U By Kotex Courts Youth Market With 'Wow Factor' Feminine Products | Adweek
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Purple Tampons. Why Not?

Branding's final frontier?

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A cynic would say that no plain white surface can last long these days before some brand turns it into a marketing vehicle. But what if that surface belongs to a tampon, feminine pad, or panty liner? Off-limits territory, right?

Well, no. Last March, Kimberly-Clark’s Kotex brand introduced U by Kotex, a line of feminine-care products in a staggering range of psychedelic patterns and neon colors, and it's been pushing the limits ever since. The tactic is working. K-C just announced that Q2 2011 sales in its personal-care division were up 7 percent to $2.3 billion. 

“It’s another opportunity to push this category that’s traditionally been institutional and clinical-looking,” said Kristi Bryant, design manager, Kimberly-Clark.

Now comes the latest peg: a limited-edition “Designer Series”—assisted by New York brand-design consultancy CBX—featuring still more riotous color explosions in patterns including polka-dots, stripes, clovers, and various curlicue thingies: “Poptimistic,” “Boho,” and “Freestyle” for the pads, and a tampon called “Punk Glam.”

Kotex also recently sponsored an online design-your-own feminine pad contest that resulted in over 11,000 submissions (BanTheBland.com). Girls adorned liners with peace signs, umbrellas, strawberries, and argyle over leopard skin. One submission bore the name, "Peace Love Period." Winning designs will hit the market next year.

While the K-C marketing department's original question—“Who said period products have to be white to work well?”—has seemingly been answered, it couldn't have said for sure that women would thrill to the idea of lining undergarments with orange sunbursts or purple paisleys. But the U line seems to have reached the right Justin Bieber squealer demo. A recent comment on the U by Kotex website: “Yay! New pad designs! I’m excited! xD!” Enough said.

And forgive us for asking, but there's something we want to know. What’s the point of expressing a personal fashion ethos if the product is, uh, not exactly something one can show off walking down the street? 

“They’re more of an extension of today’s young women’s personal style,” said Bryant.

With brands everywhere searching for that final frontier of personal-style extension, tampons may truly be it.