It's generally assumed that the logo and branding a company chooses is exactly that - their choice. If a company wants to rebrand or change its image, all it has to do is set the course for the changes, hire a design and marketing company (or direct its own designers), do some work to select the new branding vision, and figure out how best to roll out the new brand, right?
It used to be almost that simple, but that reality is quickly becoming a thing of the past. That's because today, thanks to "the hammer" of social media and the internet, customers have more interaction with and influence over the brand and company than ever before. In other words, increasingly, the Brand (and company) must receive from the public a "Social License to Operate." [There's a great article on the "Social License to Operate" found here.]
A good illustration of this phenomenon happened a couple of years ago to Gap, the iconic clothing maker.
Gap had decided that their brand needed to be refreshed in order to fit where the company felt it was going in the future, and internally made the choice to drop the simple, lettered Gap logo we all know well. So, they set about the usual process of a redesign, and after a couple of years of work and quite a bit of money, it was time for the release. They even thought they'd engage customers by sharing the new design on the website and through other social channels first, and then roll it out in stores and on packaging, labels and the like. This method of release was wise, but not for the reasons Gap expected.
Many customers hated the new logo and branding, and in the age of online interaction, they did not simply accept the corporate changes because they still liked and wore Gap products. Instead, they commented, wrote blogs, and caused an online uproar. There were anti-Gap logo campaigns on social media, and even a "design your own Gap logo" website that cataloged thousands of parody versions. The din from unhappy customers was so loud that Gap quickly stopped its rebrand, lesson learned. You can read more about this in some good articles here, here and here.
The "digital disturbance" created by social media and the internet is a powerful thing in the hands of the customer. They can now exert more influence over a company's Purpose and Brand than ever. Companies that recognize this will quickly learn to "Mind the Gap" between their actions and customer expectations for all areas of their business - from simple branding (like Gap) to Purpose, activities, social impact and the list goes on. As a result, truthfulness, character and Authenticity will be essential for the successful company in this new paradigm.
Do you think the digital disturbance and the accompanying marketplace paradigm shift are positive developments? Why or why not?