Click here to read how Kimberly-Clark has removed cliches from marketing Kotex
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
Kimberly-Clark (KC) is a company with a history of innovation. In the Twenties it introduced Kleenex and Kotex to the world before the concepts of facial tissue and women’s sanitary products had even been established.
While these products were considered pioneering in the early 20th century, they are now commonplace in households across the globe, along with its other paper-based products such as Andrex toilet tissue.
But retaining its reputation as a groundbreaking company in 2011 is going to be a massive challenge and requires a sense of guile in terms of new product development, in order to tackle modern issues such as sustainability and competitive pricing.
Stepping up to this challenge are two men who have been among the key players in driving KC’s business forward. At the European headquarters in Surrey, Troy Warfield, vice-president of family care for Europe, is animated when he talks about an additional injection of innovation within the company over the past three years. And Andrew Bienkowski, vice-president of global brands, is equally enthusiastic about the challenges of centralising brand development when he speaks from Texas at 4am local time.
Both are on the company’s global marketing leadership team, which was set up about three and a half years ago by Bienkowski on his appointment to the newly created role of leading the development of brand strategies for all of KC’s global consumer, health care and professional brands.
The team includes regional heads of sales and marketing as well as research and development, and Bienkowski says the global initiative is bringing all of these functions closer together. He adds that best practice can now be implemented more quickly and efficiently across global borders. A product of this new approach to marketing and innovation has been the rejuvenation of the Kotex feminine hygiene brand, with the launch of its new U by Kotex range for younger women this year in the US (see case study, below).
“It is a major change from having purely local operations, to now having local excellence combined with global scale,” Bienkowski explains. “The teams are now well connected – we are talking about our brands in a common way.”
Case study: U by Kotex
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 brotherwouldn’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”).
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.
Warfield agrees that marketing and innovation have grown immensely in priority on the KC business agenda over the past three years. This is both thanks to the global marketing leadership team and to the appointment of new chief marketing officer Tony Palmer to the company’s board on his appointment four years ago.
Warfield also credits KC Europe president Giles Turrell for his “clear and compelling vision” that has “galvanised the organisation, and has brands and innovation at the heart of it”.
“KC recognises the importance of having marketing on the board and has started to bring our innovation culture together,” says Warfield.
The global marketing leadership team has driven the importance of return on investment in marketing and developed the concept of building brands, products and messaging around “brand promises”.
“Put simply, a brand is a promise to the consumers we are working with, and delivering consistently on that will build our brand equity, and build profitable growth,” explains Warfield.
He adds: “We are pretty ruthless on measuring how our marketing activity has performed because we have to deliver to a profit and loss account. We do that and manage risks carefully.”
Without being sustainable we haven’t got a future as a company
It might be difficult to imagine that there are many more innovations to be made in functional products such as facial and toilet tissue, but Warfield claims such a challenge is all the more exciting. “That challenge from both the consumer and retail perspective means you have to bring out your best otherwise you won’t grow the category you’re in, you won’t grow the brand and you won’t deliver,” he states.
Warfield gives the example of Kleenex tissues, a brand that he claims was in decline about four years ago. “Consumers were starting to question the value of what they were paying for, so we had to get to the heart of that, which was partly about price and partly about how well we were communicating our product benefits to consumers,” he reflects. “We created a vision for where we wanted to take the category and underneath that created category drivers.”
Those drivers were two-fold – to push tissue use above the European penetration rate of about 65%, and driving brand awareness and emotional engagement. In 2007, Kleenex teamed up with the Department of Health to launch its Sneeze Safe campaign to educate school children about cold and flu hygiene. The campaign remained relevant through to last year, with the outbreak of swine flu.
The brand’s Let It Out campaign was also developed around the same time to link the Kleenex brand with people letting out their emotions. The campaign’s most recent incarnation featured celebrities such as actor Tom Hardy, former England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, musician Bob Geldof and radio presenter Emma Bunton.
“That piece of communication had one of the largest ROIs we have ever had from a campaign,” notes Warfield. “It was about involving people on an emotional level in what you might say is a very functional product.”
New Kleenex product developments have included the premium sub-brands Balsam, containing ingredients to alleviate a dry nose, and Ultra Soft. The product launch gained publicity when designer Ben De Lisi made a wedding dress out of Kleenex Ultra Soft tissues, which was modelled by television presenter Lisa Snowdon.
But despite wide PR coverage of these experiential campaigns, Warfield says there is still more work to be done to make sure the Kleenex brand is chosen over cheaper alternatives. “We still have a long way to go in terms of getting more people to use our tissues,” he says. “We need to ensure that we continue developing that value equation for consumers.”
KC might have a long heritage in the £3.8bn European toilet tissue industry, but this is also not without its challenges. “These markets are highly penetrated and are relatively low growth,” admits Warfield. “And consumers’ desire for value in those markets is very strong. The onus is on us to build relevant innovation and value into our brands that consumers can see, and grow the overall category while doing that.”
But KC’s main strength in this area is a certain brown-eyed, floppy eared character in the form of the Andrex puppy, which Warfield describes as “a wonderful icon”. “The Andrex puppy has more than 100,000 fans on Facebook and their dwell time on the page is extraordinary,” he says. “That gives us a real daily connection, and some great insights.”
The puppy’s presence is being expanded in the digital space with the introduction of a computer-generated version as part of a £15m campaign for the Andrex brand. The puppy will be joined by bulldog and Dalmatian puppies in a digital “puppy world”.
Warfield says the Andrex puppy has evolved to symbolise the functional benefits of Andrex – softness and strength. He adds: “We’re making the Andrex puppy more contemporary and reflective of the real world we live in today in order to make it even more the face of that brand.”
While the Andrex puppy is a fun character that has become part of the brand’s history, KC also has to communicate more serious concepts such as sustainability. Warfield claims, however, that this was something KC’s founders were interested in even in their day.
“Without being sustainable we haven’t got a future as a company,” he points out. But he adds that for sustainability to be part of a successful brand strategy, it needs to be led from a consumer benefit and understanding position, rather than sustainability alone. “In terms of what you talk about to consumers it has to be relevant, without greenwashing them.”
Warfield claims that Andrex and Kleenex were the first brands in their categories to gain Forest Stewardship Council certification, which sets forest management standards for the UK. Other initiatives include reducing product packaging by 10%, and the company aims to reduce this by a further 10% in the next five years.
Perhaps the most notable and complex move happened in October 2008, when KC announced that it would share transport of its family and personal care brands to retailers with Kellogg’s cereals. The deal is said to save 270,000 lorry miles a year.
Such a collaborative approach is “common business sense”, says Warfield. The partnership has been successful, but Warfield says KC isn’t actively looking to replicate this initiative with more companies, as such a complex move can be difficult to negotiate.
However, this is how KC has shown that brands can take on tough financial times and aggressive competition. Bienkowski adds that he expects those challenges to remain constant well into 2011.
“We have done well in terms of making our case for value pretty clear, but there are also significant cost pressures coming from both consumers and commodity price inflation,” he says. But those obstacles aren’t insurmountable, and will require more innovative product and brand development to top what KC has achieved this year.
Q&A with Troy Warfield and Andrew Bienkowski (vice-president of global marketing and innovation Kimberly-Clark)
Marketing Week (MW): What do your roles entail?
Troy Warfield (TW):
Family care includes bath tissue, facial tissue and kitchen towel. I look after a variety of brands including Andrex, Kleenex and Velvet across Europe. My responsibilities are for strategy, communication, innovation and delivery of the family care profit and loss account.
The accountability for this division’s marketing strategy lies with me. We agree the strategy as a European leadership group, and execute that through our regional teams. The brand and innovation strategy is conducted centrally, and brand activation and execution in the market is done through our regional teams.
Andrew Bienkowski (AB): I look after global brand development, which involves doing the research on
each of the brands to understand who the targets are and their unmet needs, and using that to lay out visions for our brands.
MW: How do you continue to innovate across categories that are functional?
TW: We are starting to innovate from the outside, to get ideas from consumers. One of the initiatives we have put in place is rewarding entrepreneurial mums, providing them the resources and support to bring to life their ideas that we could then commercialise.
We have established the same concept internally, creating an Entrepreneurs Fund where anyone in KC Europe can present an idea to a panel and they could win some funding to bring it to life. It’s not just the domain of marketing; we have had manufacturing ideas, ideas to rationalise the supply chain, ones about product innovation and concepts for using social media in a more commercial way. We have literally just awarded the first two projects that we are going to invest in.
MW: How do you measure the effectiveness of your marketing strategy on the company’s bottom line?
TW: We work closely with our agencies JWT, Mindshare and Engine on this. We also think about penetration and awareness, and in digital we look at click-throughs and reference points. Return on investment drives a lot of our marketing thinking and the challenge in the digital world is how do we get to an ROI model that is as robust as what we think we have with, say, television. We’re pushing the industry as hard as anyone else to ensure we can get there.
MW: How have your relationships with the retailers that stock your products developed over the past two years?
TW: Whether it’s Carrefour or Tesco, it’s about understanding what’s important to them and bringing that back to your business – so that not only your frontline sales team, but marketing, the supply chain and manufacturing team also understand that. Brands like Andrex are huge moving items and by working more closely with our retailers, we can find out on, say, Friday night in which stores our products are out of stock and what processes we could change to alleviate that. That is beneficial for both of us and that is where alignment between the two makes ultimate sense.
MW: The KC parent brand is visible in many public and corporate washrooms around the world. Is driving the link between the corporate brand and individual brands such as Kleenex on your agenda in the same way that Unilever now puts its parent brand on messaging for individual brands?
AB: For the most part consumers do not buy a consumer brand because of the corporate brand. It’s very rare to hear consumers say they bought Kimberly-Clark rather than Huggies. People tend not to have a high awareness of that connection.
KC as a corporate brand has a strong reputation with customers [like Tesco] rather than consumers. But in terms of people seeing the brand in a washroom, we don’t think that has any impact on what consumers feel towards our individual brands. We don’t see communicating the KC brand directly to consumers as a priority. It’s important to drive our company reputation, but this is better done through actions rather than talking about it.
Marketer 2 marketer
Rebecca Fay, marketing director of The Carbon Neutral Company asks:
Industry surveys state that as many as 86% of consumers express interest in products that are better for the environment. What do you think manufacturers and retailers need to do to ensure low carbon products become the most popular choice for consumers?
Troy Warfield (TW): Carbon is a complex subject, so we focus on the lifecycle of our products, which means we strive to make responsible decisions about the sourcing of raw materials, the use of the product, its packaging, the manufacturing processes we use and the end disposal.
This broadens the environmental debate beyond carbon and allows us to communicate with consumers according to what is important to them. Buyers of our Andrex and Kleenex brands are reassured to see the Forest Stewardship Council stamp on our packaging because that represents responsible sourcing of raw materials, in the same way that consumers might want to see the Fairtrade logo on a coffee brand or be able to use a washing detergent at lower temperatures.
Paul Marshall, UK and Ireland marketing director at Henkel Adhesive Technologies, asks:
Your team and people are always key to any success. What is your vision for them and how do you get them to create change in order to fulfil that vision?
TW: At KC we have introduced a Global Marketing University programme to both create a common language and raise the collective skills. We also have an extensive mentoring scheme, where I personally mentor ten future leaders, and we have created an ’inspiration series’ where we bring outstanding members of the marketing community outside KC in to share their learnings.
Andrew Bienkowski (AB): You need to build trust – listen to your people and incorporate their thinking into your vision. You also need to win consistently, because nothing inspires people, or helps them overcome the inevitable resistance to change, more effectively than actually winning.
This means keeping an eye on both short-term victories and laying the foundation for longer-term success.
Adam Margolin, head of marketing support for retail group Spar, asks:
KC has a number of ’superbrands’ that have a distinct positioning and try to stand for something. Have you ever done something with one of your brands that has diluted its brand identity and made you regret the original decision?
TW: Balancing the focus on our core categories versus expanding outside their core domain has been a careful consideration to ensure that we don’t ’dilute’ the very strong equity that these brands have built over the years.
But as we move into a new era of communicating with our consumers via digital media, organisations such as ours will need to be more comfortable with letting go of the natural controls we had around the one-way communications channels in the past. In the very early days we created one of the first sites by a consumer goods business where consumers could openly give feedback on our Kleenex brand, and the dialogue was very open, honest and insightful.
This exercise could have gone in many directions, but consumers were positively “letting it out”, in line with our brand tagline.
August 2009 to present: Kimberly-Clark – Vice-president of family care for Europe
September 2006 to August 2009: Kimberly-Clark – Vice-president and managing director of UK and Ireland
January 2006 to September 2006: Unilever – Global customer development director
January 2004 to January 2006: Unilever – Customer development director (home and personal care)
2000 to January 2004: Unilever Australasia – Customer development director
April 2007-present: Kimberly-Clark – Vice-president of global marketing and innovation
2002-2007: The Coca-Cola Company – Group marketing director
1991-2002: Procter & Gamble – Marketing director for food and beverage in Europe