Fiasco and catastrophe just about sum up what happened to one of Gap Inc's iconic brands Gap recently. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, long time marketing reporter Bob Garfield does a great job of explaining it in this ad age article. In this article Bob explains the nature behind an iconic brand and why it extremely risky to try and change any aspect of one. In addition to Bob, Umair Haque (a brilliant blogger for the Harvard Business Review) wrote a blog post that I think truly sums up what Gap should have done.
The aspect of this entire Gap story that amazed me the most was the fact that a social media outcry, caused a complete reversal in a massive company decision... in one week. What if Gap changed its logo a few years ago? I highly doubt the company would have had to take back its decision and even if it did, there is a no way it would have happened so quickly. I think there a couple of key points about social media that any digital marketer can at take away from this story (they are more so fundamental truths about the state of marketing today really)
1. If you're willing to engage in social media, then prepare to be hit by the truth.. good or bad - The one aspect about social media that I find truly wonderful is transparency. If a customer is truly disappointed with something a brand has done, that customer will not hold back his or her inner most thoughts. Similarly, a customer will likely do the same thing if he or she is delighted by the action of a brand.
2. When social media speaks, listen up - The one thing I think Gap did right in this whole fiasco was that it listened. The Company was open about the fact that consumers did not like their new logo and that it was in fact going to change the logo back. This shows Gap was listening but more importantly that it cared about what it was hearing.
3. No matter how hard you try, not everyone is going to like you - The quicker a brand comes to terms with this, the easier dealing with it becomes. It is important for brands to focus on the catering to consumers that do like what the brand stands for; however, it is equally as important for brands to learn about where they are falling short. Social media is a fantastic ground for the latter.
Final thoughts: engaging in social media requires constant attention and quick action. Customers are choosing to follow your brand so the very least you can do is listen when they speak out to you. The truly great companies will act and act fast. I think that in a few months or so, Gap won't be remembered for its catastrophic logo experiment, but rather for its ability to listen and act, when social media spoke up.