Mind The GAP – do the logo-motion

by Julian Westaby.

GAP, the American clothing and accessories retailer based in California, and founded in 1969 by Donald G. Fisher and Doris F. Fisher, they’ve rebranded. Big wow you might think but if you look at the fact that in September 2008, ‘Gap Inc.’ had approximately 150,000 employees and 3,465 stores worldwide, you can see it’s a fairly big deal. In 2008 GAP was, as the Americans would say, ‘the world’s largest apparel retailer’. Along with being the biggest, they were also the best. Cool, mould-breaking, multi-award-winning advertising and brand building, understated casual gear that the World grew to love. You had to love GAP.

Which one do you like?

Which one do you like?

Obviously, since 2008, a good deal of water has flowed under the ‘apparel retailing’ bridge! Global recession had a huge effect and copy-cat and sometimes superior competition (in the form of H&M, American Apparel and countless others) made it very tough out on the High Streets and Malls. As well as this, a ‘sweatshop’ Internet hate campaign which alluded to the fact that this squeaky-clean, all-American Brand wasn’t quite so squeaky clean was taking place. The suggestions that GAP didn’t just clothe young foreign kids, it also employed them, wouldn’t go away and GAP became one of the first ‘Corporations’ to suffer a really strongly-negative internet campaign. Not so much a whispering campaign, more of a highly damaging, internet shouting campaign. So much so, they became the scary, ‘case study’ that no Company wanted to emulate.

Impressive trading figures became not-so-impressive trading figures and the byword for cool became the byword for ‘sweatshop’ gear. This meant the Golden Boy of US retailing began to suffer. What would they do to stop the rot?

Although The Fisher family remained deeply involved in the business and still own a significant portion of the company (Donald Fisher served on the board until his death in 2009) it’s probably no surprise that change had to happen. Lots of ‘new brooms’ have started (and left) at GAP and someone, somewhere within the organisation brought up the topic of ‘rebrand’. There are quite a few Global firms that have an iconic mark with just three letters and the three-letter Internet domain is King, so it might seem strange that GAP have felt the need to change the iconic square logo after 40 years, but that’s what they’ve just done.

The results of this can be seen here. Like every new look, it’s evoked ‘discussion‘ and there are some people (mainly us!) who think it’s taken a few pointers from arch-competitors American Apparel. Of course, like every rebrand, it’s a lot more than simply a ‘logo’ they’ve bought into. There will be a root and branch re-think into EVERYTHING they’re doing but as we know, when a new brand is created, everyone (including the media and all their competitors) simply and unfairly focus on the logo and just what a waste of bloody money it’s been.

It’s a funny old game the Branding game, as is the Retail game, so, it’ll be interesting to see how things pan-out.