MUST FORM FOLLOW FUNCTION? NOT WHEN REINVENTING AN IMAGE
For many years, feminine hygiene products — and many of their packages — have been stuck in a white rut. White may imply “clean” and “fresh,” but it’s also “dead boring.” White also carries a medical and sanitary image.
Fast-forward to 2010, when the branding and design team for Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark’s Kotex brand sought a way to increase market share and appeal to Millennials (particularly the subset of young women aged 14-22). Knowing that Millennials are technology-savvy, fashion-conscious but averse to overt marketing, and selfabsorbed but also strongly influenced by their friends, the Kimberly-Clark team worked with New York-based design firm CBX to flip feminine product norms on their head in a new line comprised of products and packaging that looked radically different from anything else on the shelf.
The U by Kotex line debuted in the spring of 2010 in paperboard boxes and purse-sized tins with a matte black coating accented with fluorescent colors. Even the plastic wrappers on the individual tampons and pads sport Day-Glo shades. The plastic applicators echo the intense colors, and the pads and liners feature printed patterns. The strategy proved successful. The new products “flew off the shelves,” said design manager Kristi Bryant, and the company won an Effie marketing award for the line.
Determined to keep their target market engaged, the U by Kotex team and CBX looked to fashion and cosmetic trends for their next venture: a limited-edition U by Kotex Designer Series. Released this spring and expected to be on store shelves through the end of this month, the series features four brightly colored patterns — “poptimistic,” “boho,” “freestyle,” and “punk glam” — that reflect individual style preferences.
“We want to continually surprise and delight our customers at every point in the experience, from the outer package to the internal packaging to the product itself,” said Jenn Westemeyer, design director for Kimberly-Clark’s Kotex, Poise, and Depend brands. “We’re giving them the opportunity to customize and personalize their experience with the product, so that it’s almost like an accessory.”
In August, the team took its engagement strategy to the next level: crowdsourcing. With the help of fashion designer Patricia Field, U by Kotex launched a “Ban the Bland” contest to solicit new product and package designs. Anyone, regardless of age or gender, can go to the brand’s website and create their own designs for pads, carrying tins, or “inspiration boards” (box designs).
Packaging Strategies’ Perspective: Though not every product and its packaging may lend themselves to such frequent changes, the U by Kotex evolution should serve as a wake-up call and a reminder of the importance of understanding your target market.