Today is Menstrual Hygiene Day. It aims to break down stigma and raise awareness about menstrual hygiene and health. These topics can have a serious impact on the health, wellbeing and attainment opportunity for many females around the world (if you couldn’t go to school one week a month, would you be where you are today?). Even in the most forward-thinking and period-positive markets, mainstream menstrual hygiene is a depressingly stagnant category – but some brands are dedicated to changing this. We look at the brands that might just be starting a red revolution, and potentially scooping up some of the predicted $42.7 billion revenue of the global feminine care market, which is set to grow at 6.1% CAGR during 2016-2022.
‘Elusive and euphemistic’ has been the norm in menstrual hygiene marketing since day dot – sorry to break it to you, but periods are not blue (as ads would have you believe), ‘mother nature’ cannot be banished with a Pearl, and the red strawberry I have used as the image for this article has nothing to do with women or periods. To prove how bad it is, in 2017, Bodyform made headlines for simply showing real blood on a period pad. This creates an atmosphere in which we can’t speak honestly and openly about something that’s very important to many women.
Marketing in this category (which doesn’t seem to have a name we can all agree on – is it feminine care? Menstrual hygiene? Female sanitary products? Period stuff?) has not been forward thinking, and neither have the products. But there are brands who are moving the needle – creating innovative products and listening to consumer needs, learning from other categories and doing the good work that Menstrual Hygiene Awareness Day supports along the way. Here are a few of our favourites.
OHNE: WHAT YOU NEED WHEN YOU NEED IT
Ohne does two main things differently that shows how in touch they are with the premium tampon-shopper: they remove a key journey pain point, and they make themselves part of every week in a woman’s life, not just one a month.
Making sure their products are organic, natural and chemical free (which, alarmingly, most in the market are not), Ohne has set up a subscription service: gone are the panic moments when you realise you have no tampons when you really, really need them. Using customer data and reliable delivery, they make sure the right products arrive on your doorstep just when you need them. If it works for coffee, groceries and wine, why not tampons?
Ohne have also ensured that their brand is relevant to their customers all throughout the month by creating products for all moments of a cycle, be it cramp-soothing or calming oils. They show customers that they understand what it’s like to be a woman with a period, and become a reliable friend along the journey.
By concentrating on the customer journey and its pain points, Ohne has created a new model for the category.
DAME: LET’S INNOVATE
Dame has homed in on a big problem in the category: periods products currently on offer are terrible for the environment. As City to Sea highlights, menstrual products are currently the 5th most common item found on European beaches – more widespread than single-use coffee cups, cutlery or straws. Propelled forward by a personal mission and an awareness that other women must want an alternative too, Dame’s founder set to innovating.
Today, Dame sells the world’s first re-usable period applicator, and it’s award-winning. They focused on making a product that is better for you, better for the planet and also looks fantastic (hence winning all the awards).
By identifying a common desire among their target market, and thinking outside what already existed in the market, Dame has broken category norms.
THINX: PERIODS WITH A PURPOSE
Thinx have also done the unthinkable and persuaded many women to not use any products at all but instead buy their innovative period pants. No need for single use products means no waste and a far lower monthly spend. The barriers to having periods in such a different way may have seemed insurmountable – convincing women to trust the technology, battling with habits formed over a lifetime, and the unfortunate ‘ew factor’ are just some of them. But Thinx have managed it, and the women buying their products are not the only people they’re helping.
Thinx’s GiveRise project is ‘fighting for better access to puberty education, amplifying grassroots activism, and donating our undies and time’. Their brand is so deeply intertwined with this purpose, and it speaks so strongly to a growing cohort of socially conscious women that it may just have helped them become the brand that smashes stigmas wherever they are.
No barrier or social issue is too big to overcome for Thinx: a strong purpose that unites both brand and consumer, and an unwavering dedication to a strong product, has gone a long way.
When listening to the founders of Dame, Ohne and other forward-thinking menstrual hygiene brands at an event put on by period poverty charity BloodyGoodPeriod, the conversation kept circling back to choice: right now, women do not have the choice they deserve in the period space when in the supermarket. The modern tampon has been on the market since the 1930s - periods might not have changed much since then, but technology, manufacturing and specifically FemTech have, so it’s about time someone ruffled the category’s feathers and these brands are doing just that.
Whether women buy these products once and become converts or jump around them for the rest of their lives, the point is they have the choice to have their period in a way that works for them. Brands are disruptuing the category, making it an exciting time to be both a brand and a buyer.