Brandchannel’s weekly Digital Watch feature takes a deeper look at brands’ digital strategy. Our latest case study, UbyKotex, shows how the Kimberly-Clark owned brand aims to break down the barriers around menstruation and feminine hygiene products by using humor and social media.
OVERVIEW: Aunt Flo’s on the Internet—and Kotex wants to talk to you about her.
Kimberly-Clark updated its premier feminine-hygiene brand in March 2010 with the national launch of its U by Kotex campaign, featuring a redesigned tampon, pad, and liner product line, modernized packaging, and an irreverent, frank message about menstruation.
Perhaps you’ve already seen the accompanying TV ads, parodies of the typical tampon spot (Kotex’s included): In one of the ads, a fresh-faced girl adorned in all white proclaims, “Hi—I’m a believably attractive 18- to 24-year-old female. You can relate to me because I’m racially ambiguous.” After 30 seconds of continuing to excoriate every tampon-commercial stereotype, the clip ends with a printed message on the screen that says: “Why are tampon ads so obnoxious?”
“That time of month” has long been veiled in secrecy and embarrassment, but Kotex feels it’s time to drop the pads: According to “Break the Cycle: A Study on Vaginal Health,” a study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of U by Kotex, 7 in 10 women ages 14 to 35 believe “it's time for society to change how it talks about vaginal health, yet less than half (45 percent) feel empowered to make a difference.”
Here’s where U by Kotex enters the picture, taking steps through its new campaign to break the cycle of miscommunication and euphemistic conversation. “Break the Cycle” is also, not coincidentally, the brand’s tagline in its integrated marketing efforts, which include a user-driven Web site; targeted print, TV and online advertising; direct-to-consumer online communications; extensive consumer sampling; and retail in-store support.
In other words, even more important than the sleek, revamped packaging, celebrity endorsement (Kotex has retained members of the Kardashian family to dish on discharge), and tongue-in-cheek take on menses maintenance is the underlying message that it’s OK to talk about one’s monthly flow, its correlating body parts, and overall feminine care—period.
WEBSITE On the U by Kotex site, the “Break the Cycle” tagline is prominently represented on the homepage in a rotating slew of Flash-propelled statistics, as is the U by Kotex logo (whose “U” appropriately resembles the bottom half of a maxi pad). These facts and figures (e.g., 83 percent of girls are uncomfortable talking to their parents about periods) are juxtaposed on top of quotes from the brand’s target audience (14-to-22-year-old young ladies), spouting “Like, duh!” mantras such as, “Cartwheels are the last thing I’d ever do on my period.”
The open dialogue advocated by the brand is emphasized online through a series of conversation-starting sections, including “Get Real,” where girls are encouraged to speak up about their periods (one featured challenge asks, “Where did you first hear the word ‘vagina’ and how did you react?’); watch videos of ad parodies and create their own; participate in social experiments; and take interactive polls.
In the “Real Answers” section, a “What is going on down there?!” banner hangs over questions such as “Do tampons hurt?” and “Will I still be virgin if I use a tampon?” queries that are answered by a panel of three: a health expert, a mom, and a peer. Gone are the Judy Blume-inspired days of trying to figure out what to do in the ladies’ room when your period first makes its appearance: An area for “first timers” offers education and advice, including the science behind periods, a girl’s first visit to an OB/GYN, and even a video that shows how to insert a tampon properly.
Visitors who click on “Spread the Word” will be invited to become brand ambassadors of sorts. Girls can connect with friends on Facebook and are invited to sign the “Declaration of Real Talk,” a document that calls for girls to celebrate their bodies and periods as being natural and normal; challenge society about what it means to be a woman; and respect their vaginas and not think “vagina” is a dirty word. (For every signer, Kotex will donate $1 to Girls for a Change, a nonprofit that teams up girls with professional women to encourage social change.)
U by Kotex features black packaging accented with bright colors (no pastels or flowers here) in the brand’s attempt to make its mark on the feminine hygiene category with a bold, modern look while keeping the packaging discreet. This design has transitioned over to the website, with the navigational bars and backgrounds mainly in black and complemented by brilliant fuchsia, blue, green, and yellow tabs, subheads and callouts. On the back of the packaging are fun health facts that direct consumers back to the website.
Oddly enough, the Kardashians (Khloe, Kim, and mom, Kris) and their endorsement of the product are nowhere to be found on the U by Kotex website (save for Khloe’s signature at the end of the Declaration of Real Talk). The reality-TV family shot a series of videos for Kotex that are running on the Kardashians’ own websites and other third-party sites. However, for a demographic that’s practically grown up working a computer mouse and immersed in reality TV, it doesn’t seem the brand is capitalizing on this opportunity to get starstruck girls talking by cross-promoting the videos on U by Kotex’s own site.
SOCIAL MEDIA At the bottom of every page (except, strangely, the home page) on the U by Kotex website is the constantly advancing number of how many girls have signed up to break the cycle (1.24 million as of mid-July 2010), as well as connecting buttons to U by Kotex’s social media presences, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Kimberly-Clark has created two related Facebook pages: a U by Kotex page that simply directs viewers back to the main website, and a Break the Cycle page that the brand is using as its main conduit to reach its core audience. Its description: "Time to stop all the weirdness about periods, don’t you think? Progress is where it’s at. U by Kotex needs your help to BREAK THE CYCLE."
Launched in March 2010, its Facebook page (just over 15,000 friends and counting as of mid-July) shows the U by Kotex logo as its user profile photo and once more hones in on the campaign tagline with a “Break the Cycle” tab. Here, followers will find a video about social change regarding “down there” terminology, an image of the Declaration page, and links back to the U by Kotex Web site.
The moderator engages the page’s fans by asking provocative questions (“If you could design your own tampon/pad machines, what would they look like?”); encourages fans to post their own personal stories; and comments on nearly every post—a vital component of managing an effective, interactive Facebook page. There’s a tab for free products (in line with the campaign’s consumer sampling goal), though it appears from recent postings that so many fans are asking for Kotex’s goods that they’re currently on back order.
The U by Kotex Twitter page conforms to the brand’s overall aesthetics: clean white with a black bar on the side highlighted by fuchsia subheads. The page isn't @ubykotex as you might expect, but @jordangetsreal because it's maintained by Jordan Miller, the community moderator who, according to the Twitter bio, is “on a mission to change the way girls think and talk about their periods.”
Miller tweets regularly but smartly, without saturating her followers’ Twitter feeds with useless info. Instead, her audience will find links to recently published U by Kotex articles, announcements, commentary on related news, and calm @ responses to even the snarkiest of followers. Her Tweet tone is conversational, warm, and approachable—just like the brand is trying to be—and she tries to keep the conversation going both ways, which really is (or should be) the intention of any consumer brand on the social media network.
Finally, U by Kotex’s YouTube channel maximizes the brand’s foray into video communications, more vividly displaying the commercials, parodies, and social experiments that visitors can also find on the website. In one social experiment, a girl professes to have left her bike lock at home and begs male passersby to go into a convenience store to buy her tampons; the responses range from, “Ew, gross,” to “Can I just buy you toilet paper instead?” It’s the type of entertaining viral advertising that’ll make you want to jump from one video to the next—and for which YouTube’s the perfect venue.
U by Kotex seems to be going with the flow of its audience, picking up on their concerns and issues regarding this most delicate of subjects and opening up a dialogue about it on the Web. Now if they’d only create a Facebook app to handle our monthlies, we’d be all set.
*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.