Ann Taylor LOFT employee

Although social media began as a way to stay in touch with friends, it has evolved into a unique tool used by many companies as a way to stay “in touch” with its customers. One way it’s being used is to market and brand their products and enjoy the immediate feedback consumers are able to provide. This blogger says it best: “Your social media can provide a snapshot of what your entire target market may think,” which can create a valuable idea or end a potentially disastrous one.

For example, take Gap’s decision last year to change their logo after 20 years. It probably seemed like a harmless idea, but no one could have fathomed the reactions it would garner from the public. Customers were outraged.  Gap responded immediately and decided to open a contest where customers could create their own version logo, but this attempt at a crowdsourcing solution did not work.

Where do you go from here? Back to the original logo! “We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback. We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers,” the company said.

How did Gap allow social media to influence their decision to go back to the original logo? They listened to the consumer. Initially, the idea to change the logo made sense; the brand was evolving into a newer, more modern line of clothing and they wanted a logo to match. However, this logic was never expressed to the consumer, which ultimately made the change seem unnecessary.

Once consumers began to bash the new logo on social networks, Gap leveraged the platform for a solution, proving to the consumer that they valued and trusted their opinion. In the end, the company saved a lot of money by not launching a rebranding campaign in their stores or through expensive advertising.

But what happens when you don’t change anything about your brand and still receive negative feedback? Ask Ann Taylor’s LOFT. Last year, the LOFT promoted their new silk cargo pants pictured as worn by a professional fashion model. They did nothing out of the ordinary in the presentation of the pants – most designers use tall thin models to show off their clothes

However, customers found this particular case to be a problem. And if it’s an issue to the customer, it’s an issue for the company. They felt like the pants were only flattering on models and not realistic for the everyday woman whose dress sizes range from 12 to 14, which is a far cry from the size 0 to 4 models in fashion photos.

One Facebook user wrote, “Hey, got the email about the ‘new favorite pant’, the drapey silk cargo. Can you show how to style these for different body types (using real models, or fan pictures if possible). I have my doubts that these will look flattering on anyone other than the model!”

The next day, the LOFT posted pictures of their staff wearing the pants. The staff, ranging from short to tall and sizes 2 to12, served as excellent models, each showcasing their way of rocking the pants. Customers were delighted and e-commerce sales increased for the fashion retailer. Other retailers have since copied this formula.

What do these two examples teach us about social media and branding?

  1. Social media is in your face. The instantaneous nature of social media has a dual purpose in that it allows companies to quickly respond to customers, who are also able to provide instant feedback that can help companies end terrible ideas and inspire new ones. But this only works if the company is listening.
  2. Social media can build trust. Companies must put their faith in what their customers tell them and do their best to meet the customers’ standards. This can have lasting benefits.
  3. Social media is an excellent crisis communication tool. It allows them to communicate openly and directly with customers and show how they took immediate action to solve a problem.

As social media continues to evolve, so will its relationship with businesses and customers. If it’s done right, it means you’ll see bottom line results.

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