Gap, Tropicana versus Apple: Conviction versus the Mob

Giff Constable marketing, social media

gap-mobGap has completely fumbled their logo change, but not because of the design. I am not going to comment on the design. I am going to share how appalled I am at Gap’s lack of conviction and leadership. Completely abdicating your own vision is just as bad as never talking to your customers at all!

Sometimes truly inane branding decisions do happen, such as Royal Mail trying to rebrand as Consiglia. I don’t quite know why Gap felt the need to be more like American Apparel, but I assume they thoroughly tested it. This change was not the end of the world.  Everyone has an opinion on logos and naming, but design should never be done by committee or community.

Every consumer Internet entrepreneur can tell you that people scream about most changes. They are the worst when they actually *like* your company. It is a tricky part of social media — the people who love you the most will fight to keep you from changing, from innovating. You need to talk to customers but you can’t become *reactive* to the masses. You cannot let love turn into stagnation.

I saw this in vast, melodramatic effect with Second Life. Linden Lab could change a lightbulb and their fans would scream bloody murder. While Linden Lab had room for improvement in how they communicated with the community, I at least respected their determination to stick to their guns in most cases. Facebook is the same way. People scream at every innovation that Zuck pushes on the community, and FB has indeed made some compromises, but by and large, Facebook pushes things through and refuses to *not* innovate.

Steve Jobs is probably the clearest example of conviction in spite of the masses. The iPad came out to howls of laughter and derision over the name. Who’s laughing now? Steve Jobs *leads*. He doesn’t pander to the mob, nor does he act like a victim to quarterly financial statements.

Tropicana did the opposite when they tried to change their container art. I do not see how you can change grocery store branding *without* a drop in sales — consumers will inevitably be confused for a period. Tropicana proved that they cared more about short term sales, and they also showed an amazing lack of confidence in their brand. Even though the company had determined that they needed an updated image (the necessity of which is a separate argument), they chickened out, and reverted back to their original art, thus making themselves slaves to the past. Steve Jobs would have taken the hit in sales and ridden it out.

I am convinced this Gap drama would have become a non-story in no time. I am convinced that Tropicana’s sales would have recovered if the company had just shown a bit more staying power.

These cases are not a showcase of the power of social media; rather they just reveal corporate weakness.