Kotex, Tampax battle share declines

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Two giants of the feminine hygiene category are reawakening, as Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Kotex and Procter & Gamble Co.'s Tampax brands look to reverse share declines with the first new advertising in more than a year.

The efforts follow agency shifts on both brands.

After a nine-month review,

K-C ended up merely moving Kotex advertising to Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide's Chicago office from New York. The brand is seeking to appeal to a younger consumer with product improvement central to its $20 million TV and print campaign touting the new "safety zone" absorbency.

Some Kotex products with the improvement have been shipped to retailers, but the entire line won't be improved until mid-1999.

"Our research shows that women prefer the improved Kotex Ultra Thin Pads over [P&G's Always, the category leader] because the pads better protect against leaks," said Kathi Seifert, group president-personal care for K-C.

Always, the juggernaut of the category, has been running a highly effective campaign from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, showing a woman pouring liquid onto a pad, sealing it in an envelope and cutting it in half--without blotting the envelope.

TECHNOLOGY BOOST FOR KOTEX

Kotex's safety zone will give it a sorely needed technological boost in a segment where Always has developed a reputation for superiority, industry experts said.

"Kotex is a brand that's very well-trusted by women, yet over the years has developed a bit of an old-fashion image," said Jim Ebel, president of CenterBrain Inc., a positioning agency in Covington, Ky.

He sees the product upgrade as a good strategy for K-C, but said it may not appeal to the younger consumers Kotex needs to attract.

Mr. Ebel said P&G faces a similar problem with Tampax, performance and technology deficits as compared to Playtex Products' Playtex and K-C's Kotex Security tampons.

Since brand loyalty tends to be stronger with tampons than pads, he added, it will be harder to make gains, even with strong advertising.

DISTINCTIVE STYLE FOR CATEGORY

The Tampax ads steer away from testimonials in favor of a cinema verite-style TV spot showing only the brand name, not the product.

In the spot, a woman is lost in a car on a country road with three men. The commercial is meant to show the product's ability to help "women get on with life under any circumstances with no limits," a P&G spokeswoman said.

The work is the first from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago; P&G acquired Tambrands last year.

Spending was not disclosed. About $17 million in advertising backed the brand in the first six months of this year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Tampax and Kotex face uphill battles. Kotex sales in the feminine hygiene category were up 4.5% to $343 million for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 25, according to Information Resources Inc. Sales for Always, sold in pad form only, were up 11.5%, for a 26.5% share of the combined $1.8 billion category.

Tampax sales were off 1.2%, losing share to Playtex, with sales up 12.5% to $189 million on the strength of last year's launch of a non-deodorant, odor-absorbing tampon.

Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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