Branding Win: Monistat Isn’t Afraid to Talk About Yeast Infections

When watching ads for “intimate” and “sanitary” products, you may notice a trend: while it’s perfectly OK to discuss erectile dysfunction and other problems exclusive to the male gender, distinctly feminine problems like menstruation, breast exams or the dreaded yeast infection don’t get a lot of attention. Ad and media execs tend to be “grossed out” and back away despite the fact that 3/4 of women experience candidiasis at some point in their lives–which means there’s a huge market for related products.

Here’s an example: each of the major networks refused to air this Ogilvy Kotex commercial because, according to Adweek, they just couldn’t handle the word “vagina.”

In this light, a recent survey sponsored by Monistat which found that most women still hold potentially serious misconceptions about these conditions makes more sense. So how can feminine health and hygiene brands truly connect and engage with audiences when big media says “we’d rather not?”

We recently had a chance to speak about the topic with Jennifer Moyer, VP of marketing for Monistat‘s parent brand Insight Pharmaceuticals, who had some very interesting insights.

This refusal by the “mainstream media” to discuss women’s sanitary/health issues creates a big opening for brands willing to talk to women honestly and give them real information instead of freaking out over something that really isn’t a big deal.

Moyer told us:

“There’s still an underlying current across the nation that we can’t have plain, straightforward talk about these issues–and it’s reinforced by PR/marketing campaigns. We thought things would get better, but the current controversy over birth control indicates that we haven’t advanced as far as I hoped.”

Monistat wants to occupy that “honesty” space by urging women to “get candid about candidiasis” and serving as the go-to source for information on this and other extremely common conditions. Moyer explained the challenge:

“Young women can be very frank about these things, but they are not getting this info as much as they would like through marketing and media efforts. When they look, they find either find medicinal/clinical language or misinformation. It’s our responsibility to get clear info out there.”

“One of our key objectives is to address the myths. This is an opportunity for brands to say ‘What are we going to do best to help women?”

So what’s the answer? How will Monistat break through?

“We’re getting ready to fully re-launch our website. A lot of what we’re doing is not to create PSAs but to provide information. We want to be the go-to information source and a good citizen to women so they have a place to get their questions answered and de-mystify the whole category.”

Research shows that women often use mobile devices to figure out which products to buy–and Monistat wants to be the site they find first “So they can use it in real time even when standing at the shelf trying to decide what they need.”

The revamp will begin with the new site and video content. Then:

“[Monistat will host] Twitter parties where women can tweet to OB/GYN health care professionals who will answer their questions. The next step in the campaign will be to apply humor, lighten the mood, and say ‘hey, this is normal’. Yes, women feel like its gross and icky and they’re right, but let’s just address that straight out.”

“For example, in our ad and marketing campaigns, we call it the “yeasty cha cha band” and feature someone wearing tight jeans. Again, the goal is to break down barriers.”

Here are a couple of Monistat’s more traditional banner ads, but we’re very interested to see what the brand can do with social.

What do we think? Can humor and honesty help brands like Monistat and Kotex stand out amidst a “sexist media?”