By now most of you will have seen the recent furore surrounding GAP attempted re-brand and how quickly they retracted it following an outrage online.

Clearly GAP joins the inauspicious club of recent ‘bodged rebrand campaigns’ along with iSnack 2.0. However, what I’d like to highlight in this post is what GAP did right, and what it can teach other brands in how to handle the delicate subject of rebrands.

The first thing GAP did right was they let online lead the rebrand. Still in business, digital is seen as the ‘poorer sibling’, with offline taking the lion’s share of time, effort and budget and online treated as an afterthought.

However, for most consumers the website is the main touching point they have with the brand. It’s the first place they visit when they want to find out about product range, store locations, company policies, services and pricing. It’s the first place they go when they want to complain. The website is the only store your customers can visit every day, no matter where they are, and no matter what time it is.

GAP realised this and let online lead the rebrand before committing millions in store fit-outs and TVCs with a new brand that everyone hated. I would go a step further however, and say that online shouldn’t just lead the rebrand strategically, but that in fact you should rebrand for online with offline as an afterthought.

The web is a far less forgiving place, with colour, usability, accessibility and other considerations complicating design and branding. Getting it right offline once online is in place is much, much easier than the other way round.

The second thing they did really, really right was they listened, and then they changed things. Quickly. Clients we work with often hesitate to get too involved in social media as they are concerned it will open up a barrage of negative feedback in a public place. However, GAP’s rebrand is a classic example of the fact that people will say it anyway, giving them a platform means you can do something about it. GAP paid attention to what their customers were saying and, very publicly did something about it.

And that cannot be underestimated too. Having the cajonés to revert back to the old logo, then come out in public and admit they got it wrong is pretty brave and displays a real respect for their customer base.

Admittedly, they did flirt with a really disastrous crowd-sourcing idea for about a day, but that was quickly shelved in favour of a proper response and tactical withdrawal. Social media is for listening and engaging with customers, and GAP have done that brilliantly here and deserve credit.

All in all this was certainly a rebrand #Fail but nonetheless, something of a PR triumph in terms of averting a costly and irreversible disaster. In fact, according to social media monitor ‘Marketing Sentinel’, GAP’s Facebook page sentiment has actually dramatically increased as a result of the whole affair. Brands should take note and put online at the head of their brand strategy, it’s much cheaper and easier to put right when you get it wrong!