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Bridging the Brand Identity Gap.

So, GAP has a new brand identity. Or should I say ‘Gap’ has a new identity. The lower case is significant. Probably.

There’s a veritable shit-storm reigning down on the new Gap brand identity from every online channel I’ve seen so far and I’m not altogether sure why.

The general opinion, is moderate to fervent hatred. If you haven’t seen the new logo, you can see it here with the context of the old alongside the new. Have a look at the balance of opinion on this site while you’re there – general hatred. The specific sentiment (beyond general hatred) is that Gap has played ‘safe’ in the execution of the new identity. I don’t agree with that either. Safe is what you do when you cross the road. Safe is wearing a condom. Safe is a deposit box. Safe is not the adjective used to describe a logo.

Here’s the thing – I like the new one.

In comparison to the old identity, I’m struggling to see why everyone hates the new one. The old logo sucked the big one. It sucked for years. Thin, spindly, anaemic, shite. Presumably GAP thought it sucked too. Do you actually own a t-shirt or sweatshirt with the old logo on it? No. That’s because it sucked. For years, GAP has deftly side-stepped its entire corporate identity by employing every other conceivable typeface on retail merchandise except their own logo.

My entire family sports GAP clothing with block ‘American Football’ typography in preference to the logo because, well, because the old ‘logo’ sucked.

Sure, it was used on the storefront and it was on the carrier bags, but after that, who cares? It was almost invisible. The version of the marque that we all actually wear is different. I don’t imagine for one second that that’s going to change. The ‘change’ is therefore the badge on the retail storefront and the carrier bags. Are we really going to wreak vengeance on carrier bags?

Whatever the initial public opinion, the interesting part of the story is that Gap itself felt that it was time to change its identity. The business is actively making changes to remain relevant and contemporary in a modern world. Out goes the serif typeface and in comes the san serif. They’ve given a tired identity a well deserved lick of paint. It’s not like they’ve repositioned and rebranded to call the company ‘BeigeWorld’ or anything. It’s acceptable to change your clothes, it’s acceptable to change your car, it’s acceptable to move house, change jobs, change your hairstyle, dump your girlfriend, get married, have kids… – change. Change happens.

Corporate brand identity is no different. Every now and again we change corporate identity to remain contemporary and relevant to our shifting audience needs and expectations. It’s not wrong, or safe, or even important. It’s simply expected and sometimes necessary. But ultimately, a logo is just a badge. The badge is not the brand. The badge represents the brand. The ‘brand’ is what we feel about the company and/or its products and services.

I don’t actually think the Gap ‘brand’ has changed at all. I can still rely on Gap to deliver some of the most inoffensive cotton and fleece wear on the high street. Great. So they’ve changed their carrier bags. That’s great too. But I’m already over it.

Scot McKee