The Gap is teaming up with Facebook this week to run an interesting promotion using Facebook’s new Places functionality. Facebook Places is the social networking giant’s answer to location-based apps like Foursquare and Gowalla. While this doesn’t precisely fall into the category of experiential or event marketing, we figured it was worth posting about because it’s at the intersection of digital+live cross-promotions (Facebook is touting Places and Deals, whether they admit it or not. Gap is touting denim, of course).

It’s also worth noting that huge promos like this do the work of actually creating an event experience…the lines, the crowd draw, the group activity. As such, brands should adopt an event-centric marketing mentality to pull off a promo like this one. The crowd benefits, the brand benefits, and the marketing opportunity is amplified when the experience is allowed to take on a life of its own (under the careful but subtle curation of the brand, of course).

The promo

Gap Facebook Promo

Here’s the text from Gap’s Facebook page:

This Friday we’re giving away 10,000 pairs of jeans! Check-in at any Men’s & Women’s Gap using Facebook Places and you could win*. Just show any Gap employee your check-in and you could score a free pair. If you’re too late don’t worry, we’ll let you shop with 40% off any regularly priced item**.

Learn how to use Facebook Places on any web-enabled devices, iPhones, and Android devices:

Check out how Facebook Deals works here:

The Picture Marketing Take

1. Location
Location, location, location. We’ve been saying for a couple years now that location is the next big digital+live element that’s going to transform the way experiential marketers craft their campaigns. Now that Facebook is joining the party, the “check-in” mentality may make the leap from niche technogeek cool to the mainstream.

2. Facebook Places
Places is just starting to stretch its legs. If the service can leverage Facebook’s ubiquity to crowd out a smaller player like Foursquare, the shakedown will be devastating (if not entirely unexpected). Foursquare is one of the few apps that showed enough independent promise that it wasn’t immediately overshadowed by Facebook, and many thought that it might complete a social triumvirate (along with Twitter).

3. Facebook integration
As avid fans of seamless integration, we love to see how well Facebook has been able to integrate the various aspects of the social media experience under one roof – Twitter-like updates, shared photos, events, groups… remember when you went to a different site or app to do all of those things? It’s not a surprise that Facebook is adding location check-ins to its wheelhouse. The question is whether it can mobilize its hordes of users to get on the location bandwagon, or if other services Foursquare is already ahead enough in the game to survive.

4. Early adoption
This is the first “Big Brand,” highly publicized Facebook Places promo we’ve come across, so it will be interesting to see whether it has an effect on the its adoption rate, perhaps giving Places the jumpstart it needs. Again, it just seems like Facebook has a overwhelmingly unfair advantage when it comes to launching a service like this. But Google has also leveraged its size to launch new services (like Buzz) and failed… so it’s not just size that matters here.

5. Gap in the social space
Worth noting: while Gap has received a lot of negative commentary due to its logo fiasco, the company has trying out a variety of interesting national promotions in the social space. Groupon, Foursquare and now Facebook have all been at the heart of promotions run by the San Francisco based retailer.

6. Facebook Deals
The promo is also a launching point for Facebook Deals. Announced yesterday, Deals replicates the Foursquare Specials functionality. It allows merchants to post special offers for those who check in, and allows users to explore specials near their current location. Call it Facebook’s double-down on the Foursquare bet.

7. Striking a balance
In a tech-happy environment like Picture Marketing’s headquarters or Gap’s marketing department, it’s easy to imagine that everyone out there owns a smartphone. But a lot of Gap’s customers are leaving comments about feeling left out.

Gap Facebook Wall Comments

Brands need to strike a balance. Set trends with innovative promotions like this one… but don’t forget to show the love to your less “plugged in” fanbase. We don’t think Gap is overstepping anything here, but it’s a healthy mantra for any marketer to remember. When you add the Facebook element, you’re opening up the conversation to everybody. Negative reactions will come along with the good. A fascinating effect here: with an open Facebook Wall at the center of the conversation, brand fans are incredibly effective at helping each other find answers (and rebut the naysayers). Sure, Gap is adding posts and helpful responses… but they almost don’t have to!