FemFresh makes a froofroo of itself on social media

Claire Foss, PR and marketing manager at Yomego, discusses the FemFresh social media disaster that arose from its decision to shy away from the 'vagina' in its ad, and how it failed to handle the fallout.

Now-removed comments on Facebook

The ruckus surrounding the Femfresh backlash has been the social media equivalent of ‘must-see TV’. And it’s been a good while since a brand was so badly lambasted in social channels.

But unlike past social media ‘fails’, which often had something obviously offensive or insensitive at the centre; this backlash began over the question of what was or wasn’t an offensive term in the first place. It was a public naming and shaming on a grand scale.

Femfresh’s initial problem was not a social one – but a societal one. The brand was working on the premise that the word ‘vagina’ was more offensive than its euphemistic equivalents ‘lala’, ‘kitty’ and ‘froofroo’, among others. It felt a little like a campaign out of time. Feminism is finally back, thanks to books like Caitlin Moran’s ‘How to be a Woman’ – and with it, women and men are speaking out about the issues that matter to them. This social context of this either wasn’t fully explored, or the brand felt too timid to call a spade a spade. Or rather, a vagina. Erm…

However – the debate quickly moved on to questions about whether the product was necessary, or even safe for women to use. In that situation – with the safety of the very product itself and not just the suitability of the campaign being called into question so publicly – pulling the campaign became the only sensible option.

But behind even this is the question: what was Femfresh hoping to achieve with its positioning on Facebook?

The basic unit of brand interaction on Facebook is the ‘Like’. Were women ready to ‘Like’ a feminine hygiene product – one that implies something a little distasteful? The brand was straddling the divide between being a health brand and a beauty brand, and neither was really working.

If there’s a silver lining in all this, it’s that this campaign has generated perhaps some of the best market research that Femfresh has ever had access to. And perhaps, just perhaps, brands are thinking a little bit harder about how they interact with women online.

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