The Gap has a new logo. Logos are an interesting element. Some people try to read into a logo all the things a brand stands for. Prudential’s logo has a rock which communicates safety and stability. But then the golden arches stand for –well the golden arches; or is that an “M?” Perhaps the most important thing for a logo is to be distinctive and recognizable. Why? Well our brain tends to work on two levels. Sort like a camera. There is the automatic level, just point and shoot; and there is the fully manual level where we adjust and concentrate and calculate. Logos must work on the point and shoot level. When seeing an ad, a store or a package on the shelf, the logo is the quick reminder of which brand this is.
I recall doing ethnographic research for a yogurt company once and we were interested in the cues people took from the elements on the package. So we found heavy users and asked them about what elements were on the package of the cup of yogurt that they bought every week. Not surprisingly we received little feedback –”Well, it’s white and I think there is some blue.” But, we asked, “Is there a cow?” “Well, I don’t remember” was the common answer. Logos are symbols; they stand for something beyond their own characteristics. The golden arches are more than golden arches. They are about fun, family and food. Not because the logo says so, but because we have come to associate them with those characteristics through our experiences and the companies advertising. Logos provide momentary flashes of recognition –”yes, this is my brand.”
All this is not to say that the font, colors design and spacing do not communicate emotional values that are important to the brand. They do. Sophistication, ruggedness, competence, sincerity, out-dated, retro, elegance, daring are a few of the types of perceptions that logos can help communicate.
And that brings us back to the new Gap logo. My problem with the logo is that it is not very distinctive. It seems bland and totally unmemorable. What is there to remember except the name itself? To paraphrase an old ad campaign, where’s the swoosh?