For Teens, Thinx Talks The 'New' Language Of Periods

As it expands into more physical stores, the period underwear brand is using a back-to-school digital campaign, skipping the euphemisms.

Thinx, a pioneer in period underwear, has made a name for itself with ads that find a little humor in the inconvenience of bodily fluids. But its new back-to-school effort, themed "the New Language of Periods," is 300% earnest. Sara Plotkin, vice president of brand and creative for the Kimberly-Clark-owned company, tells D2C Insider the middle-school crowd needs a different tone of voice.

D2C Insider: The last time we talked, you had just introduced a series of funny spots directed by actor Pamela Adlon. Yet these new ads are thoroughly straightforward. Why change the brand voice?

Sara Plotkin: Humor and relatability are so important to the brand. It can help facilitate conversations and make them a little less awkward and more comfortable. But when reaching out to teens, we saw an opportunity to confront some of those taboos head-on. That's something Thinx for adults has always done. But this new generation is getting their periods for the first time, and the conversation must be open. It shouldn't feel shrouded in secrecy. So we took a more earnest approach, showing how meaningful and easy period conversations can be between parents and teens and teens talking among themselves.

D2C Insider: How informed are today's tweens and teens? Has the internet taught all 12-year-olds what a period is?

Plotkin: Not necessarily. Body literacy is incredibly important. And on a self-reported basis, teens tell us they don't believe enough education is happening, either at school or home. Our site has a pretty extensive "common questions" section. Our brand is trying to do two things: speak to teens, but also the parents likely to be purchasing the products.

D2C Insider: What's the media plan like?

Plotkin: Primarily digital, including Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and display. We've got content on our blog. And we have content authored by the folks at Anyway,  a print magazine for teenagers. We've got an influencer program. And we're also running teen-specific messaging on TV as we've expanded our physical distribution. The teen product, a little more affordable than the adult brand, is now in Target, Walmart and CVS.

D2C Insider: People need period products all year, and while back-to-school is a huge shopping occasion, it's also a cluttered marketing environment. Why launch ads into the mayhem?

Plotkin: And we run ads all year. But back-to-school is about a mindset. If you think of all of the ways that teens and parents are preparing -- new clothes, school supplies and sports equipment -- we believe having a conversation about being prepared and confident for your period should be a part of that. It feels like a natural moment, so this is our most significant teen push for the year.

D2C Insider: Thinx is a more expensive approach to periods, and over the last decade or so, young people have developed a keen interest in period poverty. Do your customers ask about it?

Plotkin: Yes. It's incredible that teens of this generation are so involved in advocacy, and it shows the impact you can have when this generation tries to promote change. It's a huge focus for us. We conduct a "State of the Period" report every other year, which lets us survey teens directly and learn how the lack of access to products impacts them. One in five teens struggle with affording period products or can't afford them. And 84% of students say they've either missed class or know someone who has missed class due to lack of access.

That all comes back to this new campaign. Encouraging parents, teens and teachers to have these conversations is another way to get at some of the issues around period poverty. And it lets us get our product to the people who need it most. Mass retail is helping.

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