There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “There is no such thing as bad publicity – all publicity is good publicity”. Hmm, should product managers really believe this? A good case study may have just happened over at the Gap. They decided to redesign their logo, and it went over like a lead balloon. What can we product managers learn from their fiasco?
What The Gap Did (and Undid)
So the product managers over at the Gap decided that their old company logo was getting too, what else?, “old”. They wanted to freshen it up. They went out and had a new logo designed. Now in their defense, the new logo did keep the same color scheme as the previous logo, but it used a different font and basically looked very different.
When they unveiled their new logo, I’m not sure what they were expecting to have happen. However, what did happen was unmistakable – lots and lots of negative feedback showed up right off the bat. Not just negative comments being posted online, but folks going so far as to set up Twitter accounts to play the role of the new logo and people designing creative web sites so that they could show how much they disliked the new logo.
The product managers at Gap did what probably most of us would have done in this case: they tried to make the best of a bad situation. They used social media to reach out to the online angry masses and asked for their inputs. However, that didn’t quell the anger at the new logo and so just a mere four days after introducing it, the new logo got pulled and was replaced by the old, much more familiar logo.
What The Study Tells Us
Oops, looks like the product managers at the Gap screwed up. So what’s there for the rest of us to learn here? Rob Walker over at the New York Times observed all of this backlash going on and wondered if there might be an upside to it.
Specifically, there is that old saying that “…any publicity is good, even bad publicity…” Walker wondered if this might apply to the Gap’s logo fiasco. It turns out that Dr. Jonah Berger has been looking into this very question.
What the research has shown is that if a brand or product is very familiar before the negative publicity happened, then the negative publicity will hurt it. However, if the brand or product was not well known before the negative publicity happened, then (here’s the strange part) will actually help it – boost sales, boost awareness.
What The Impact Of Side Effects Are
As amazing as Dr. Berger’s findings are, there’s more! Dr. Berger and his research team have gone a step further and taken a look at a closely related, but not exactly the same, issue. The product manager question that they looked at was what happens if some part of a brand that has nothing to do with your product directly, but is in some way linked to it, receives negative publicity? What’s the impact?
Walker found some great examples when he pointed out that Michael Jackson’s album sales actually went up when he was having legal troubles. Similarly, sales of Sienfeld DVDs went up when one of the show’s stars Michael Richards got in trouble for things that he said during a show at a comedy club.
What all of this means for product managers is that yes indeed, negative publicity can be a good thing for your product. It turns out that the more indirect the negative publicity is, the bigger boost it may have for your product. When it comes to the Gap, their product managers may find that the logo incident may actually end up helping them sell more clothes!
What All Of This Means For You
The Gap’s decision to roll out a redesigned logo may have seemed like a good idea; however, it quickly met with strong negative feedback from the public. Is any kind of publicity, including negative publicity, good for a brand?
Studies have shown that negative publicity can help an unknown brand burst into the spotlight. However, it can harm a brand that is already well known. When the negativity is associated with something that is just remotely linked to the brand, then it turn out to be a positive because potential customers will link the event to the brand and will remember the brand more easily.
Although it would probably be a poor decision for a product manager to set out to generate bad publicity for his / her product, when this type of publicity occurs it may not be the end of the world. Depending on how closely the negative publicity is linked to your product, you may actually see an increase in sales due to it. Smart product managers learn to roll with events as they happen and try to make the most of even negative publicity.
Question For You: Do you think the Gap’s logo redesign was just a publicity stunt, or did they really mean to change it?
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Take a look at your wrist – are you wearing a watch? These days a lot of us have foregone watches because now we have cell phones that seem to always know what time it is. However, there is another group of people who wouldn’t be caught dead without having a watch on. In fact, they insist on wearing very, very expensive watches. When you could run to the nearest drug store and get a perfectly good watch for $10, how the heck do product managers convince some people to pay 10,000x more for a watch?