Recently a retailer’s logo change and the public’s reaction to that change received a lot of mainstream media coverage. You know the one I’m talking about. Uber-retailer GAP changed their iconic logo to one of the most universally despised logos in history. Everyone became an Armchair Brand Strategist overnight and publicly denounced the new design. To their credit, the brain-trust at the GAP quickly changed back to the much-loved logo. Balance and harmony was restored in consumer land. Everyone on a national front got to witness a multi-million dollar bad judgment call.
Another apparel retailer, on a smaller geographical stage, also underwent a logo change as part of a rebranding effort. Belk, a southern regional department store chain, recently dumped their 122 year old logo for one that incorporates sleek, lowercase letters and a more modern font. They also incorporated a new tagline: “Modern. Southern. Style.” This was just the first step in a $70 million rebranding effort. When was the last time Belk rebranded? Over 43 years ago. The reaction seems to be more muted than the outcry to the GAP effort.
I believe the new logo is an improvement—but I wasn’t a fan of the flowing type and curlicue of the old one in the first place. Normally I don’t like logos that only use lowercase letters, there’s something that just seems gimmicky about it, but it doesn’t bother me so much with this one. But I’m not Belk’s primary demographic. My wife, however, is the embodiment of “Modern. Southern. Style” and she’s in the marketing business. I asked her opinion and her reaction was similar to mine except she quickly said “the logo isn’t the problem.” “If they want to appear to be modern they need to have someone who can properly take tried-on items and return them to the racks or shelves from the dressing rooms. Or have an area where customers can leave the clothes they don’t want to purchase. Tried-on clothes just lie about the dressing rooms and it’s a mess. The inside of the stores haven’t changed, just a logo.” The new logo was irrelevant. It all came down to a critical touchpoint that sabotaged the new brand direction.
Marketing officials from Belk have stated that over 300 stores would be re-modeled within the next year. Marketing advice hindsight is 20-20, but maybe they should have unveiled the new logo after the remodeling efforts.