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Lessons learned from the Gap

After hearing about the Gap's brand refresh fiasco over the last two weeks, I was amazed at the number of missteps that had taken place within such a large, reputable company.

For those of you who didn't catch the news, Gap quietly launched its new logo on Oct. 4. Almost immediately after the launch, customers took to Facebook and Twitter criticizing the new logo. Between Oct. 7 and Oct. 12, Gap released a few statements and attempted a crowdsourcing strategy for a new logo before eventually deciding to revert back to the original.

From the start, Gap's intent was to appeal to Millennials with a new "modern, sexy, cool" image. While I was clearly not involved in the planning that went into the design of the new logo, it seems that the very customer they were targeting was just an afterthought (hence, the odd placement of the "iconic" blue box). Instead of revamping the brand, the end result was a logo that looked more like it was generated from a 1990s PowerPoint template (no offense Microsoft -- the 90s were bad for everyone).

I think there are a number of obvious lessons learned from Gap's brand refresh gone bad (know thy customer, don't underestimate the power of social media, and look before you leap, to name a few), but I also think one less obvious lesson, and perhaps the most important, is know your vendors and make sure your vendors know you.

No comment has been given from the ad agency that Gap used to design its new logo. Although the agency and Gap have apparently worked together for a number of years, I wonder if they were really aligned on this initiative. I wouldn't say that the new logo design represented Gap's vision of "modern, sexy, cool."

Would the outcome have been different if Gap had taken the time to make sure its agency clearly understood their direction? It's hard to tell, but no matter what industry and what service a supplier or vendor is providing, making sure they understand your business and are aligned to your objectives is crucial to achieving the results you want.

This is particularly true when it comes to sourcing talent. Just as you would never hire a candidate without making sure he/she was a good cultural fit for your organization, you should never rely on a talent supplier that doesn't have a good understanding of your overall business, environment, and strategic direction. After all, how can you expect your supplier to submit candidates that not only have the required technical skills, but also have the soft skills that best align to your organization's culture if they don't even know what it is?

Despite the heat that Gap took for its attempt at revamping its image, the after-effects probably won't last long. If anything, the publicity the retailer received in the last few weeks might just increase its popularity enough to boost sales in the upcoming holiday season.

However, I don't think taking the same gamble on your staffing suppliers will have quite that effect. Unless, of course, you can find a way to turn sub-par talent, high turnover, and longer time-to-fill into increased sales.

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