Thousands of fans of Lululemon Athletica salivating over sports tank tops or bum-hugging yoga pants were disappointed Wednesday as an apparent Facebook glitch turned into a marketing headache for the retailer.
Many Facebook users saw an offer on their pages, implying some sort of discount at their local stores. Facebook Offers are a marketing tool for businesses that allow them to send out discounts, coupons or other deals to people on the social network who have "liked" their corporate pages.
In this case, the offer affected fans of the Facebook pages of some of Lululemon's local stores in the U.S. and Canada, including the one in Toronto's Eaton Centre. Once fans of a brand "like" the page on Facebook, that company can place offers in the news feed that pops up on that customer's Facebook homepage.
"Yikes, marketing faux pas," user Michelle Martin wrote on the Eaton Centre store's Facebook page on Wednesday.
In an e-mail, Lululemon said Facebook had made the error in posting the offers to its pages. The company also said that it was not the only company affected, but would not specify other brands that had also had invalid offers sent to fans.
"This morning, we were surprised to notice a 'redeemable offer' posted on a number of our local store pages," the company said in the e-mailed statement. "We did not create an offer, this was a Facebook error that appears to also have affected other companies and brands. Facebook is aware of the glitch and is working to remove this content as soon as possible. We apologize for any confusion."
However, while Lululemon claims the error was Facebook's, some customers writing on the brand's corporate page called for the company to offer a real discount for the day in order to further apologize for the confusion – including one Denver customer, who had attempted to use the offer at a store on Wednesday before realizing it was not valid.
Lululemon would not answer questions about how many stores were affected, the stores' locations, or how many fans accepted the invalid offers.
The glitch comes at an awkward time for Facebook as well, as the social media giant has faced some tough questions about the value of its advertising. Those questions were heightened at the time of Facebook's stock market listing this spring, when, in the lead-up to the company's initial public offering, General Motors Co. pulled $10-million (U.S.) of its advertising budget away from Facebook advertising, claiming ads on the site were not effective.
A representative from Facebook confirmed that the offers were not showing up any more and said the company is looking into what caused the error, but declined to comment on the issue. The company would not specify whether other companies were affected as Lululemon said, how many brands were affected, or how many people accepted the invalid offers.