Mind the Gap: "Free Jeans on Facebook" Promotion Shows What Not to Do

Last Updated Nov 9, 2010 2:20 PM EST

The Gap (GPS)'s free jeans event, in which it gave away 10,000 pairs to those quick enough to check in via Facebook's "Deals" feature, should be studied closely by other brand managers as a guide to how Facebook promotions work -- or don't.

Both happened at The Gap on Friday, when the chain quietly announced it would give away jeans from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at its 1,000 or so U.S. stores. It was a great idea to make things right with its most loyal customers, many of whom were annoyed by the company's recent logo switcheroo. But the event also contained enough glaring shortcomings to have blown up into a KFC-and-Oprah-free-chicken-giveaway fiasco: thousands of customers were disappointed because each store had only about 10 jeans to hand out, and even those who got to Gap locations quickly enough were sometimes baffled by the instructions for the promotion.

Here's how it worked. Facebook users had to check in to a Gap store location through FB's "Places" function. Then, via Facebook's Deals feature, they were shown a coupon for free jeans. As 10,000 jeans divided by 1,000 U.S. stores equals about 10 jeans per store, users also had to be first in the door Friday morning. Many customers were confused by the steps, and vented their outrage on Gap's Facebook Wall:


Some liked the promo, although as you can see even Gap's own employees had difficulty figuring it out:


The event really divided Gap's mainstream customers against the 4 percent of early-adopters who feel comfortable with "Places" and "Deals." The two services are neither intuitive nor easy to use -- they don't work on Blackberry and you must give up your privacy to FB and Gap to take advantage. Those who figured it out took to insulting those who thought they merely had to write "checking in" on Gap's Facebook wall, or physically check in the old-fashioned way at the store:


As GigaOm noted:
The reality is that, in the short term at least, both retailers and services like Facebook and Foursquare are going to have to do a lot of educating and hand-holding for users, because most people have no idea what they are talking about when they say things like "location sharing" or "check in."
Ultimately, while 10,000 people did indeed get free jeans, Gap may have wasted a morning for thousands of other customers who either showed up 11th in line or who failed to cross all the correct Facebook hurdles on their mobile apps. For that reason, I can't see Gap repeating this event in the same way again.

Related: Image by Flickr user bixentro, CC.

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