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Rule #1: Lead Decisively

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Earlier this month, the New York Daily News (and everyone else) reported on The Gap’s launch of a new logo. The company’s announcement was followed by a firestorm of criticism on FaceBook, Twitter, and everywhere else a few people could create a mob mentality among people with too much time on their hands.

Aside from the fact that the protesters would have been better off investing time improving their own brands instead of criticizing someone else’s, I think The Gap’s leadership made a mistake by reverting back to the old logo.People don’t like or dislike the Gap’s logo because of the logo. They like or dislike the logo because of the clothes. If customers respond negatively to a new line of Gap clothing because it’s ugly or falls apart at the seams, that’s one thing. But here, a few people with nothing better to do enjoyed 15 minutes of fame by creating an online mob of people who didn’t like the company’s choice for a new logo. And the company’s leadership caved, ditching their responsibility to boldly introduce their brand to a new generation of fans.

A logo is a company’s very identity. While people might initially respond negatively, if a company’s leaders sincerely respond to customer concerns, they do not also have to abdicate their leadership role.

I have had experience in this area, having changed the INDIE log0 and name twice since 2000. (You can read a bit out those changes here.) Each time, I received feedback from people who did not like the new color, size, orientation, or whatever. And each time, I expressed appreciation for their concerns, re-explained the reasons for the change, and kept leading my company into the future. After a few months, people forgot what the old brand looked like.

Here are some of the things you may wish to consider if you ever change your brand:

  1. Lead decisively. The hallmark of an effective leader is the ability to make tough decisions and stick when them, even when criticized. As the leader of your brand, you are tasked with the tough job of crafting the direction of your company. If you back down every time a customer criticizes a new logo, new website, color choice, or label change, you demonstrate lack of decisiveness and abdicate your leadership responsibility.

  2. Control your brand. If you’re INDIE, you created your brand, you launched your brand, and today, you control your brand. You are the one who decides where it goes and where it doesn’t go. While your customers’s opinions are important, they are not equally important with regard to every aspect of your business.

    People generally do not like change. They often respond negatively to it, especially if it is unexpected. But when you change your brand, and you have good reasons for doing so, their significance does not also mean that the best thing for the company is changing your mind in response to their criticism.

    While customers generally see the here and now, your job as a leader is to see the future. Your branding decisions must be made on a careful assessment of both, not customers’s opinions based on what little they can see of your future plans.

  3. Get help if you need it. If you have any doubt about the direction you want to lead your company, consult trusted colleagues and advisors before making big decisions like changing logos. If you are part of a MasterMind group, this is the perfect discussion to have with the group. Your close advisors and coaches are also good resources.

    If you are a member of IBN, you can raise your concerns amongst other professionals in our private networking site where like-minded INDIE Business leaders share ideas and offer insights you might not otherwise think of.

    After all, none of us as as smart as all of us!

Questions: What do you think of The Gap’s leaders decision to revert to the old logo?

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