According to my court appointed therapist, struggling with self-image can lead to a slew of psychological health problems. So get the straight jackets ready for J.C. Penney and Gap, two retail clothing companies that haven’t always been happy with what they see in the mirror. In the last few years, both companies have blatantly failed at reinventing their brand, and in the process, their logos.
While rebranding and logo redesign can be an effective way to cleanse a company’s image and deploy new business strategies, it leads to negative outcomes when executed poorly. And although a logo is only part of the rebranding process, it’s an important part. Often times it’s the first interaction customers have with a company and should be aimed to introduce the objectives of the brand. The real risk comes when rebranding an established company. If an established company changes a logo they have used for more than 20 years, it better be perfection.
Gap, Inc. showed adverse behavior in 2010 when they launched a trendy new logo to accompany their newly renovated retail stores. The plain black Helvetica type accented by a small blue gradient square looked more like an acquisition by American Apparel than a makeover for the Gap brand. Within a week, the company came to its senses and returned to the iconic navy blue logo that had identified them since 1986. In this case, Gap, Inc. made a swift recovery by backpedaling, but it was a good move. And thanks to rapid action they were able to shift their efforts back to where it was needed—the impossible task of making khakis cool.
J.C. Penney’s behavior has been more detrimental than Gap’s. In 2011, they redesigned their logo to the 3 lowercase letters “jcp” inside of a red square and said they would offer exclusive new clothing lines. Nothing about the color or the lowercase logotype supported their desired image of exclusivity and sales went down. Rebranding again in 2012, they shoved “jcp” into a blue square and crammed that into the top left of a red box. The company explained that the faint allusion toward the U.S. flag was to fortify their image as an all-American brand, but it seems more like a cover up of their overseas manufacturers. And the square does reiterate their new “fair and square” core value, but the “jcp” in the corner throws the balance of the logo off and makes the letters quite small in comparison. jcp hopes their radical new business plan will solve their incessant shortcomings, but only time will tell.
Rebranding is not to be taken lightly, especially by established companies. And logo design deserves just as much attention as new business plans and marketing schemes. In the case of Gap, their quest to outdo an already iconic logo fell very short and the public let them know quickly. And jcp’s annual makeover has only lead to confusion and lower earnings. When undergoing a company rebrand, make sure all your materials are aligned properly and a consistent message is perceptible across all of your content.