What the Femfresh campaign teaches us about Facebook
The Femfresh Facebook page has been pulled and the brand put out of its social media misery. Phew!
Not before they ran an explanation as to why the ‘froo froo’ campaign got the green light. Apparently research had revealed that many women give their body parts funny names and “advertising bodies” (the ASA?) had warned them that referring to vaginas in copy would be a big turn off.
I also presume that Femfresh’s agency showed focus groups some of the concepts and they were enthusiastically endorsed?
So if they see green lights all the way on research why did the campaign crash and burn so spectacularly? Two reasons:
Firstly, qualitative research is only as good as the interpretation and is far more limited than most researchers would ever dare to admit. Not only is the research environment totally artificial, but group dynamics (go with the crowd) play a major part in dictating views (although a good moderator should counter this).
More fundamentally, groups will tend to tell you what they “like” but that is not always the same as what will work. I’ve sat through countless focus groups telling me “we like the pretty concept with nice colours” whereas that is the one that almost inevitably bombs when tested live. You have to overlay your experience onto the themes that emerge. Someone, somewhere should simply have said “this campaign isn’t very grown up, is it?”
Sometimes a concept gains traction yet you know that for all sorts of reasons – political, moral, ethical, historical – it cannot run. In the days when traditional advertising was a one-way street (ie no consumer interaction) you could get away with something that might rile a few people. But with social media, you don’t.
Which brings us to the second reason: The culture and behaviour of posters on Twitter, Facebook, youtube and all the other public forums can be brutal. Anyone who takes issue with what you say can readily do so and build up momentum against you. This is what happened with Femfresh. The fact the early posters were so witty and engaging got the crowd on their side. The Femfresh ripostes seemed clunky and corporate.
And then sadly, it doesn’t take long for almost any thread to descend to puerile abuse. When blokes (not all of them) got wind of the story they brought more toilet ‘humour’ to the comments. And from then on it just deteriorated.
If your brand is in “feminine hygiene” then you should be more sensitive than most to playground behaviour. I think maybe the issue with the brand is that it is not quite sure if it is a health product or a beauty product. If the former, you need to refer vaginas, infections, cleanliness etc… if the latter you should probably focus on the scents, freshness, confidence…
Whichever route they go, I’m sure they will make Facebook work. After all, you learn far more from your failures than your successes.