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Oct 2010

Are old companies dying in the age of an online economy?

Posted in Business tactics | 1 Comment »

A comparison, courtesy of Baekdal.com.

Reading about Gap’s recent mishap with their logo and its subsequent torch-and-pitchfork treatment by those with social media accounts (followed swiftly by Gap reverting to their old logo) and a rather pedantic interest in the graphic design work that went into the rather poor design itself, it’s hard not to wonder if the old giants are keeping up.

New giants, like Facebook, are rapidly becoming the companies that today’s book shops and train companies need to be in order to retain a new generation of people who would rather book an entire wedding via iPhone Apps than with a land-line phone and a few hours spare. Groupon’s owner Andrew Mason talks about “polishing your turds and getting super rich”, but really it’s just a case of pushing into the online world with such force and offering enough USPs that the online pedestrians can’t help but take notice.

The anorak approach to the internet no longer works. You can seal yourself off from certain networks, sites, or just simply avoid the web completely, but it’s a realistic estimate that in a couple of generations time, we’re going to be reliant on the internet for almost everything, with few alternatives. High Street shopping is just another concept that faces an imminent sense of irrelevance as Amazon and Play.com continue to rise alongside Next.co.uk. Personally, I think Primark’s eventual move into the online sphere will hurt clothes shops the most, but I think that’s just my human desire for £4 messenger bags and £5 pairs of shoes.

In terms of responding to criticism lodged against your new ventures via social media, it’s a case of eat or be eaten. Responding to your critics via a silent reversion to an old logo after criticism of the new is not smart. Defending the new logo is. The iTunes logo changed recently, as the CD-based logo they used was “no longer relevant”. It’s a shame to see a great logo disappear after so long with little to no warning, but it shows that Apple is being smart – they gave their excuse, and stuck with it.

Pre-digital companies, such as Gap, have an entirely different set of obstacles to cope with when it comes to re-branding themselves for a new generation of happy consumers who’ll buy big and in bulk and never complain, five-star-reviewing their way into consumerist heaven. Instead of a quick logo change, they should’ve completely re-hashed the way they did things. Was the online store checked out by an SEO consultant? Was social media a major tool in their promotion? Was the new logo really the only thing they wanted to change after decades of typical clothes-store operation?

A decent online shop isn’t enough – in the day and age of three-second judgements, you need a hook. Social media integration with clothes shopping? There’s your hook, Gap. That one’s free of charge, and I guarantee you, I’m no graphic designer, but I could’ve come up with a logo better than a blue square and bold Helvetica (a wild guess, but judging by that particular font’s overuse…).

Companies are not evolving fast enough. Dinosaurs were snuffed out by a massive meteorite. Had they lived today, would they have survived human culture? The meteor that’s struck the economy is twofold – the second coming of the .com, this time in the form of social media, and the recession. People are more tight-fisted, and LiveJournal users are more likely to tweet than write 1,000 word blog-posts.

All the while Gap are expecting a new jpeg to bring their company image up to date. A Facebook plugin or an iPhone App would’ve worked better. In fact, an online poll would’ve saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars in design fees, and I’m imagining a fair few marketing reps would’ve never had to worry about their reputations.

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One Response to “Are old companies dying in the age of an online economy?”

  1. [...] only issue is, they’ve never done it in such a social environment before. If you look at the Gap logo fiasco, social media criticism was the more vicious of the [...]

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