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New media lessons from the Gap logo fiasco

The Gap recently learned the painful lesson of today’s new media world: It is fast and furious. Following consumer outcry in social media channels, the brand reversed its proposed logo change. Many questions arise from this: Did this $3 billion dollar corporation spend the same time on their brand as they would changing a supply chain element? Did the corporation review and test the logo enough to not change it back simply on a whim? Many unanswered questions will harm the brand, regardless of their move back to the original logo.

One wonders, did Gap underestimate the immediacy of social media impact, and fail to understand that today, everyone has a voice, and everyone is counted. Today’s media tools mean brands must become accustomed to a rolling press conference, and just as they need to manage reporters, so too must they manage online social media elements. The days of breaking an exclusive with one outlet are well behind us.

Social media today is open forum for questions to be asked, and issues to be raised, and clearly speaking, they did. Did the ad executives (both on the agency and in-house side) speak to any actual consumers? People will always comment on the new and Gap should have recognized and proactively managed that process online. Will retailer now go in and comment on every single criticism of blog posts that exists?

In a brand’s shelf life, it is vital to make milestone “stops” along the path and consider strategies, requiring budget, effort and C-suite attention. Such milestones should include periodic research efforts, focus groups, Q-sort research, case studies and surveys — diverse manners to analyze and evaluate campaigns and PR plans. The input you receive through these initiatives is invaluable and can sometimes set the divide between a successful campaign and total failure. Social media today is vital for brands to interact with consumers and to listen to consumers.

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Brands today with the proper tools in place have even figured out how to generate sales from social media. But one wonders, without tools in place, do brands such as the Gap even know if it’s their consumer they are talking to online?

Perhaps the lesson can be that Gap feared its new logo would lead to drastically reduced sales as Tropicana experienced a few years ago, or maybe the lesson is the speed: What took 2 months only a few years ago, takes a week now.

Gap isn’t the first company to deal with the online social media crisis, and they won’t be the last. The question is: Will other brands react, pay more attention, and contribute more time and money to the arena, and not make similar mistakes?

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder & Chairman of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently owned PR firms in the United States. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth and vision, with the agency earning accolades including being named a Top 50 Global PR Agency by PRovoke Media, a top three NYC PR agency by O'Dwyers, one of Inc. Magazine's Best Workplaces and being awarded multiple American Business Awards, including a Stevie Award for PR Agency of the Year. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected public relations executives. Throughout his career he has advised leading and high-growth businesses, organizations, leaders and boards across corporate, technology and consumer industries. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications. He has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly in the media and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. Torossian's strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, a Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a recipient of Crain's New York Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Outside of 5W, Torossian serves as a business advisor to and investor in multiple early stage businesses across the media, B2B and B2C landscape. Torossian is the proud father of two daughters. He is an active member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of multiple not for profit organizations.