Gap Logo Fiasco Spawns Twitter Parody Accounts

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Earlier this week, Gap unveiled a new logo on its website. Gone were the white letters on a blue background. In their place was an oddly amateurish effort that looks like a placeholder for a B2B e-commerce startup in stealth mode, or as a designer put it, "like somebody took Microsoft's PowerPoint and kind of did it in five minutes flat."

Long-time brand adherents were appalled. And emerging from the PR wreckage came two new Twitter accounts, both created within hours of the logo's unveiling: @GapLogo and @OldGapLogo. Both Tweet as the voices of the respective logos. No, really.

The new logo says things like, "Lego, the office pitbull, has been staring at the logo since yesterday afternoon. I think he's finally seeing unicorns. Someone alert R&D." The old logo says things like, "Laying low. Weekend in NYC with other tasteful classic logos" and tweets links to the Harvard Business Review. The accounts even seemed to have spawned a third one, @JennatheIntern, who (the joke goes) just cries a lot.

@GapLogo already has thousands of followers, and Gap's PR people were forced to tell Ad Age that they were "tracking" the parody accounts. It's a little reminiscent of @BPGlobalPR's brilliant and profane skewering of BP's efforts in the Gulf, though less savage and serious.

We live in odd times. It used to be that creating whole constellations of imaginary characters with distinctive voices was reserved for schizophrenics, novelists and difficult Portugese poets like Fernando Pessoa. When I see these Twitter personae, Pessoa's "heteronyms," his dozens of interrelated characters, spring to mind (although I'm sure he'd be horrified at that).

But that was a whole different kind of project. What's the offline corollary for the Twitter parody plays? Is there one?

Or as @OldGapLogo unintentionally posed the deeper question in goading Gap corporate: "@gap I'm a twitter account for a logo and people are writing me to tell me they love me. What's that tell you?"

Beats me.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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