U by Kotex leakage freakage

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Kimberley Clark are going out of their way to push the problem.

It might be “leakage” or it could be the risk of attracting dogs by virtue of an unclean bum (ref Kleenex Cottonelle).

This latest effort is confronting women with what we are told is a common problem. The solution is U by Kotex.

In both cases the company tackles the problem with clear product solutions.

Both approaches and that of Carefree raise an interesting question. Do consumers respond better to direct, descriptive advertising and what level of directness is more effective? The word “vagina” has recently been a subject of many complaints regarding the advertising campaign for Carefree Actifresh.

It’s interesting to ask if this approach researches well with all women / consumers? The industry likes to trumpet from on high and say we MUST change the consumer – “better out than in!” and remove ourselves from these suppressed notions of discrete advertising…? A vocal minority applaud the use of language that can make mums and dads cringe into their sofa. “It’s a vaginal discharge so lets herald it from on high!”. I’m not so sure.

There is a subtle balance between being direct and being overtly confronting to women and families in their own living rooms. U, which is firmly youth targeted, gets it right. We aren’t shocked into awareness of the problem and efficacy of the solution, we don’t hear language that is too confronting and we are indirectly very aware of the problem without being told that it is a “vaginal discharge”…territory other brands would prefer to own.

At the end of the day it is about understanding the audience not just the user and when it is the mass medium of TV the family audience matters. This is why it is an interesting topic for discussion when used in mass market media (rather than more directly targeted communication).

Without being overly conservative I sincerely hope that brands don’t continue to reach for stand-out notoriety by the use of the lowest creative common denominators in overtly describing what many real people consider to be discrete categories.

The true creative challenge is to communicate the problem and benefit / solution without the reliance on the literal descriptions and language.

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Kleenex Gripples toilet roll TV ad – dog sniffs bums

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We now firmly understand that a labrador puppy is the spokes-dog for toilet paper.

Usually he sprukes soft, strong and very, very long. And because he is soft and cuddly, we naturally assume that the product has similar qualities. We don’t often question if these are the properties that make it the best toilet paper, probably because it’s not something we choose to debate and discuss.

So it’s interesting to see Kleenex apply this more direct approach to the category.

Basically, does your bum smell?

After the initial shock of being confronted by such a direct accusation, we can consider what the ad is trying to do.

The cute puppy, is now less interested in playing with toilet rolls and is more interested in being a dog and smelling bums. Those that use Kleenex pass the test. Those that don’t get a yelp of terror from our cute character assassin.

Kleenex have made one concession to our potential embarrassment by making up a new word for textured toilet paper – gripples. To me it sounds a bit like a grade of sandpaper and perhaps not as cumfy as it is meant to. They are trading off this imaginative invention:

Here is what the company says in a press release from Kimberly-Clark:

“While a little edgier than previous Kleenex Cottonelle brand campaigns, the aim is to attract more premium brand switchers, who represent 60% of the market, by communicating the strength of Kleenex Cottonelle as well as the softness it’s renowned for.”

Marketing manager for Kleenex Cottonelle brand, Michelle Rossier said:

‘People use personal care products to feel clean and fresh all day, however they don’t connect this feeling to the toilet tissue they buy. The new campaign positions Kleenex Cottonelle brand as the toilet tissue that provides you with a superior level of clean.”

On the one hand (pun intended) this is a very different move in the category. It will get noticed.

On the other, do people want to be confronted by such a direct message?

My view is that it works to build awareness, but NOT brand engagement amongst the mass market. It has the cute credentials of the puppy to defuse a very direct commentary on hygiene and might perhaps, through the innovative invention of gripples, combine enough rational reasons with the emotion of our previously polite puppy to put this brand at the top of the shopping list. But that is a big “might” in the mass market shopping aisle.

Whilst it is great to see some difference in one of those tricky categories, I think this is missing the true insight on real consumer attitudes and the client has been sold “difference” against “effectiveness”.

The association to a dog sniffing a bum (and what we mean here is poo!) is at odds with what consumers want from the category – i.e. discretion and effectiveness without the overt reference to usage. No one wants to badge themselves in this category!

Just like the Care Free “Vagina” ad, the literal use of contentious words and actions becomes gratuitous and actually isn’t big or clever from a creative point of view. Very few brands successfully shock us into the sell – despite a creative belief that the notoriety of contentious / confronting ads will increase appeal.

As a footnote, I understand that there has been an immediate sales impact on Kleenex. And not a good one. Bummer.