What ‘Gapgate’ Teaches Us About Branding


In 2010, the major fashion retailer, Gap, rolled out a redesign to their iconic navy blue square logo. The resulting backlash has been coyly dubbed “Gapgate” and serves as a good lesson for brands today: never underestimate the power of a brand logo. 

Let’s go back to the beginning. Gap was founded in 1969 and in the decades to follow, the brand established a global foothold in the clothing retailer category. Gap, Inc. is the parent entity to four major clothing brands: Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Athleta. Fast forward to 2010, Gap, Inc. began experiencing a notable drop in market share across its entire brand portfolio (Forbes, 2015).

As most companies would, Gap decided to take action in attempt to reverse the trend. Their answer—let’s change the logo! On October 6, 2010, Gap unveiled the new design to the public, and chaos ensued. 

This move failed on two major accounts:

1. Don't sell your logo short.

Underestimating the brand horsepower and emotional connection of the original logo was Gap’s first mis-step. Consumers took to social media to express their disapproval of Gap’s new logo shenanigans. In a matter of only 24 hours, one particular blog had over 2,000 negative comments and nearly 14,000 parody logos were created to mock the new design (Williams, 2021). 

2. Don't fix what's not broken.

There are a multitude of good reasons to launch a rebrand, but in Gap’s example, the rebrand was more arbitrary than strategic. What became evident during ‘Gapgate,’ was that the brand did not do its customer homework. In an attempt to solve a downturn in market share, the company guessed that consumers wanted a “modern, sexy, and cool” version of Gap. You could hypothesize that Gap’s drop in market share could have been the result of a boom in online clothing retailers or multi-brand retail chains that have more to offer, but that’s not the point. The point is that you shouldn’t fix what’s not broken, and Gap’s brand positioning wasn’t broken. 

What does this teach us about the importance of brand positioning? When developing a new brand, the single most important consideration is knowing your customer base. Who are they and what do they want? With that in mind, you can brainstorm strong brand names that can authentically represent your brand. When your branding authentically represents who you are, what you stand for, or what you provide to your customers, the connection between your customers and your brand has the potential to be enduring, memorable, and adored.

Forbes, Trefis Team (2015, July 15). Gap Inc is gradually losing its share in the U.S. apparel market to fast-fashion counterparts. Forbes. Retrieved September 10, 2022, from

Williams, A. (2021, December 8). Learning from the gap logo redesign fail. The Branding Journal. Retrieved September 10, 2022, from

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