We recently worked with the financial analysis group at UBS to study the GAP “Black Magic” campaign. In August, the GAP brand had identified black pants as a key driver of sales growth heading into the back to school shopping season and promoted the pants through a campaign called “Black Magic”. UBS asked us to study the consumer voice around black pants to determine if the consumers were responding well to the campaign and whether that could be an indicator of GAPs ability to meet its promised results. What we found in that study was that GAP generated no passion about their Black Magic campaign as measured by the consumer voice online. Conversations about the campaign were abysmal and GAP’s marketing effort did nothing to drive more conversation about purchasing black pants. Black pants are a staple, and admittedly it may be difficult to drive consumer passion, but our interpretation of the goal of the campaign (although I had to dig it out) is that the 7 varieties of pants meant everyone could find the “magical fit”. What we found as the key element of their social marketing initiative was a behind the scenes video of the making of the “black magic” ad posted to Facebook and YouTube. The videos have generated less than five thousand views and a few hundred “likes”. This level of activity is not going to move the needle for a major consumer brand.
We believe that GAP could do better, but more importantly we reported back to UBS that we saw little indication that consumers were rushing to buy black pants from GAP. A few months later while GAP Inc (which owns the GAP, Banana Republic and Old Navy), reported good overall results (based on strong results of its Old Navy brand), they also reported lagging same-store sales at GAP stored, and all of the transcripts about the GAP brand focused on denim, not black pants.
While it is extremely difficult and inappropriate to link consumer conversation in social media around one product to the results of a multi-brand global corporation, Fresh Tracks believe that the lack of social passion around black pants was a clear and leading indicator of lack of consumer interest and an important component of the lower same store sales for GAP stores.
One of the most famous cases of a major company being negatively impacted by social media occurred when a blogger named, Jeff Jarvis, wrote about his experiences with Dell customer service and called it “Dell Hell”. This post set off a flurry of negative consumer conversations about Dell and their customer services. This story became viral and ended up significantly impacting Dell, its sales figures and its stock price. Dell’s response was to assign a team of customer service professionals dedicated to social media (dubbed “community responders”) to identify posts about Dell and respond, wherever appropriate.
Over the course of the next year, Dell was able to halve their negative customer sentiment online.
It is important to note that Dell “jumped in” without a plan. In response to this crisis, they felt the need to act, and did so, successfully. Many other companies feel the need to act due to market pressures, but without a crisis facilitating action, they are interested in a more measured business approach. As stated above, many of these companies are looking to consultants to help them build a phase plan that measures investment and expected return.