The GAP this week has learned the painful lesson of today's new media world Its fast and furious. Following consumer outcry in social media channels, the brand reversed its proposed logo change. Cue industry criticisms and diatribes by every marketing blogger or columnist known to man"
Many questions arise from this: Did this $3 Billion dollar corporation spend the same time considering their brand as they do changing a supply chain element ? Did the corporation review and test the logo enough to not change it back simply on a whim ? Many unanswered questions which will harm the brand, regardless of their move back to the original.
One wonders did the GAP underestimate the immediacy of social media impact, and fail to understand that today, everyone has a voice, and everyone is counted. Today's media tools mean brands must become accustomed to a rolling press conference, and just as they need to manage reporters, so too must they manage online social media elements. The days of breaking an exclusive with one outlet are well behind us.
Social media today is open forum for questions to be asked, and issues to be raised, and clearly speak, they did. Did the ad executives (both on the agency and in-house side) speak to any actual consumers ? Not just market research experts, but did they step out of the ivory tower and speak to any actual consumers ? People will always comment on the new and the GAP should have recognized and proactively managed that process online. Will the GAP now go in and comment on every single criticism of blog posts which exists ?
In a brand's shelf life it is vital to make milestone "stops" along the path and consider strategies, requiring budget, effort and C-suite attention. Such milestones should include periodic research efforts, focus groups, Q-sort research, case studies and surveys Diverse manners to analyze and evaluate campaigns and PR plans. The input you receive through these initiatives is invaluable and can sometimes set the divide between a successful campaign from total failure. Social media today is vital for brands to interact with consumers and to listen to consumers.
Brands today with the proper tools in place have even figured out how to generate sales from social media. But one wonders without tools in place, do brands like the GAP even know if its their consumer online they are talking to ?
Perhaps the lesson can be that GAP feared is new logo would lead to drastically reduced sales as Tropicana experienced a few years ago, or maybe the lesson is the speed. What took 2 months ago only a few years ago takes a week now.
GAP isn't the first company to deal with online social media crisis, and they wont be the last. The question is will other brands react and pay more attention, time and money to the arena and not make similar mistakes.
Ronn Torossian is president and CEO of 5WPR, one of the 20 largest independent PR firms in the U.S. Named to the "40 Under 40"³ by PR Week & Advertising Age, Torossian was a semi-finalist for the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and his PR agency works with a roster of iconic brands. He may be reached via email at Rtorossian@5wpr.com and followed on twitter @rtorossian5wpr