Gap’s Social Conundrum

Pardon the inevitable play on words, but could this be the last Ga(s)p? It’s no secret that Gap has been struggling a bit over the past couple years, falling behind some of its trendier and less-conservative clothing retailers. So what should Gap do to breathe life back into its brand? Turn to social media, of course!

This past week saw Gap roll out two huge social media campaigns aimed to ultimately drive foot traffic into its retail locations. Seems pretty smart. Social media websites are terrific marketing tools because they can truly draw the consumer closer to the brand. From there, consumers can share their socially rewarding brand relationships with friends, who in turn may develop a brand relationship. Buzz is generated. Interest rises. Sales increase. At least, that’s the ideal scenario.

The first of Gap’s initiatives used the social geolocation service Foursquare for a promotional campaign. Last Saturday (August 14), consumers in select cities who checked in at a Gap retail location using Foursquare would receive 25% off their purchase. Pretty sweet, huh?

It gets better. In addition to working the geolocation craze (hello, Facebook Places), Gap also decided to pony up on the fascination with group buying. Using the popular website Groupon, Gap offered a coupon for $25 dollars off a purchase of $50 or more. This deal was extended nationwide, resulting in coupon download rates that peaked around ten coupon purchases per second. Groupon crashed. Mayhem ensued (not actually; Groupon got itself back up and running shortly after the crash).

When all was said and done, Gap had generated an astonishing amount of press coverage, most of which was related to its record-setting Groupon performance. Surely both campaigns drew large amounts of consumers into retail stores with money – and coupons – in hand. Even Twitter was alive with mentions of the deal, particularly as Twitter’s @earlybird account was quick on the draw once again with the Groupon offering. However, what must be taken into consideration is that Groupon generally takes around 50 percent of the revenue from its deals. This means that Gap was in essence offering 75 percent off regular and already on-sale items. That can’t have been very helpful to Gap’s bottom line.

But who knows – perhaps the buzz generated from these campaigns will have a prolonged effect that effectively spikes consumer interest back to a level that can sustain strong sales numbers. Either way, it’s always great to see marketers stepping outside the box with social media to try something bold. Kudos to Gap. What do you think? Were these campaigns worth it?

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