Kotex: Whole Truth or Too Much?

For more than 10 years we’ve been doing research about “below the belt” type products and categories. Yup. Lots of stuff about “intimate” things. If you aren’t comfortable talking about stuff “down there” then you wouldn’t be good on our team.

We’ve talked about waxing, itching, leaking… and whenever we do women talk about how bad fem hy advertising is. They are embarassed by the euphemisms and imagery of women wearing white pants and bikinis. BUT when we have shown them more candid creative executions that take some liberties and even poke a little fun at the category, they back off their criticism and admit that they really don’t want anyone to talk about this stuff too graphically. Adult women just aren’t super comfortable talking about these things even if they pretend that they are. Trust me, I’ve heard more than one woman (old and young) refer to their menstrual cycle as “aunt Flo” or “her friend”.

So when I read about Kotex’s new campaign in an Andrew Adam Newman’s article in The New York Times I was intrigued. Here is what I love:

I love that the work is taking a Go Big or Go Home attitude and I think that if a brand like Kotex doesn’t take these kinds of risks that it will disappear into the sunset after being trampled by competitors. I’m impressed that JWT was able to get this strategy approved. I would love to have been a fly on the wall during these brainstorming sessions.

I love the inside baseball type references to market research!

I love that packaging in this category is getting more modern. This U by Kotex packaging is definitely a departure (black versus baby pink).

Here is what I worry about as a business strategist:

Will women, especially the young ones ages 14-21 that are being targeted, be brave enough to laugh at these jokes? Is any 14 year old girl confident enough for that? Plus if you are 14 years old you haven’t really been exposed to the historically bad category advertising to get the joke. Sort of like why I don’t think that 14 year olds and 40 year olds appreciatte Facebook for the same reason – if you are 14 you aren’t old enough to have lost touch with people! Who are they reconnecting with?

I also worry for Kotex that the work will be like Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. Consumers will be relieved that someone has spoken the truth but that they won’t be motivated enough to change their behavior or their brand preference. Will a good, clever message equal increased sales? Remains to be seen I guess.

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Shoes, Glorious Shoes

In a recent piece in the New York Times, Stephanie Rosenbloom found a bright spot in a still slowly moving retail scene: the picked pace of shoe buying. It seems that women who’ve managed to skip buying dresses and handbags have detoured to the shoe department. Two reasons mentioned which we’d lay money on: Shoes fit no matter what size dress you wear, so they are the one treat that doesn’t make you feel guilty for eating that extra chocolate. And the changing fashions of this year have given a kick to boot sales, creating the need for a ‘boot wardrobe.’(I am guilty of bootie buying myself.)

The Ego Protection Half Truth of this shoe shopping is that it’s a cheap way to update last year’s outfit without the rub-off of the show-off problem of spending irresponsibly. “I just bought shoes this fall to work with my old stuff.” But the Whole Truth is that she knows that women notice shoes, often more than a new sweater and she needs to show that she’s defiantly still kicking. And since most of the purchases aren’t fancy Jimmy Choo’s but DSW and Payless, she can get extra emotional credit with friends by declaring, “But I got them at a buy one, get the second 50% sale.”  She can have her platforms and still keep her feet on the ground.

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Evil Countertops & Cell Phones

So in one day I realized that my health was seriously at risk because I renovated my kitchen and talk to my mother. That can’t be good.

The New York Times revealed today that my granite countertops are leaking radon and trying to kill me.  How could I have known that my newly remodeled kitchen had such a mean streak?  Basically it has always been known that granite contains tiny, tiny amounts of radioactive materials like uranium but now that people are trying to out do each other’s kitchens with more and more exotic granite, some granite is coming through “hot” with more dangerous levels. In typical alarmist style people are said to be ripping out their countertops and floors. I’m no scientist, but that seems a little extreme.  I wouldn’t take my granite out unless it was actually glowing green!  How will this warning affect Home Depot and Lowe‘s that are in the granite business big time?  What about every television show on HGTV that relies on granite for the big reveal!?  Will real estate ads tout  cancer free countertops as a selling point?

Then I find out that this totally credible doctor out of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute warned 3,000 colleagues to drop their cell phones because of a very real cancer risk.  He bases this on early unpublished data because he says science takes too long to provide answers.  Can you imagine if health care marketers followed suit and just started to launch drugs before the FDA approved them because the bureacracy is too slow?  We would have a lot of “oops, my bad” type of retractions, wouldn’t we?   But this cell phone thing does worry me because my BlackBerry is basically attached to my fingertips and I have long chats with my folks when I’m on the road or during my commute.  I’m not sure I’m ready to change my behavior but I think I am going to pay close attention to this one.

I don’t think I’m going to watch the news or read the paper tomorrow so I don’t have to give anything else up. 

Just Ask a Woman

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Stalled in the Ladies Room Line

Did anyone else Woohoo! at the big news about the new women’s WCs in NYC? Grand Central Station just opened a new ladies room, twice the size of the men’s. There isn’t a woman alive who hasn’t moaned, at least a million times, “Why are there always long lines at every ladies room while men breeze in and out?” And yet, it took till 2008 for someone to FINALLY listen (even though the NY mayor and city council mandated a 2 to 1 ratio for certain public restrooms as early as 2005!). 

According to The New York Times, the new digs aren’t just instant access, they’re gorgeous with “Botticino marble walls, seamless terrazzo flooring, Stony Creek granite partitions and mirrors with scalloped edges.” The article quotes commuter Lisa Kovitz, who vells, “It’s, like, amazing…You could hear angels singing, it was so nice.”  

The restroom gender wars are no joke for the 14 million incontinent women who suffer (and wait) in silence. We’ve researched this for Ortho Pharmaceutical’s drug Ditropan, and when she’s in a hurry to go, she needs answers, not laughs. But the gags won’t quit. 

Once during an onstage speech, a man asked me, “Why do women go together to the bathroom and then stay so long?” I answered, “Because they are complimenting each other!” What woman hasn’t picked up a quick beauty tip while sharing a mirror with a stranger: “Where do you get your hair cut?” “Oh, it’s a mess today, but if you live nearby, try Sharon at ‘Styles Are Us’”.  In that safe, anonymous cave, we commiserate and suck up compliments that family and friends sometimes scrimp on. (I’ve heard that men aren’t nearly so chatty in their space.)   

When I was a judge on ABC’s reality show “American Inventor,” contestant Sharon Clemens presented the Rest Room Door Clip, a simple way to compensate for the repeated nightmare of public stalls with broken locks. The other judges, all men, doubted that being surprised while toilet-bound was that big a deal.   

Women have different needs than men in plenty of categories. Women say what they want. Why aren’t more people listening?

Just Ask a Woman

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May 23, 2024
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK


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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
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