The Digital World Can Lead to Kneejerk Decisions

By Dave Tan, VP of Innovation and Product Development

As many of you are probably aware, GAP recently retracted their logo redesign after four days of online backlash. While there have been many past examples of logo redesign/product overhaul backlashes, it seems that this GAP issue turned much quicker than anyone anticipated. I doubt there was enough time to even figure if sales trends or business metrics were effected before they changed their minds. A lot of this has to do with our interconnected world where information and groups can quickly band together in micro-seconds. Juxtapose that GAP example to the “New Coke” debacle, which took 77 days to change back to Coke Classic. Another recent case shines the spotlight on Sun Chips, where they were in the marketplace for 18 months without much fanfare and online activity surged in recent months pushing Frito-Lay to scrap the biodegradable packaging and revert back to the original plastic packaging.

While I am not here to discuss design sensibilities or product packaging, I am offering this idea – did any of the brands conduct digital research directly with their target consumers before and during these switches? For the Gap issue, AdAge independently polled consumers three days after the logo switch and found that only 17% were aware that the logo had changed. That seems to be a small percentage of consumers who even knew that something had changed (for the better or worse). While I am sure some brand loyalists of GAP didn’t like the logo, would it fully stop them from buying clothes there (especially since GAP logos arent even on their clothes)? Maybe.

This is why having a constant pulse of consumer sentiment is important. If GAP talked to their target consumers, ones that were in stores or subscribe to their emails to gather insights beforehand they could have used the power of communitiy and social media to adapt a change for good. But reacting quickly to sentiment offered in the social world by itself can be a kneejerk reaction. Beyond getting the viewpoints of their target and loyal consumers, I believe that our hyper connected world too easily allows for these social mob projects. All it takes is a few well-connected social folks to quickly build a force against a change that they don’t like. For consumers who are caught up in the force, it is as simple as “liking” a new facebook group that is against a logo change. All it did was cost them a muscle spasm to click “like,” which is not a good indicator of how they may really feel about the change. All of a sudden they are a part of 50,000 to 100,000 strong Facebook group that a brand sees as vehemently against the brand change because they did not like it.

Another difference I want to highlight is if the main “disagreers” aren’t brand loyalists or target consumers, why should the brand listen or cave? Let’s pretend, for example, that a majority of GAP logo dislikers were from China where GAP did not have a presense. Would it make sense to listen to them? This is why it is so important in this dynamic digital industry to be laser focused on your target consumers and their thoughts and choices. Even then, sometimes your ideal target consumers can be disagree with you. As Alexander Kjerulf notes, there are times when customers can be wrong. Brands simply need to conduct digital consumer research before, during and after changes, and as well develop thicker skin if they are going to press forward with changes.


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