How one brand is tackling 100 years of ‘failed’ femcare

Direct-to-consumer femcare brand Callaly is hoping its first big marketing investment will send a clear message about the need for more female-led innovation in the sector.

Personal care products have come a long way over the last century, but tampons haven’t changed since they were first created in 1931.

Subscription direct-to-consumer femcare brand Callaly has created an ad to show just how little innovation has taken place in the tampon sector, while products such as condoms, vibrators and contraceptives have changed dramatically.

The film features women unboxing and uncovering the purpose of a series of products used in the 1930s. It marks Callaly’s first big investment in the brand since it launched in 2018 and hopes to send a clear message about the need for more female-led innovation in femcare.

“We’re not necessarily doing it to drive sales, it’s about PR and talkability,” Callaly’s chief marketing officer Kate Huang tells Marketing Week. “If it does [drive PR and talkability], it makes me feel more confident to invest in brand rather than trying to push performance channels trying to sell the product.”

Callaly is using the film to promote its signature ‘tampliner’ product. The tampon with a built-in mini-liner was designed by a gynaecologist and is what Callaly considers to be the “real value” of the brand.

It’s not about having as many customers as we can, it’s about how do we find people that love us.

Kate Huang, Callaly

“We need to find people who love tampliners because that’s the real value of Callaly,” Huang says. “It’s not about having as many customers as we can, it’s about how do we find people that love us.”

The ad, created by Don’t Panic, was filmed before the Covid-19 outbreak and initially scheduled to launch in March. However, Huang says it felt “irrelevant and indulgent” to communicate a brand message about tampliners and innovation during the wider spread of Covid-19 and the early weeks of lockdown.

Instead, it focused its performance marketing on free home delivery through the letterbox, which Huang says has been “more appealing” for new customers.

As a D2C brand that offers a selection of subscription-based products, Callaly has an advantage to be able to reach its customers online, while traditional retail has been more greatly impacted by the lockdown.

Mooncup’s marketing mission to eclipse the competition

Since the onset of the pandemic, Callaly says it has seen both an increase in demand for its products and customer loyalty, with April its biggest month to date for sales from both existing subscribers and new customers.

“We usually see a small percentage of customers cancel quickly, effectively trying one box rather than agreeing to a continuous service, but since lockdown cancellations in the first month have halved,” Huang says. “This might not all be Covid-19 related, of course we are a young brand that’s growing fast.”

‘People with periods’

Callaly is focusing its marketing on three key groups. The first group are teenagers who have just started using tampons and “it’s changing their lives”. The next are young professionals in their 20s who are early adopters, have taken up a lot of subscriptions and see it as a time-saving life-improving perk.

Lastly, there’s the ‘digital mums’ that want to subscribe to things because it makes their lives easier and who also have greater disposable income.

“The one group we haven’t tried to really tap into is the tampon teens yet, because in terms of marketing, you’re marketing to teenagers and mums and it’s a bit of an odd split,” Huang says. “So our target for now is people in their 20s and mums.”

Callaly is stepping back from the use of influencers, which has proved ‘volatile’for the brand.

Callaly’s spend has been purely digital so far, with Instagram working particularly well in targeting those key audiences. However, it is taking a step back from using influencers after not seeing the returns it hoped for.

“The influencer market is so volatile; we did some work that worked really well, another piece of work tanked. It’s not very consistent for us,” Huang explains.

“If you’re a massive brand and have the time, you can weather the ebbs and falls. If you’re a small brand and don’t have enough money, you can get lucky one day and it works really well, but if it doesn’t it’s a waste of money. It’s not that it doesn’t work, it’s just higher risk.”

As a B Corp, Callaly is driven by using its business as a force for good. All of its products are wrapped in sustainable packaging and it donates at least 1% of sales to non-profits, including organisations such as Days for Girls, Red Box Project and Bloody Good Period.

It is also making a conscious effort to ensure it is an inclusive brand that caters for all people that have periods.

Why marketers should think less gendered and more neutral

All of Callaly’s research was based on women at the beginning. However, hearing the story of an intersex man who had been using tampliners because he finds it uncomfortable to wear liners or pads prompted Callaly to change the way it thought of the brand, Huang explains.

“Rather than saying ‘women with periods’, we say ‘people with periods’,” she says. This is reflected on Callaly’s website and Instagram feed, which features a range of content that is inclusive of all people that have periods and not limited to cis-gendered women.

Huang hopes Callaly’s “no-nonsense approach” to periods and reproductive health will help it grow beyond the pandemic.

“We’ve done our best as a small team to communicate the humanity behind the brand,” Huang says. “We hope that when we finally emerge from this crisis, our customers will stay loyal to us for our products, service and the values we stand for.”