Posted November 8, 2010 5:12 pm by with 3 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

This weekend, The Gap helped Facebook Places claim their place as a viable Foursquare contender by giving away 10,000 pairs of free jeans.

On the surface, it seemed simple enough. Show up at your local Gap store on November 5th. Check in using Facebook Places. Show the cashier your check-in acknowledgment and get a coupon for free jeans as long as you’re one of the first 10,000 customers.

But of course, that’s not how it went down. First, the event instructions didn’t make it clear that you had to have an iPhone or Droid in order to check-in (and I hear that older phones didn’t provide the same icon response as newer phones). Other smartphones wouldn’t cut it. Next, they failed to make it clear that each store had a different quantity of free jeans on hand, likely based on the income of that store.

The result was a line of 25 people standing in the cold for an hour for a store that had only 10 pairs of jeans to giveaway. The Gap justified this by saying the remaining customers were given 40% off coupons, so it was worth the wait. It wasn’t. Like Lowe’s before them, The Gap’s Facebook pages began to fill up with angry comments from customers who waited a long time for nothing.

Now, before you say, hey, that’s how it goes and what do you want for free, think about this. By adding a couple of extra lines of text to their Facebook page, they could have cut down on the number of angry customers. Yes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but to protect the brand, you have to do what you can to mitigate the damages upfront.

Fast Company paid a visit to a local Gap store and declared the event a success but the commenters on the post don’t agree. Promos like this are so new, we don’t actually have a means for measuring them, do we?

Was it a success if they gave away all of the free jeans before noon? Is that so hard, to give away free, brand-named clothes? Considering that the only advertising was through Facebook and word of mouth, then yes, it’s pretty impressive. But what did they gain? Some people who didn’t get free jeans stayed and used the 40% off coupon – a sale they probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. Did they gain any new customers? I doubt it. Did they lose any old customers? Probably.

Or was it all worth it just for the brand awareness and the additional people who “liked” them on Facebook and will stick around (intentionally or otherwise) for the inevitable Black Friday and holiday sales pitches?

Entrepreneur has a new article today called The Three Top Sales Promo Mistakes, it focuses more on email promo messages but the advice works for the Gap promo as well. The number one tip in the article: Assume Ignorance. Assume that the customer doesn’t know where, when and how and give them all of this information in a clear, consistent manner. The Gap didn’t do that. They assumed people understood Facebook Places and how to “check-in”. They assumed that people would understand that a store in Florida would only have 10 of the 10,000 jeans to giveaway.

I think The Gap can call this promo a success and Facebook Places can, too. They proved the power of social media as a means of promoting a brand name. Was it a financial success? That, I wouldn’t bet on.

What do you think of The Gap’s Giveaway? Success or failure?

  • Dev Horn

    I totally agree of your assessment on this Gap 10,000 jean giveaway thing. From reading the posts on the Facebook Page for the event, many customers knew about it before store employees did, so some employees told customers it was probably a hoax. Then began the incessant parade of people who came onto the page and typed “Checking In”. I wrote a little paragraph that explained, you have to have a smartphone, you have to have the latest Facebook app, you have to be at the store, etc. I would post it but within 30 seconds my explanation was scrolled off the page by people saying “Checking In – Size 6!”. And there was an employee commenting at one point, but missing later, and obviously no one was monitoring the page or they would have realized that their instructions SUCKED. They could have so easily fixed that. Weren’t the people in charge of the campaign looking at their Facebook page for the event?? I don’t get it. Sure, it’s experimental new stuff, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot with terrible execution!

  • Great analysis! They really missed an opportunity to do a great promotion there and as you say, some simple instructions on the facebook page would have avoided a lot of the problems. 10,000 jeans, that’s a lot of product to blow on a giveaway… especially one that leaves many customers frustrated!

    Thanks for the link to the Entrepreneur article, that’s also a great read.

    • Cynthia

      I thought the Entrepreneur piece was so basic it’s the kind of things we miss all the time. I’m very bad about checking my own links (So I’m glad that one worked!) and nothing I hate more than getting a promo in the email with a nonfunctional link — and I got one this week!