Jacob Morgan (my co-author on TwittFaced and all around awesome guy) wrote a post about The Gap and ROI that first made me think he was describing what sounded like an Awareness campaign and tried to apply ROI to it due to a very unfortunate use of the term.

After giving it some thought and reading the ClickZ article he quoted I’m very sure that at least part of this campaign is awareness based and so invalidates some of the need for ROI. Awareness isn’t concerned with ROI (it’s missing part of the equation). No no, awareness calls for impact!

The article quote that fired off his post  is where the majority of the debate in the comments stem from and is also where I see some underlying clues to the true meaning of this campaign. Both the comments on his site and Clickz are worth a read, I’d recommend giving them a quick run through. Anyways, on to the quote:

“Channing 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.”

When it comes to marketing there are 4 basic types of campaigns that can be run, all of which can utilize social media, and before I explain the 2 ways I see this quote (and their current campaign) being taken I’m going to do a quick review of those 4 types and then quickly go over some GAP campaign info. I promise I’ll make it as painless as possible.

4 basic types of marketing campaigns

1. Acquisition / Lead Generation  – These types of campaigns are used to gather information (like email addresses, profiles, home addresses, etc) with the goal of winding up with a list of people who are most likely to buy from you. This activity can (and usually is) driven by ROI and when started can have a projected ROI that is based on previous activities (unless it’s your first go, then no projected… this is important for later in the post).

2. Awareness – This type of campaign can be used to increase the awareness of certain products or the brand itself. Often times this is used by established companies (like Chevy with their eco campaign… or the GAP) to keep themselves fresh in peoples minds and assist them in their ongoing bid to stay relevant in the current culture.

3. Brand – Here the goal is to associate the company with it’s services and offerings. This type of campaign will have hooks into the sales channels, marketing materials will be laden with copy points surrounding what it is, does, or offers and will typically have a CTA (call to action). That CTA will be to get you onto their sales page (and into their sales funnel) or into their store for a killer deal, etc. The end result is they want your money now!

4. Loyalty – When a company launches this type of campaign their goal is to reward their current, frequent buyers or to entice customers away from competitors with their awesome loyalty program. This can take the form of a discount card, some kind of point system, or keeping a list of your best customers and having an event in their honor. Marketing this event or program is the point in this campaign. You want people to have the desire to be your loyal customer because if they are they’ll be part of an exclusive group that gets XYZ benefit. People love exclusivity, it makes us feel special.

GAP campaign info (quotes are from the article)

“We were really looking to reach out to fashionistas and influence audiences and even skeptics of The Gap to start a conversation about how Gap has built this line of denim from the ground up,” she said. They wanted to “lend credibility to the story.”  

Note: Sounds like awareness to me, they’re telling a story about their new product and making a bid for cultural relevance.

FaceBook page – “acts as the centerpiece for the online campaign, where viewers can watch a video of Rada Shadick, Gap’s “fit engineer,” explaining the development of the new denim line, called “1969″ (named after the year The Gap was founded), and see which fit might work for them. Users can also upload photos and videos featuring their own “born to” statement and click through to Gap.com to make purchases.”

Note: The “make purchases” part sounds tacked on because it’s just a feature of the site that was already there, there is no special attention given to sales. There is no mention of how it’s going to direct traffic to specific pages (funneling) to enhance the chances of  buying. In fact after looking at the GAP Fan Page it’s 100% informational and engagement based. There is no sales pitch, no call to action for a purchase, nothing. The only link to their site is a link on their info tab.

Custom Crafted Banner Ads – “for several different blog partners saying what each was born to do. For example, the ads on Glam.com say “Born to Set Trends,” and the ads on PopSugar say “Born to Strategize.” Other blog partners include Mashable, Thrillist and Idolator”

Note: This part of the campaign ended on 08-17 soI can’t tell you where they directed to, but I can tell you it sounds like they are personalizing the message to make people associate more with the brand.

iPhone App – “called the StyleMixer that lets users mix and match outfits and interact with friends on The Gap’s Facebook page. The app will also reveal undisclosed “surprises” when near a Gap store.”

Note: Sounds to me like they are getting people to start thinking about their brand in a whole new light and re-introduce themselves to their target market in ways relevant to them… that would be awareness.


So looking back at the evidence that was brought before me by the article I can conclude it isn’t a brand campaign. There is no call to action to do anything other than make your own ads, be their fan, and play with their app. No CTA to buy anything or click on anything that injected you into a sales funnel.

It’s not a loyalty campaign because there are no rewards for previous customers, in fact the whole goal is to get their name in front of new customers or people who had never thought of GAP as a place they would shop at.

It doesn’t look like an acquisition or lead generation campaign on the surface. I went through the whole site and the only thing I saw was a survey I took where they ask about different styles of jeans and where you’ve seen them advertised and ask very specific questions about online campaigns.

That leaves us with Awareness.

I realize this is a longer than a usual post so for the sake of your scrolling finger I’m going to post the quote from above again.

“Channing 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.”

The 2 ways I see this

(aka my favorite)
This is an awareness campaign. There is no indication anywhere in all of this that there is any path to a sales funnel or that there is any other motive behind this other than to get people to see the brand is fun, culturally relevant, and to promote their new line of jeans while they’re at it. NOTHING, in the outlined assets above, takes you to a specific sales page for their new line of jeans, nothing asks you to buy, heck nothing save one tiny link on the info tab even takes you to their website.

There is no sales push, there is no reason behind any of this other than for GAP to say “We’re still here and we have something we think is neat”. The only place I discovered where they were trying to sell anything is on the GAP Twitter stream where they give a couple links to pages where you can buy stuff at a discount. Even there, the majority of the links they sent out directed people to the FaceBook group. Heck, even their campaign URL ( http://www.borntofit.com) just redirects to their FaceBook group.

Everything in this campaign smells like awareness to me. I think the problem stems to a misuse of the term ROI. The fact that they’re not setting benchmarks right now doesn’t mean they aren’t collecting numbers. In fact, I guarantee they are or else they wouldn’t be able to see how much the consumers are interacting with the brand so they could measure the engagement.

If this is the first time they are running this kind of an awareness campaign then they can’t set benchmarks. They have nothing to base it off of, they have no idea what numerical benchmark to strive for… yet. As they measure their engagement (which they are obviously looking at) they can then easily set benchmarks after a month for their continued progress.

  • Simply stated I see this as a new style of awareness campaign for them with a tragic misuse of the term ROI.

(aka the other explanation) 
This could be part of an overarching campaign that involves awareness and is hitting the first step of the buying cycle (Interest, Research, Purchase). They are using all of the content and exposure to assist customers in the first two steps and using the information gathered to equate their ROI for when step 3 happens.

How is that done you might ask? Well it’s a bit technical so if you’re sick of me talking about this already you might want to skip this and just leave a comment on your thoughts below. If you like where I’m going with this then please continue reading.

In lead generation campaigns that use paid resources (PPC, Media buys, etc) to get people to sign up for something for free (newsletter, mailer, webinar, etc) you have to know what each lead is worth to you. This can only be done by experimenting, testing, monitoring, measuring, etc to determine lead worth (ie: can’t set $$$ benchmarks right off the bat because you’re missing part of the equation).

So lets say in a lead generation campaign you use PPC to get people to sign up for your free newsletter. At first glance you’re just throwing money away and there is no positive ROI. However, if you’ve been doing your due diligence you would know that based on your data each customer is worth an average of $4 due to what they buy from your free newsletter. So as long as you keep your CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) below $4 you’re making money and have a positive ROI.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that all of this stuff by GAP is to collect a list. A list of people who use social media, engage and interact with the brand. They make a loyal following online using FaceBook, Twitter, and iPhone apps. From their previous use of mailing lists, email lists, etc they should already know what each customer they get on their list is worth.

They can then take their engagement metrics, find out how many are “very engaged” (which would indicate an inclination to buy) and based on their previously collected marketing & CPA data they could then apply those numbers to the ones they collected from their engagement metrics and get a projected ROI (told you it would come up). Now, time will only tell if their projected ROI matches up with the reality of it, but this is a way to calculate ROI (at least a projected one anyways) from engagement.

If they are getting a mass quantity of fans that they will then later send coupons, Internet only deals, etc and be using the various form of social media to build their lists then ROI wouldn’t be measured until later. ROI can’t be calculated unless you are actually trying to get money out of people. ROI is a financial metric and only applies when you’re taking on a financial goal, when you actually start pushing product offers and urging people to buy.

  • Simply stated, right now it looks like they are in awareness and possibly list building mode. At least until they hit their next phase anyway (which would be a financial phase where ROI is applied).


There’s nothing wrong with the fact that they didn’t set benchmarks right away because all signs point to an awareness campaign. Now, after their first month of collecting engagement data they should start setting engagement benchmarks so they can monitor their progress, but as of right now… it’s not a big deal. There is no indication they are even attempting to get people into a sales funnel of any sort… their goal is awareness.

Yes, they used the term ROI wrong (unless they are applying their engagement data to their CPA model to determine ROI… which is possible, but unlikely) but that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with how they’re handling the campaign.

Remember, just like any metric ROI is a tool. That’s it. It’s an equation, It’s a way to measure how you’re doing but only when the goal of your campaign is financially based, otherwise you’re missing part of the equation.

So after this journey what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts after reading Jacob’s post and my take on it all.

Thanks for reading,
Josh “Shua” Peters

p.s. We’re giving away free copies of Twittfaced, if you want to see how you can win a copy go here: 4 ways to win a free copy of TwittFaced!