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Neuroscience Explains Why We Hated Gap's New Logo

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Redesigning a familiar logo is risky business. Rarely do the pleasing aesthetics of the original logo survive the process, and often we're left with a strange, mutant image -- one that might exist if the company existed in an alternate universe. The logos to Tropicana, Pepsi, and Kraft underwent disastrous makeovers that displeased customers, whereas the new Toys R Us, MSNBC, Business Week, and Dolby logos were each arguably an upgrade.

But like the awful choices made in the Tropicana redesign, Gap wasted millions of dollars by foisting a new look on customers, the public complained, and the company was forced to revert to the old design.

After the very public gaffe, Gap president Marka Hansen released the following statement: "We've learned a lot in this process. And we are clear that we did not go about this in the right way. We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community. This wasn't the right project at the right time for crowd sourcing."

Of course, the marketing team probably tried to save face by claiming "people don't like change." Far from it.

From a personal standpoint, the cheap gradient box next to the black on white lettering was too garish. Compared to the older logo, Gap now seemed like a tacky dollar store. Beyond that, it made the company appear as if it manufactured copy machines rather than affordable slacks.

But it's not just personal taste. According to the neuromarketing company NeuroFocus, there's actual brain chemistry at work when a person rejects poor advertising. NewScientist reported the group used EEG and eye-tracking techniques in a series of tests to gauge volunteers' response to the new Gap logo. Here were their results:

1. Overlapping the letter "p" with the blue square means that the word is ignored while the brain selectively processes the image. In other words, the distracting blue cube makes the reader miss the all-important brand name.

2. Our brains, being hard-wired to avoid sharp edges, react negatively to the sharp edges of the blue cube cutting into the round curve of the letter "p".

3. The font used in the new logo isn't different enough to what we're used to seeing on a day-to-day basis, so it's not processed as novel.

4. While in the old logo the white letters "popped" against the blue background, the contrast is lost for the black "p" against the blue square in the new logo. We're inclined to pay less attention to it as a result.

5. By having the last letters of the word in lower case, the brain is prompted to look for a semantic meaning in the word. Advertising is more successful when a series of letters is uniform, and easier to process as a logo.

6. The new logo was too different to the old, established logo, making it hard for existing customers to attach what they already know about the brand to the new logo.

And although the reason wasn't listed, it goes without saying that consumers also object to tens of millions of dollars wasted on rebranding.
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