How Femfresh’s facebook page caused an awful stink
If you are not by now aware of the social marketing car crash that is Femfresh’s facebook page I don’t know where you’ve been. It is at facebook.com/femfresh and all over Twitter (after appearing on the Wall blog yesterday).
Basically, they’ve been running a campaign based upon the infantile names women supposedly use in place of vagina or vulva. The fact that the names Femfresh suggest – nooni, lala, kitty and froo froo – sound like teletubbies just adds to the unworldiness of the idea.
The attacks from all and sundry have been relentless and some of the comments are genuinely hilarious. However, the longer term damage done to the brand is less about the puerile campaign and more about the questions now being raised about the product and the category.
Criticism is falling into 3 issues. Firstly, the campaign is juvenile, patronising and actively mitigates against encouraging younger women and girls to talk about their bodies. It makes them ashamed. Typically “Is this product aimed at children, or should I have a nooni too? I’m pretty certain I only have the standard issue vulva + vagina set at present. They work fine, but do I need to get hold of a froo froo lala in order to use the femfresh properly?” and “it’s really obvious that this campaign basically fears and loathes the female body…”
I sympathise with this criticism (I know men fail to get cancer diagnosed early because they are ashamed to talk about ‘blood in their poo’ or ‘lumps in their balls’ ) but it’s not the first campaign that misjudges its audience and all Femfresh needs to do is apologise for getting it wrong (something that also happens in the real rather than the froo froo world), pull it and do something a bit more grown up.
The second criticism is (and one being made by many male posters) is that the product isn’t very good - “why smell like a woman when you can smell like a cheap taxi?” Many men, and most women posters, prefer women to be natural. The trouble is the facebook page is now giving a platform to those who simply think the product is not fit for purpose. This is potentially more harmful to the brand as now Femfresh is being associated with the tacky artificial smells you get in a pub’s toilet rather than a refreshing fragrance.
The third criticism, which could do even more long term damage is that the product is bad for you. That the chemicals Femfresh uses cause damage to the bacteria (which lead to the unpleasant smells) and that a natural alternative, like washing with water, is far better for you and more effective. “These products are damaging to a woman’s body. The vagina is a self-cleaning body part that doesn’t need anything other than water. These products do nothing than reinforce the idea that a woman’s body is “icky” and needs to be artificially scented at all times. Here’s the thing: if your vagina is a bit “smelly,” you need to see a doctor, not use Femfresh which will likely make the problem worse.”
From what must have appeared a fresh, funny and feminine on a concept board, Femfresh is now being attacked on 3 fronts. All is not lost and by being open and honest with their critics (rather than deleting their posts) they can find a way out. They may also need to re-engineer the brand as a ‘safe, natural and effective’ product rather than one that appears to reinforce shame about women’s bodies.
And maybe next time, as other brands and agencies across the marketing world delegate their social media campaigns to college leavers and 21 year old interns (I’m sure Femfresh didn’t), they might want to remember that living life a bit in the real world first teaches you a lot of useful lessons.