You're a Brand.
You've established a loyal fan and follower base.
You're identity is magnetic.
You and your followers and fans are bound by a special connection.
Then overnight, you decide that something about your brand is old and stale
Something about your identity needs changing.
So you change something.
Fan and follower backlash ensues.
The blacklash is overwhelming you.
So you change your identity back to what everyone was used to.
Like the Gap, who recently decided that one of the most symbolic and prominent attributes of their brand identity needed updating (their logo), you may be facing a critical point in your career where you've decided to change something about your look, personality, artistic style, etc; something that changes how others perceive and identify you. Here are a few tips to help you make (or not make) this transition.
Don't be afraid - I applaud Gap for taking the plunge into something so new and drastic. One of the attributes that make a great artist is the ability to dissuade fear; to pursue a passion with boldness and vigor. When you are looking to make a change, the worst thing that you can do is question whether everyone will like it. Of course some people are go to hate it. And its undeniable that you may have to justify the change to those who may hold influence over your brand. Be sure that you understand why you're making the change. Is this change helping you or necessary for you to grow and expand physically/emotionally/socially/psychologically/spiritually.
Do it for the right reasons - I'm sure Gap had plenty of reasons why their logo needed updating. Why are you changing? If you feel that you may get that big break if you just made that small change – you may be sorely disappointed. Before making any major changes to your brand identity, turn to your game plan. Check if these changes align with your strategic goal and objectives. Are they going to help you grow and reach your goal faster/more efficiently?
Ask your close advisors for guidance - Its likely that Gap did their due diligence in consulting internally, as well as with a firm to make the difficult decision to change their logo. In consulting, I always tell my clients that they should have a select group of advisors (their own personal board) that they trust to help them make the hard choices even when they go against the grain. These are the persons that you should turn to before changing any part of your brand identity. Ask for their honest opinion and be ready to for an honest answer.
Take the temperature of your followers and fans - Many people feel that Gap missed the boat here; they may have avoided the backlash (and money spent on designing a new logo) if they would have just taken the temperature of their fans and followers, towards the change. Even if you're just starting out in your career, you have fans and followers. Take a poll. For example, if you're a hard rock band considering going acoustic – record one of your hard rock songs acoustically and share it with your fan base. You may be surprised at the response.
Follow trends, but don't be a slave to them – In a statement to the press, Gap said that one of the reasons that they wanted to change up their logo was because it was old. What they soon learned was that old doesn't mean irrelevant. If you're feeling that a part of your brand identity is holding you back from reaching your goal and that it may be losing its "trendy factor" then, by all means, consider changing it. However, if staying in line with trends is your main driver, you may find yourself having to change your brand identity season over season.
Search for the silver lining – Although Gap suffered backlash from their fans and follows and had to make the decision to revert back to their famous logo, what they ultimately discovered is how many people LOVE the Gap and are willing to raise their voice and fight for the safekeeping of its identity. This may sound a bit sentimental, but really, people were fighting to maintain that special connection – magnetism – relationship. If your fans/followers have a special connection with your brand, don't break the bond. And if you absolutely must, do it gently, slowly and with caution.