August, the feisty D2C period product company aimed at Gen Z consumers, has hired Diane Lewis as the new vice president of marketing. Lewis joins the company as it expands into retail, and she's charged with leveraging the company's content strategy and fast-growing community to drive omnichannel growth.
August launched last summer, founded by Gen Z period activists Nadya Okamoto and Nick Jain. It quickly built a strong D2C following for its sustainable products, its mission to, fight period poverty, and its willingness to reimburse customers for "the tampon tax" many states still charge. (They treat feminine hygiene as non-essential, aka luxury, purchases.)
Jain says that while the brand launched well with that organic content, retail distribution has become more critical. "Initially, we leveraged our assets without putting much money behind ads and built an engaged consumer base,” he tells D2C Insider. “But many consumers said they didn't want to order online."
Maybe those customers' periods weren't that regular or predictable, he says, leading to canceled subscriptions. "Maybe they ordered too many or too few. And they had to run out for tampons, anyway. For us, the realization was that we need an in-store, omnichannel presence."
August is already in 400 Target stores and is expanding distribution.
Lewis, an “elder millennial,” says she is settling into the Gen Z-focused brand nicely. She tells D2C Inside that the main difference between the two cohorts is how Gen Z has intensified its commitment to purpose-driven brands. "Gen Z will research to find out everything about a company, visiting their channels and going through the founders' background. You have to be authentic."
Her mission is to build awareness for the brand and differentiate it in a field crowded with other sustainability competitors, menstrual cups, and period underwear, not to mention legacy brands, like Procter & Gamble's Always.
Part of August's appeal has been disruptive messaging, like showing real period blood. It's also become increasingly political. For instance, it recently partnered with several other women's brands to offer a pregnancy test disguised as a tampon, to protect women from digital surveillance in states that have severely restricted abortion access.
"The tampon tax is another way we stand out," Lewis says. "Many brands talk about it. We're working to do something about it, including reimbursing customers."
Jain says that it's difficult to compare customer acquisition costs between the two channels "because the types of marketing are so different. But profit margins are stronger in retail because we don't have to pay for fulfillment. Done right, the two channels do work symbiotically."
Retail channels are changing the customer mix for the company, adding more consumers in their 20s and 30s. "And we're now reaching people shopping for their daughters and themselves," Lewis says.
The omnichannel presence also paves the way for new marketing efforts, including direct mail and connected TV, and Lewis says those efforts will be visible soon.
The audiences are different in other ways, too. D2C customers find August in a search for sustainable period products. Target shoppers find them as they wander the store on other shopping missions. "The product has to work much harder on the shelf," Lewis says.
Jain won't reveal the company's annual sales but says it spends roughly 15% to 20% of revenue on marketing.
And August's marketing is inherently political. For one thing, it's fiercely inclusive, with messaging that it serves all people who menstruate, not just women. And for another, conservative legislators are gunning for period education, including Florida's so-called "Don't Say Period" bill, which bans educators from teaching about reproductive health to students before the eighth grade.
"The political landscape that we're living in now is different than three years ago, and I do not doubt that it will continue to change. We spend a lot of time internally talking about our values, what we believe as a brand," Jain says.
For example, the company stepped up marketing after the Florida bill passed, "and we saw sales go up. So our messages are resonating, whether in red or blue states."