Years of competing with younger, hipper retail rivals have left Gap (NYSE: GPS) suffering from a seriously tarnished image. A recent uproar over its new logo -- now its quickly retired new logo -- provides the latest case study in how not to reinvigorate a flagging brand.

Last week, the venerable retailer's launch of a bland, simplistic new logo triggered an Internet swarm of acidic mockery. As the folks at Brandchannel said, "Yes, after dominating the late 1990s and early 2000s, Gap has dropped its iconic logo in favor of something that looks like it cost $17 from an old Microsoft Word clipart gallery." Ouch.

Worse, Twitter parody accounts (like the ones that plagued BP (NYSE: BP) after its disastrous Gulf spill) cropped up to further lampoon Gap's new logo. The old adage that "all publicity is good publicity" probably doesn't apply when you're struggling to get your brand back on track.

Gap has now pulled its new logo and reinstated the old one. It's not the first major consumer-facing company to backtrack on a decision after an Internet-fueled backlash. Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) recently reversed course after a similar ruckus over its drive-through menus.

Brand is an essential asset that investors shouldn't ignore. According to Interbrand's recent data, the strongest five global brands are currently Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), IBM, Microsoft, Google, and General Electric. (Gap rates 84th on Interbrand's list.)

Even these leaders can't be too cavalier about changes that impact their brand image. Remember the "New Coke" fiasco more than 20 years ago? Snafus like these have a habit of lingering in consumers' minds.

Folks suddenly remembered their passion for Coca-Cola's original formula when Coke tried to change into something new. I doubt Gap will be so fortunate with this "new-and-unimproved" branding blunder; it probably simply reminds customers that Gap has not only lost its former hot status, but has also its direction in general.

What do you think of the uproar? Do you think Gap's new logo was a brand-busting design atrocity, merely shrug-inducing, or actually kinda cool? Let us know in the comment box below.