Neuroscience market research company NeuroFocus claims to have discovered the reasoning for the consumer backlash to the short-lived Gap logo. In a paper released today, NeuroFocus says the new logo failed to resonate with consumers on key metrics like attention, emotional engagement and memory retention.

Using brainwave activity measurements, NeuroFocus concluded that the new logo did not score impressive reactions for ‘novelty’ (something new and different) and ‘style’ attributes from the sample.

“Our counsel to companies is: when there is a redesign of a brand, an identity, a logo, a proposition, a tagline, a package or a product feature, such a design must deliver a scientifically significant and substantive change in the novelty metric,” said DrA. K. Pradeep, chief executive officer of NeuroFocus. “In this instance, Gap’s new logo failed to do that. Our recommendation would have been: without a significant increase in novelty, this redesign will not succeed.”

Pradeep says Gap also lost “critical ground at the deep subconscious level” for style.

“For a retail apparel marketer seeking to reach and motivate their target audience, this loss of brand value in the ‘stylish’ category marks a major cause for concern.”

NeuroFocus also recognised that the new design violated six basic neurological best practices. Dr A.K. Pradeep evaluated the new Gap logo against best practices…

· Overlays equal overlooked: Neuroscience research reveals that when words overlay images, the brain tends to ignore or overlook the word in favour of focusing on the image. “In the new logo, the ‘p’ superimposed over the blue square is essentially bypassed by the brain; the brain tends to ignore the word in favor of the image,” Pradeep says. “Not a good thing when that’s your brand name.”

· Sharp edges unsettle the subconscious: “Forcing the brain to view a sharply-angled box behind the letter ‘p’ provokes what neuroscience calls an ‘avoidance response’. The hard line cuts into the rounded shape of the letter. We are hard-wired to avoid sharp edges – in nature, they can present a threat. Our so-called modern brains are actually 100,000 years old, and they retain this primordial reaction.”

· Interesting fonts work: Neuroscience research has shown that the subconscious prefers fonts that are a little unusual. Gap’s original typeface was just different enough that it tended to stand out to the brain amidst the clutter of other corporate IDs.

· High/low contrast: “The original logo presented the brand name in sharp, strong contrast – white letters ‘pop’ against the blue background, and the brain loves pop-outs,” Pradeep says. “Conversely, the new logo has the ‘p’ losing that contrast against the blue box. Again, the brain simply tends not to register the letter well as a result.”

· Stronger semantic content: “In the new version, the capitalized ‘G’ followed by the lower case ‘a’ and ‘p’ cause the brain to read the three letters as part of a word, and therefore seek semantic content. In the original execution, all three letters are capitalized, making them more logo-like than word-like, which is what you want for a logo,” and

· Lost legacy: “The Gap sells a lot more than just blue jeans today, but relegating the blue of the original logo to minor ‘legacy’ status in the new version loses that essential connection in the consumer’s subconscious to the brand’s core origins. We always emphasize to companies: depict your source. When it comes to products, the brain seeks to know from whence you came. Instead of honoring their past, unfortunately the Gap relegated that past to lower relevance.”

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