights the power of social media. What consumers (particularly women) might have thought privately while walking into a store before is now shared publicly.  Personally, I like the old logo better, but the logo isn’t what draws me to a particular brand.  It’s how invested I am in the brand, and more importantly, how invested the brand is in me.

I get that Gap wants to rebrand itself.  The brand seems to be attempting a renaissance, and rethinking the logo is a legitimate thought.  But Gap could have used social media to get their customers invested in this rebranding effort.  By not asking customers on Facebook and Twitter for feedback before unveiling the redesign, Gap marketers missed an opportunity to speak to the brand’s key audiences – many of them women.  Why wouldn’t they invite loyal customers to be a part of their journey, and feel some ownership and pride in the process?

What do you think – did Gap miss the boat?