Kleenex Inks Deal With Isaac Mizrahi for Designer Tissues

Fashion Star Will Create Box Collection, Contribute to Brand Website

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When it comes to fashion, facial tissue is nothing to sneeze at anymore. Kleenex has enlisted designer Isaac Mizrahi for a new marketing campaign and collection of tissue boxes, as the brand already known for novel oval and fruit-inspired wedge boxes looks to take its design to the next level.

A design-focused campaign kicks off with a TV ad from JWT, New York, breaking Jan. 6 showing Kleenex boxes as part of colorful home designs as the Kimberly-Clark Corp. brand looks to burnish its credentials as a trendsetter in home d├ęcor.

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Mr. Mizrahi will contribute to the style-focused Style Studio microsite for Kleenex, which is wrapped up with the celebration of the brand's 90th anniversary. The site, among other things, points out that Kleenex boxes have twice been featured in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kleenex led the movement away from handkerchiefs with what was originally a beauty product designed for makeup removal rather than sneeze catching.

"But we've also led in design," said Brand Manager Anna Elledge. "We have an extensive process we go through to research and forecast out design trends looking out for the next four years. So we thought what better way to extend our design leadership than to work with a design leader."

"Often people use their Kleenex box as an accessory in their room," Ms. Elledge said. Mr. Mizrahi was a good match given "his focus on design is about making it accessible to all consumers," she said, evidenced by his extensive partnership with Target across home and apparel categories.

Mr. Mizrahi's box designs are based on fashion trends that will also be seen in his spring home and clothing collection.

They're "thought-provoking," Ms. Elledge said, but won't be available at retail until April after being revealed during a March 17 event in New York, where "Catwalk or Kleenex" sweepstakes winners will get to meet Mr. Mizrahi. Entrants will be shown a series of paired photos and be asked to guess which is a design of a dress and which is the design for a Kleenex box, then entered into a drawing for a chance to win $5,000 and the trip.

The stepped-up design focus comes as Kleenex faces a cold and flu season that's been slower to materialize than last year's unusually heavy one during a time when the category leader faces increasingly price focused competition. Kleenex sales rose 1% to $529 million, and it gained ground on its chief rival, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Puffs, in the $1.6 billion facial-tissue category for the year ended Dec. 1, according to IRI. But Kleenex still lost a tenth of a share point as private label and a new value entry from Georgia-Pacific's Angel Soft gained ground.

Though colds and flu are down from last year, Ms. Elledge said, but sniffles are on the upswing nationally in recent weeks, and brand advertising encourages people to buy in advance to be prepared.

Besides JWT, WPP siblings Mindshare, Geometry and VML are handling media, shopper marketing and digital creative respectively. Omnicom's Ketchum is handling PR.

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