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Gap, known for classic American offerings like T-shirts, khaki pants and denim, said its style translates well overseas. (Paul Sakuma/AP)
Gap, known for classic American offerings like T-shirts, khaki pants and denim, said its style translates well overseas. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

The gaffe at the Gap: a rebranding is reversed Add to ...

Call it a Gaplash.

In response to the collective power of Web society, the American retail clothing manufacturer Gap Inc. has abruptly revoked its new branding logo only days after unveiling it online.

In what amounts to a corporate mea culpa, the company posted a message to its Facebook page saying, "Ok. We've heard loud and clear that you don't like the new logo. …We're bringing back the Blue Box tonight."

The new design, which Gap North America president Marka Hansen called "more contemporary and current … honor[ing]our heritage … while still taking it forward," appeared without prior notice at thegap.com a week ago. The company intended to roll it out in marketing campaigns starting next month.

But an outpouring of protest on Facebook, Twitter and in the blogosphere - hundreds of derogatory comments - precipitated a sudden about-face, restoring the blue square logo that has identified the company for more than 20 years.

Initially, Ms. Hansen explained, "We moved to address the feedback and began exploring how we could tap into all of the passion."

In a statement to Huffingtonpost last Thursday, she said, "Given the passionate outpouring from customers, we've decided to engage in the dialogue, take their feedback on board and work together as we move ahead and evolve to the next phase of Gap."

But when the negative feedback continued to build, the Gap decided to jettison the new logo, which depicts the Gap name in lower case against a white backdrop, with a blue square in the upper right corner. It was designed by New York agency Laird & Partners.

"We've learned a lot in this process," Ms. Hansen said in an e-mailed statement. "And we are clear that we did not go about this in the right way. We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community. This wasn't the right project at the right time for crowd sourcing. There may be a time to evolve our logo, but if and when that time comes, we'll handle it in a different way."

Industry watchers are already comparing the Gap's rebranding miscue to Coca-Cola's problematic 1985 introduction of New Coke, and more recent redesigns of Tropicana orange juice and Pepsi-Cola.

New Coke flopped in the marketplace, prompting Coca-Cola Inc. to reintroduce the original drink, which was re-branded as Coca-Cola Classic. A huge uptick in sales followed, prompting suggestions the entire affair had been orchestrated for precisely that objective.

Similar "conspiracy theory" murmurs are now being heard about the gaffe at the Gap.

While incurring derision for the turnabout, the clothing chain is garnering megabytes of media attention and reaffirming the value of the old logo - all without making a single change to a store or garment.

The free publicity won't hurt. Sales at Gap stores in North America that have been open a year or more have declined for six consecutive months, including a 1 per cent drop in September, although its Old Navy and Banana Republic subsidiaries have made gains this year. The parent company, which also owns Piperlime and Athleta, hasn't seen an increase in annual sales since fiscal 2005.

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