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18

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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13

Oct 2010

Close the Gap between you and your customer: Listening to feedback

Posted in Social Media | 0 Comments

Our generation probably considers themselves to be pretty forward thinking, ahead of the times. We happily communicate via social networks, we’ll buy the latest iPhone and we’re pretty much always excited to try new things. It’s funny then that when it just comes to other things we will not budge. Yes I’m talking about the Gap logo.

Last week Gap unveiled a new logo to replace the one that has happily been there for twenty years. The latest one was meant to be a “more contemporary and current” design. Bad move.

Within hours the social networks were going crazy. There were thousands of tweets, Facebook status updates. Six days later, the new logo was pulled and replaced by the one we know and apparently, not until now, knew we loved.

A statement was released on the company’s Facebook page saying:

“Ok. We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback.We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers. So instead of crowdsourcing, we’re bringing back the Blue Box tonight.”

It’s an interesting situation and one that certainly shows the power of social media. Twitter and Facebook really are the best kind of focus group you can get. As a company it proves to be is the most effective way to find out about your customer.

Gap realised that they should have listened to their customers in the first place. Marka Hansen, the President of Gap North America admitted yesterday: “We did not go about this in the right way.”

What they should have done is ask the customer first of all. It is so quick and easy to gage a reaction via social networks. It is also very cheap, so really there is no excuse to find out what they want and what they like.

In an interview with the Independent Tom Blackett, the chairman of branding group Siegel+Gale UK, said: “This showed they did no research at all before releasing the new logo. The users of these sites are exactly Gap’s target audience.”

He added: “Gap does need to change things, but what possessed it to swap a design classic for something so bland? People would have liked it, if the logo was creative or dramatically different.”

What is interesting is that Gap does recognise that they need change but perhaps instead of doing something really drastic they chose to do a little PR stunt. To be fair this certainly got them a hell of a lot of publicity. How often in the last year have you found yourself talking about Gap on Twitter and Facebook? Didn’t think so. No one has really been hurt in this exercise, Gap has received a lot of publicity but has also realised that there are a surprising amount of people out there who do actually care about them.

Most of all they have learnt, as have all companies who’ve been taking note, that listening to feedback is paramount. Social networks allow customers to feel they have a say in things they like and dislike. If they notice changes being made as a result of them, then they are more likely to be loyal to you in the future.

Learning about your customer via feedback really is invaluable. It means that in the future you are able to make more informed decisions about what they want and what they require. Any company who believes they use social media just as a show, are wrong, it is helpful for developing the brand, increasing customers and providing more positive feedback. What’s more is that you know the feedback is relevant to you. These people are not just those from a random survey but those who feel passionately about a topic and who, thanks to social media, can express themselves quickly and freely and get what they want.

Remember the customer is always right! So listen to them! Although Gap has come out of this relatively unscathed, we could have had another Tropicana situation on our hands and that would have been even less pretty then the new Gap logo.

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