The Gap Steps Up to Social Media- Without Targets

How to secure a multi-million pound social marketing deal without targets?

A new advertising campaign from Gap Apparrel, titled “Born to Fit”, was recently announced (in an article by Quenqua, ClickZ).  This campaign interestingly (for Coffee Marketing in particular) included no TV advertising.  I am sure this is most to the failing commercial TV stations dismay.  Instead Gap are now, via digital agency AKQA, placing a much greater emphasis on Web advertising and social media.

In this campaign specifically Facebook is being used and this represents the greatest shift in marketing effort in the retailer’s history.  It is also further evidence of the greater shift of large brands in a variety of sectors adopting social marketing as the core to their marketing strategies.  It is becoming increasingly apparent to brands the value social marketing offers in driving core business metrics including purchase intention, sales (yes sales can be measured using web analytics “site referral” that tracks navigation through to the final page of the sales process) and loyalty.

The campaign is using the right media with the right creative and ensuring that Gap are appearing at relevant times to consumers interest in fashion.  The first example of this is the Facebook profile pages that encourage fashionistas to join and discuss general fashion topics.  In addition to this new product lines and special offers are announced on the social profile pages and encourage further discussion around Gap’s products.  This is now a fairly standard way to begin a social network presence, but certainly an effective introduction given the existing market interest in fashion.
Further to this social networking marketing activity, an iphone application called the “Stylemixer” (See above) allows you to combine different outfit combinations to review and also delivers special offers when they are near a Gap store, as well when the application is initially downloaded.  Again this ensures that an offer is delivered at the most relevant time and should (if an effective dialogue and engagement has been built up around the Gap brand) capitalise on the social marketing efforts and drive people in store.

Failure or Success?
The most interesting point in this campaign however is that Channing, from AKQA, said The Gap had set no numerical benchmarks to determine success in the campaign, but rather would look at “how much consumers interact with the brand” to gauge ROI.

Err ok, so the objective here is to create engagement with the Gap brand?  No, apparently given that no targets have been set whatsoever the targets and expectations of the campaign will be set and defined after the campaign has finished.  What a great deal for AKQA!  There are no objectives.  They can’t lose!

There is an argument here that says Social Media’s strength is primarily building brand engagement and awareness within relevant online networks.  Measuring brand engagement is also more difficult to quantify numerically and this, more complex area of metrics, is still being established by the large providers like ComScore and Neilson.  However this is no excuse not to measure it or define what success looks like.

Traditional advertising was difficult to measure and prove for many years, but this didn’t stop marketers finding a way to do so, even if it wasn’t 100% accurate.  People also used (and still do) benchmarking– taking the most appropriate metrics that measure an action like engagement and then at any uplift of these metrics before and after the campaign.  Not even this was attempted, and yes there are a variety of metrics that have been combined to provide a valid measure of engagement (depending on what kind of engagement you are looking for of course).

This to me seems like a cop out.

If measuring social marketing like this was more difficult, then the above quote would be easier to digest.  However there doesn’t even seem to be a solid objective here.  What does “Engagement” means after all?  It is a wide concept.
The real power of social media is to drive interest, collaboration and sharing around a service, content or brand that adds value to a relevant community that you are looking to engage with.  So, perhaps giving a post assessment on the impact this campaign has on people’s behaviour is valid, but to not define what this is or any sold objective is inexcusable.

It seems to me that given that AKQA has a few traditional clients, who have yet to make that ‘leap’ into the social marketing sea, has managed to sell in the idea that general marketing process is not relevant.  Somehow a large client has bought into the idea that establishing success after the event is ok and that an unbiased assessment will follow.  It is certainly a winner for AKQA who is very likely to win the next social marketing campaign for Gap as they “surpass expectations” of the campaign’s performance.  This is certainly a sure fire way to secure repeat business from clients- AKQA will go a long way that’s for sure.
Related Articles:

–  Metrics for Social Applications (and Social Media)

–  Social Marketing Fails for Small Businesses

–  Marketers Need to Wake Up and Get Social!


  1. Do you agree that the lack of targets is a cop out by the agency?

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