Ann Summers shows how to keep a grip rapidly growing online community

Ann Summers TV ad campaign from Nov 2011Its clear that the internet’s function as a ‘two-way communication channel’ has revolutionized the traditional relationship between an organisation and its public.  However with the word ‘social’ now dominating internet lingo, the term ‘two-way communication channel’ becomes a dated understatement.

As coined by a recent Ipsos MORI report: “The Internet is not a two-way communication channel, but a communal one”,

The report is one of many that recognizes the huge potential of an increasingly social internet, where people connect themselves to an organisation without a second thought. 

Recent statistics show that 50% of people follow brands on social media and 20% of tweets reference a brand or a product.  Exciting times for organisations, but the question arises: How does an organisation keep a grip on their rapidly growing online community?

Ann Summers was one of the fastest growing brands on Facebook in the first quarter of 2012, with a growth of 1203%. (This translates as over 250,000 new Facebook fans in 3 months)  However, it’s hard to find the official Ann Summers Facebook page amongst so many pseudo pages. These fake pages culminating in thousands of Facebook ‘likes’, list under the official name of ‘Ann Summers’ and also under ‘Anne Summers’, which bears a slight spelling alteration, that could easily be missed.  Featuring amongst the activity on these pages, are rants from disgruntled punters, apparently directed to Ann Summers and left to fester unanswered.

So back to the earlier question: How does an organisation keep a grip on their rapidly growing online community?  In the case of Ann Summers, it should be high on their agenda to streamline their online presence by shutting down the droves of Facebook pages in their name.  Apparently shutting down fake Facebook brand pages is acheivable and it is certainly worth the effort.  Amongst herds of online activity a driving rule of thumb should be: Keep things clear-cut.

Despite huge success early in 2012, Ann Summers did not manage to keep things simple with their campaign that ran from May to June, which was met with much criticism.  The large-scale campaign featured an ‘I-Scream van’ which traveled the U.K, taking photos of people donning their best orgasm faces and giving out free ice-creams, topped with edible lubricant. But while the orgasm faces were cause for some chuckles, its no surprise that the van with its emphasis on lubricant caused much objection amongst ‘mum groups’.

Objection amongst certain groups may well prove to be worth the risk for some campaigns, however in this case it seems the results fell short of all the hassle involved.  At an overview the campaign seems to have been a waste of resources as it came across as tacky, gimmicky and lacking a clear-cut projection.

Ann Summer’s ‘Real Women’ focus earlier in 2012 was infinitely more effective.  Their YouTube video of  ‘real women’ stopping traffic in their underwear reeled in over 100,000 hits and their ‘find a face’ campaign drummed up over 4,000 entrants and a huge degree of media attention.  These straight-forward campaigns with their clear-cut emphasis on everyday women created powerful, positive projections of the Ann Summers brand.

Moral of the story?: In order to generate powerful brand projections and the kind of engagement that is manageable, organisations should strive to keep things clear-cut.

Naoimh Looney runs DAMPICK MEDIA