packaged goods

Kim-Clark Veep Talks Turkey About Personal Care

U by Kotex

Kimberly-Clark's Poise, Depend and Kotex products are demographically distant when it comes to the target consumer. But they are very similar in at least one regard: All three are designed to deal with physiological issues that carry a certain stigma. And who among those with incontinence, leakage or having a menstrual period wants to talk about it?

The company's new campaigns for these products suggest that people who need them certainly do. Ads use direct language and self-effacing humor (in the case of Poise and Kotex). Campaigns for Poise feature humorous Web videos in which actress Whoopi Goldberg impersonates different women through history talking about their leakage issues.

The new U by Kotex campaign has social media elements featuring the Kardashian sisters who talk about menstruation as well as ads that make fun of traditional feminine care advertisements.

The campaigns and new product SKUs reflect an effort by Kimberly-Clark to jettison the "institutional" baggage these products carry, and shift them into the personal care space, where they can share the aisle -- at least figuratively -- with things like shampoo, eyeliner and underwear.

Andrew Meurer

Indeed, new products for Poise, Kotex and Depend are intended to make the brands seem less like pharmacy items and more like things you'd find in the cosmetic aisle or next to dress socks. Marketing Daily speaks to Andrew Meurer, VP of marketing for adult and feminine care at K-C.

Q: What's the genesis of this shift to more designer products and straightforward communications for the adult care category at K-C?

A: We are in year three or four of having Tony Palmer as the first CMO of Kimberly-Clark. Tony has really sharpened the saw in terms of marketing. He has put in a whole new marketing regime that that has improved advertising across all of K-C.

The second piece is, I came into K-C about two years ago starting on adult and feminine care businesses. The thing I noticed most is that all three categories involve some taboo or stigma associated with them. All three were really born out of institutional roots. Kotex invented the category with belted pads; it was almost clinical the way they introduced menstrual pads in the 1920s. [Then], Depend, of course, and Poise.

The other thing is, even though they were all born from institutional care characteristics, they are part of the personal care category. And the consumer thinks of them as personal care: beauty care, cosmetic, hair care, shampoo, even oral care. And when you look at those, there is a huge contrast between products, packaging and marketing [personal care products] versus the way the menstrual care category, incontinence and light bladder leakage categories are marketed.

We are going to change that. That's sort of what has driven this movement. We arrived at this listening to what consumers are telling us. People want something real from the brands, not hearkening back to the 1940s.

Q: I can understand that to some extent with Poise and Depend, but what is anachronistic about Kotex marketing?

A: If you pull up any current TV ads, both ours and competitors', they hearken back to the 1960s; they aren't addressing today's woman at all. You see companies talking to women in a very paternalistic fashion; you see euphemisms used to try to communicate.

The age-old marketing formula was put a woman in white pants on a horse and have her ride down the beach, and the product must be working. It permeates everything, and we're guilty too. In fact, in our U by Kotex ads, when we make light of it, we are using snippets out of our own commercials.

Q: Are consumers thinking differently about these things?

A: I think it's different for two of the categories. U by Kotex and Poise are a consumer shift. We knew it was clearly time to change the conversation to reflect social media and word-of-mouth. We knew we had to be authentic as it's important. And we had to use a significant amount of humor as a way of breaking the cycle of these stigmas and tattoos.

For Depend, it's a bit different because we have a whole new generation of consumers turning 65 -- boomers -- and we know they are socially and culturally different. We know their expectations are much different. You can characterize that as being straightforward and real, and dealing with things head-on and bringing design into the world of institutional care. You even see that in hearing aid design.

Q: How is all of this affecting your media strategy?

A: I would start by saying it's about a collaborative agency effort to start with. Depending on whom you're talking to. Kimberly-Clark has broken out of the TV-only model.

That said, for U by Kotex we played a big role in a 'Tyra Banks' episode; she darned near devoted an entire episode to what we are doing in the category. And then the other angle is the Kardashian sisters. What both have in common is they speak to a young generation of women. That's who we want to reach.

Q: The U-by-Kotex line suggests is a major product redesign, both in terms of packaging and delivery. How long was that in the works?

A: We got going on U by Kotex 18 to 20 months ago. That's incredibly fast. In my experience, you are normally looking at two to four years to develop products like this. There was a lot of data out there, but we really started with a blank sheet of paper.

We took a lot of inspiration from our Australian counterparts, who also have U by Kotex. We lifted the idea of breaking the cycle, which was their ad idea.

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