Tapping the Facebook Audience

The Problem:
How can a small, start-up company with a miniscule advertising budget target a limited-edition product to an elusive demographic without breaking its bank?

The Company:
Bonobos, selling trendy athletic-cut pants online since October 2007.

The Technology Solution:
Andy Dunn, the Chief Executive at Bonobos has a Stanford MBA and a jaundiced opinion of advertising. But when his business partner designed a limited edition line of pants for Chicago Cubs baseball fans, Dunn knew he’d have to do some innovative marketing to locate men willing to spend $120 to wear bright blue pants with baseballs decorating the lining material and pocket edges.

Dunn decided the best approach would be to try a new Facebook self-service display ad system that had just been introduced in November 2007. Taking its cue from Google’s economic rise via self-service text ads, Facebook designed its Social Ads to be simple to create and deploy. Dunn figures that it took only a few minutes to create an ad only seen by Chicago-area men whose Facebook profiles stated they were Cubs fans.

The Outcome:
Dunn’s quickly launched ad ended up costing the company a total cost of $63. The ad was seen more than 250,000 times. And Bonobos sold out the entire line of pants.

Still, despite the obvious marketing potential offered by Social Ads, there are many Facebook members who consider them problematic. Because Social Ads are based on Facebook’s Beacon technology, there are recurring concerns about real and imagined privacy violations.

Facebook’s introduction of Beacon instantly met with resistance from its community members because there was no mechanism for its 50-million users to opt out of the system’s activity posts. The result was advertiser-sponsored stories being spread to each community member’s circle of friends in a manner that was generally considered an unacceptable form of spam.

Then in October 2007, retailing giant Target further soured the sponsorship possibilities and scored a widely publicized black eye with its misguided attempt to control the actions of its Facebook group dubbed the Target Rounders. The bad publicity made members even more reluctant to trust Facebook’s monetization efforts. Although Social Ads now allow members to prevent any public Facebook display of their private transactions made on other websites, there still remains no way for them to permanently block Beacon ads.

For now, Bonobos’ success proves that Social Ads can provide a win-win-win situation for small-budget advertisers, social network sites, and their online communities. Tomorrow DataDocsDailyDose.com will examine how one company used e-mail to transform its customers into advocates.

–J.D. Mosley-Matchett, Ph.D.
The Data Doc
You have questions? She has answers!

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Dr. J.D. Mosley-Matchett


As advisor to a broad range of clients, including IBM, Texas Instruments, and J.C. Penney, Dr. Mosley-Matchett combines both practical experience and advanced training in modern marketing methodologies. Her background includes multimedia and video production, Web development, and the latest in marketing research methodologies. Internationally recognized as a published author and noted researcher, Dr. Mosley-Matchett has been a member of the graduate faculty at the University of Texas at Arlington and has conducted numerous seminars on a variety of marketing topics for the International Institute for Research, various conferences, and numerous professional organizations. She currently serves as the Managing Director for Words & Images, Ltd., an interactive communications development firm located in the Cayman Islands.
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