There once was a print man in Leeds
Who was the type that every biz needs
After Gap made its gaffe
He said the logo so naff
Was deliberate, not a silly misdeed

Apologies for the doggerel – and for everyone who is wondering what this limerick refers to, and what on earth it has to do with employee engagement, which is the subject of this blog.

If you want to know more, then first, check out what the print man from Leeds has to say about the Gap logo brou-ha-ha by clicking here (FT letter) and then come back and finish reading this blog post.

If you don’t know what the Gap logo affair was all about, then here is the story (Gap abandons logo overhaul).

So I’ve read quite a bit about the Gap logo gaffe and what it says about society, how people engage with brands, how powerful customers have become, how wonderful social media can be in empowering ordinary people to make companies change.

There aren’t very many social media gurus and commentators (and let me tell you, they are pretty numerous) who haven’t talked about this one.

And I can’t help but wonder about all those Gap employees and their attitudes around this whole saga. What do they think, how do they feel? What’s their point of view? Don’t they count?

Are they privately amused that those clever know-it-all management types at head office, advised by all the best branding consultants in the world, couldn’t leave well alone and made such a huge and public mistake?

After all, recent research shows that 40% of employees admit they moan about their boss and employer on social media, so the kind of derision which was poured on Gap by customers online could easily have been replicated by disaffected employees.

Are they embarrassed? If they go to a party and say they work for Gap, do they inwardly groan when people mention THE LOGO episode? And what does this do for engagement? Does it make them think about applying to Uniqlo?

Who knows. Indeed, did anyone ask? Were employees consulted? I very much doubt it.

How powerful would it have been if the barrage of criticism from customers had been neutralised by a stream of positive, supportive commentary from employees, saying actually, we like this logo. It suits us. We think this represents our brand and our people. This is why we’re doing it. This is why we’re the good guys. This is why this is the right logo for us today, and why we’re behind it.

Instead, there was a mumbled apology and retreat delivered by a management type in marketing. If there was any employee rebuttal, it didn’t get as much visibility as the critique.

Now of course, it’s just possible that the print man from Leeds is right when he says that he cannot believe that a company as big and well known as Gap could make what seems (after the fact) like such a basic marketing and communications mistake. That the whole thing was a deliberate ploy. Though I disagree.

The truth is that this new media world is perplexing businesses and their advisors alike. They don’t know what to do with it. And it doesn’t surprise me in the least that Gap has become the latest victim of its power.

In fact, big brands like Gap will see it primarily as just a new channel. Just another place for another campaign.

They don’t get that dealing with social media requires a paradigm shift in the business which starts with better employee engagement.

Because if social media is a place where people with strong views can use ‘crowd-sourcing’ to criticise business and impact corporate behaviour, then businesses could and arguably should be engaging employees so they can respond with a bit of crowd-sourcing of their own.

Employees can do more than their job description. They can be advocates, they can fight back.

But only if they see a battle worth fighting. Only if they feel they’re part of a team that they’re proud of, that they want to bat for.

This is true engagement. It’s not salary, it’s not presentations, it’s not even communications.

It’s fundamentally buying in and aligning one’s future welfare with the success of the business we work for.

This is something few employees feel. But it’s surely what most employees want.

I’m guessing the folks at John Lewis probably do. In fact, I remember when they got criticised in a major report on supermarketing for being expensive, the grocer for snobs.

And I saw employees get online and respond to those articles, putting the record straight. Maybe they were told to do so, maybe they did it because they wanted to. I have no idea. But there they were.

And it made all the difference.