Social Media Is Not A Silver Bullet


April 21, 2010

I want to tell you a story about feminine products, specifically, tampons.  NOW MEN, do not stop reading this.  It’s not going to be a gross post and I can assure you that every time I read posts about how sports compare to HR, I keep reading even though I don’t always feel completely in my comfort zone depending on the sport or the analogy.

I want to talk to you about tampons for several reasons.  The first is that I recently heard a very odd but interesting presentation at the Social Media Meetup by Andrew Meurrer, Vice President and General Manager at Kimberly-Clark.  In this presentation, he talked about how even discussing tampons is taboo, let alone asking a man to go in a store and buy some.  Kimberly-Clark has learned that once young women find their preferred brand, 70% of them will stay loyal to that brand for life.  Think about that.  Is there any other product that can inspire that percentage of brand loyalty?  Probably not.  I thought of other products I just won’t change and one is toilet paper and the other is my laundry detergent.  I swear by Quilted Northern and Cheer, in case you are curious.

But I digress.  Even something like laundry detergent only has about 55% brand loyalty.  So, you can see that in the feminine hygiene products, getting women interested in your product early in their teenage years is very important.  So since the target demographic is females age 14- 24, Kotex (the brand made by Kimberly Clark) decided to do a couple things to promote their new product line U by Kotex:

  • First, make talking about having your period acceptable.  It should not be taboo.  It happens to all of us ladies.
  • Then, create an exciting ad campaign that rips on the old tampon commercials of other brands to show that real women do not dance around in waves or with butterflies at that time of the month.    
  • Create fun new packaging to attract the women and girls.
  • Reach out to the target audience via social media. THIS is what will really differentiate how U by Kotex is accepted.  It is reaching the demographic where they are.   Where they spend time.  Where they are comfortable.

So, why do I share this with you?  Because it worked.

I am certainly a lot older than their target demographic because let’s face it, I made my product choice over twenty years ago. I would have never thought about changing even though these ads run on TV all the time.  What caught my attention was that this company is using social media to spread the word.  Bells and whistles went off in my head…I just had to try to support a company that is forward thinking and trying to get REAL and honest about this topic.  If not for me, for my little girl’s sake.

So, I tried it.

I hated it.

I want my old product back.

Why?  I think Kotex spent so much time on what the package looks like, how to tell everyone it’s ok to discuss it, and WOW- using social media and fun new ads to tell about it, that they didn’t really DO anything to make the product better than some of the others.

So, forgive me but I’m going back to my old brand.  You know, the one in the plain wrapper.  Now, I need to end this post.  I think I’ll put on some white clothes and go dance around in the rain and pretend that life is full of butterflies.  Goodness knows I certainly don’t want to have to write about my period again.

What do you think?  Can the power of social media make you change some of the tried-and-true products you have used for years?  Tell me in the comments.


  • I’m not sure. I think it will more likely be product/service quality, than some brash marketing that will make me change brand loyalty. As you said, “they didn’t really DO anything to make the product better than some of the others.” Diet Pepsi can make some flashy new commercial, but it still won’t convince me to switch from Diet Coke, unless they improve it.

    And I prefer Tide (with bleach alternative) to Cheer.

    • @Matt- What?? Tide with bleach alternative?? Wow, and I thought we were friends. I started buying Cheer when I was younger because I like the box. It has lots of pretty colors. lol

  • Great ad, I love it! It makes me laugh, but when you think about it, many of the ads she mentions are no more ridiculous than ads for other products, like beer, cars, perfume, etc.

    And buying for the packaging; we do that with so many items, like wine. Or maybe that’s just me-not being much of a connoisseur, I look for funny or clever labels.

    Anyway, I don’t have much brand loyalty, so yeah, social media could definitely influence me to try different products.

  • A crap product is a crap product whatever the branding. Always has been, always will be. The only true option is to change the product…..not to spin it differently.

    HR as a profession could learn a lesson from that.

  • We all have our brands of preference on things, and I happen to agree with you about Kotex. They need to change their product to some degree to get women to change brands. But for the younger set who are NOT locked into a brand now, I think their marketing strategy is brilliant.

    Just like we can never get people who “hate HR” in their core to like what HR does (though we might convince them that we are okay as human beings – maybe… if we bribe them with cookies)
    we also have huge opportunities with companies we work with, and with employees, to make a great impression and do #GreatHR – and create early brand loyalty.

  • I think good use of social media tools can convince me to try something new, but I agree with you that it needs to be a great product as well or I won’t keep using it. But then again, I don’t have a lot of brand loyalty and I can be swayed by products that use puppies in their advertising.

  • Hi Trish!

    I’m the Community Leader for U by Kotex (the very person responsible for all of that social outreach!).

    Since this is a totally new product (not just new packaging on the old product), we’d really like to hear feedback on what you didn’t like about it. Sure, we love all of the positive feedback we’re getting on our marketing, but you’re right. The product should be as good as the ads that sell it (I personally think it is, but what I think isn’t the point here :]).

    If you wouldn’t mind sending me an email with your thoughts, I would appreciate it:

    Jordan Miller
    U by Kotex Community Leader

  • So I’m just a few years older than their target demographic 🙂 and I’m really set on my brand so even with the great ads and the social media push, I wouldn’t give it a try. Not this category but maybe other things. Ok, not my Tide or my Charmin. But maybe…yea, I’ll have to think about that a little more. 🙂
    Great post!

    • @Krista- It’s funny about packaging. I agree that cool wine labels can sometimes influence me too (hate to admit that). I am definitely someone who is willing to try new products and glad to know you’re like that too. Thanks for the comment.

      @the HRD- You said it brother!

      @Tammy- Since we’re about the same age, let me ask you this….do you think that brands like Kotex should have another line for the 25- 45 generation? Or make improvements to that “regular” line they have that makes me think of my mom or grandma’s generation? I wonder. I think it would be important to know what busy moms need. Thanks for adding to the mix! Oh, and love your point about the importance of creating early brand loyalty. HR can take a lesson there with onboarding.

      @Shauna- Wow, puppies to sell tampons. Now THAT is innovation. lol

      @Jordan- First, thank you for commenting here. I think that says a lot about the kind of company Kimberly-Clark is and the people they hire. It shows you care about what consumers are saying. Love that. Now, I know I’m not in the target demographic for the U line of products, so not sure that my feedback will be what you’re looking for, but I’ll definitely e-mail you with my thoughts. I still have to tell you, your social media and ads did make me spend about 20 minutes on your site the other day looking through all the resources for teens and their parents. I also joined the FaceBook fan page and have shared the new ad with many people. I think what you are doing to make having a period no big deal is great. REALLY great.
      I would love to see Kotex have something target the 25- 45 year old women. We may be set in our ways, but I bet there are enough of us out there willing to try new things that it could make a real $$ impact. Maybe I can be your blogging spokeswoman. 🙂

      Thanks for reaching out.

      @Crystal- Maybe I should buy a bunch of boxes of U by Kotex to bring to the HRevolution in May. I can hand them out for all the ladies to try then we can come back in June and talk about how many made the switch….

  • Hi Trish, long time reader (but you know that) and even longer time (30 yr) Kimberly-Clark employee here.
    Glad to see Jordan reaching out to you on this. And actually, glad to see your thoughts on the topic. I am at a K-C HR conference this week, and I just saw this ad today myself. We are actually doing more and more in the social media space, including our recruitment efforts, and I am getting to play in that space as well.
    Thanks for sharing your views of the campaign as well as of the product. Getting you to try is part of the battle, now to just win you over….
    Maybe we could try product placement on Big Brother – that would get your attention!

    • @Tim- Hi there! You made my night by commenting. I have missed you on Twitter lately. Ok, how cool is it that I know someone who actually is a KC employee AND you know me (your customer) well enough to know exactly what show to place the ads on to get to me. Pretty amazing. That is the power of social media. 🙂

      Glad to hear you are getting the opportunity to use social media with recruitment and other innovative ways. I will tell you that all is not lost. I am still so intrigued with the way Kimberly-Clark is using social media and with the way that they are delivering the message about “care down there”. It really is a big deal for someone like me to see those conversations no longer being taboo. I really applaud KC for that. The product isn’t bad- I guess I was just expecting something REALLY different from all the others. I bought a bunch of different “U” products, so I’ll at least be a consumer tester for several months. lol Who knows, maybe I’ll be swayed after all….

      Thanks for the comment my friend!

    • @Laurie- I’m telling you, Kimberly-Clark totally needs you and I to be their “older chick” representatives on a commercial about periods.

  • Great post about marketing and social media.

    I think that the marketing concept about making it OK to talk openly about menstrual periods and tampons is going to fail in the long run. It’s a clever try and they’ll get a boost but I don’t think it will work for the longer term cultural change they are seeking.

    Another approach that would still use social media would be something that capitalized on the secrecy around menstruation. Something like “shhhh…..pass it on……”

    I do wish them good luck though and congratulate them on jumping into social media marketing.

  • One last comment, I agree you should bring U by Kotex to the HRevolution! Talk about some swag! (Or maybe K-C would like to be a last minute sponsor!)

Comments are closed.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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