It's been a fun ride over the past couple days. I launched Make Your Own Gap Logo (MYOGL) a few days ago, and it has since gone viral, receiving over 100,000 page views, and almost 10,000 logos made so far. This is the story of a viral news-based app and the frantic journey that launched it.
October 4th, 2010: The News
New hits the wire that Gap is rebranding with a new logo. In a sea of rebranding stories, why did this get so much attention? In short, (1) because Gap hasn't changed their logo in over 40 years, and (2) because the new logo is terrible: Helvetica paired up with a puzzling gradient square, something a first year design student would come up with.
I was in disbelief. Did some intern mess up and leak a joke logo that was being passed around internally at Gap? I even mocked up a version of the logo using only Powerpoint.
October 5th, 2010: The Idea
The Gap logo story is still blowing up. People all over the web are creating parodies and suggesting better versions of the logo. Someone even created the @GapLogo Twitter account.
I remember the distinct moment when I knew that I had to make an app that lets people create and share their own logos. It was around 9pm, and I was sitting on my couch while my fiance was dozing comfortably beside me. I shot up like a bullet the instant the idea culminated. It was one of those ideas that I knew would go viral: (1) it capitalized on a popular news story, (2) people are getting more opinionated about design and logos, and (3) it allows people to be creative and funny at the new logo's expense.
Designing and Building the App
I allowed myself only 2 hours to create the app from start to finish. A restricted time limit would force me to focus on only what was necessary for the app, and to keep it simple and fun. I'm a strong believer in iterating fast and pushing out a minumum viable design.
For the next 2 hours, I worked as fast as humanly possible, cobbling up a quick design in Fireworks and coding it in Rails. The following are some decisions and specs for the MVP:
- It should allow the user to create a logo, and each logo should have a permalink that is easily shareable.
- The generated logo should look very similar to the new Gap logo. With the word "Gap", it should be indistinguishable from the original.
- The site should include Facebook and Twitter buttons.
- It doesn't have to generate an image. (in short, I just didn't want to deal with ImageMagick. The logo is so simple that it's trivial to create an HTML version of it.)
- The user should be able to edit the logo and create it inline as soon as they hit the homepage.
- The site doesn't have to make money, it's just for fun. So, focus on the fun.
By midnight, I had a functional version up and running, and I pushed out to the new domain.
Marketing the App
I knew that I didn't have to market my app too strongly, because as soon as a handful of users shared their logos, I knew it would take off. What I did was identify all the bloggers that mentioned the Gap redesign and email them the site, and also left a comment on their blog post with the site.
At around 2am, I decided to call it a night, and climbed into my bed and promptly woke up my fiance to show her the site. She thought I was crazy.
October 6th, 2010: Virality
I woke up with a start at about 8:30am. I install Chartbeat on all my apps (it's the best way to keep a pulse on quickly changing traffic patterns). The first thing I did was grab my iPad and check Chartbeat, and saw only about 5 concurrent users on MYOGL. So, I decided to doze off for another 15 minutes.
After dozing, I checked Chartbeat again. Now it was at about 11 users. I kept staring at it, and suddenly it jumped to 23, then 33. 30 seconds later, it was at 70, with the majority of referrals coming from Facebook and Twitter. This was it!
I literally ran downstairs to my laptop to keep checking on the progress. 30 minutes later, I was seeing about 200 concurrent users, and the Tweets about MYOGL were coming at about one every 3 seconds. Facebook and Twitter's referrals dwarfed all the blogs that covered my app, proving that this app was driven all by virality (one of the my first to actually be a purely viral app).
For the most part the app was done: I didn't need to add anything to it, and it drove its own virality. I kept a pulse on the traffic for the rest of the day, and it peaked at about 700 concurrent users in Chartbeat.
Funny enough, there was another app called Crap Logo that also let users create their own Gap parody logos (theres is image based). We both launch at about the same time, but it seemed like they had a slight headstart in hitting virality.
The next night, I added a few more features to the site: a Top page (that shows the most popular logos made) and a Random button. The Random button proved to be very sticky.
I even had a hair brained scheme to monetize the site by selling Tshirts with parody logos using Zazzle, but that didn't work.
The first day saw about 100,000 pageviews, with about 20,000 visitors. Over 6000 logos were created, and the Top page really did reflect the collective sentiment of what people thought. The Top logo created is "Crap."
I even got mentioned on a Forbes Blog article about the Gap redesign.
So why did this app take off? I think that it involved the following factors:
- The news was big. People hated the new logo.
- The general public is becoming more design conscious, especially about logos and rebranding. People love to give their opinions on designs, more now than at any time in the past.
- The app was fun, and gave users a feeling of creating their own parody. People love to share the clever things they come up with, and this app was all about that.
- The Facebook Like button was key. Most of my traffic was from Facebook. A blog even mentioned the fact that another designer "liked" the app as a point of interest.
- The app was launched fast. If I had waited even a half a day longer to push it out, I don't think it would have gone as viral as it did.
All in all, I had a blast launching this fun little app. I view it almost more as an art piece that crowdsourced people's sentiments about a newsworthy topic. For now, I'm calling the app a success and leaving it as that.
I did, however, throw a Google ad on the site, and it's looking like it'll pay for a few Gap shirts a month.