Case study: U by Kotex

Kimberly-Clark’s vice president of global marketing and innovation, Andrew Bienkowski, reveals how Kotex has responded to consumer insight to change its brand strategy.

Click here to read the cover feature – Troy Warfield: Kimberly-Clark’s vice-president of family care for Europe
Click here to read a Q+A with Kimberly-Clark executives Troy Warfield and Andrew Bienkowski
Click here to read what other marketers had to ask Troy Warfield and Andrew Bienkowski

When it comes to advertising feminine hygiene products such as sanitary towels, tampons and liners, Kotex is replacing clichéd images of women doing cartwheels with discussions around humorous terms for vaginas such as “beavers” and “lady bits”.

The company conducted a study in August last year of 1,600 women in North America aged between 14 and 35, which showed that 70% believed it was time for society to change how it talks about feminine health.

The business fed this insight into a new product range and positioning – U by Kotex – with bright packaging and irreverent advertising campaigns in the US and Australia. It uses humorous taglines such as “I tied a tampon to my keyring so my brother wouldn’t take my car”, as well as an ad criticising the euphemistic terms used in advertising in this sector (which was rejected by some US TV networks for using the word “vagina”).

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U by Kotex uses bright packaging and irreverent advertising campaigns

The U by Kotex website features an active community forum that encourages young women to talk about feminine health, bringing humour into the subject by, for example, featuring videos of boyfriends awkwardly buying tampons for their girlfriends.

KC has yet to assess concrete results from the activity, but vice-president of global brands Andrew Bienkowski says that this is one of the company’s brand innovations that he is most proud of.

“It has really came down to understanding the target audience and understanding that they were feeling isolated, and treated like this part of their lives is a taboo when it’s the most natural of all things,” he says.

“If you look at the way the industry has been talking about this for decades – including us – it has been with words like ’bigger wings’ and [demonstrating the efficacy of pads] with blue liquid. What we have tried to do, not just with the product innovation but with the way we talk about it, is to talk about it like it is a natural thing that we should embrace rather than shy away from.”

The campaign has generated a lot of publicity for the brand in the US and Australia. Bienkowski won’t be drawn on whether the UK and Europe can expect to see a similar push, but he does say that the days of cartwheeling women dressed in white are over.

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