Periods: Branding for the Instagram Age
From hiding cloth pads and cups to the shameful feelings from Stephen King’s “Carrie,” being open about a natural part of female reproductive health is not, and has not, been a supportive journey for everyone.
Fortunately, the bloody revolution is here.
The shift over the last decade has been dramatic, particularly in how marketing and branding for menstrual products are undergoing a transformation to redefine the social perception of periods.
Also, cultural stigma and accessibility to menstrual products is the largest barrier in some parts of the world, but we are seeing steps toward improving that, too.
A Contested History of Uninspired Marketing
Historically, options for feminine hygiene were limited in the range of products. Typically bigger brands like Always and Kotex attracted buyers because they were easily accessible at the local drug store or supermarket.
In order for other brands to expand into new audiences, they had to circumvent the unique relationship between television commercials and menstrual products—one based on innuendo and generalized statements due to restrictions around specific words or phrases that could be broadcasted.
The main messaging in commercials and in conversation, for many years, has been around being discreet and singing euphemisms, in order to talk about a generationally taboo subject.
Marketers had to be creative in menstrual product marketing throughout the 1900s — at least in what words were being said and not so much around what the message was conveying. It was not unusual to see the iconic blue liquid poured onto pads or soaked into tampons, so it was revolutionary when Bodyform’s #BloodNormal campaign depicted period blood as red.
How Social Media Is Continuing the Conversation
Today, with the rise of businesses thriving on e-commerce and social media marketing, mainstream brands are being challenged to adapt. Whether the focus is around sustainability, empowerment, or equality, brands such as Diva Cup and Grace Cup, along with period underwear retailer Thinx, are bringing alternatives to the menstrual product space with an aspirational message that mirrors millennial interests.
Where period product marketing has taken a backseat for many years, trends towards open conversations in an educational and health-focused capacity are a step in the right direction.
Social initiatives providing collaborative support and education to eradicate period poverty are also helping people to speak openly and to destigmatize periods. But we need to go further because more branding, more discussion, and more education is the only way to go beyond the decades of stigma around speaking openly about something half of the world’s population experiences.
Even today, with the beginning of more open conversations on social media, we’re still seeing stories about people’s discomfort with conversation around the depiction of blood. But the paradigm is shifting, as we continue to share on social media the most natural part of everyone’s journey — and not just cis women’s experiences. Marketers can learn a lot from observing the reshaping of an industry that is still very new in its evolution. There is an opportunity to connect and use social media as a tool to disassemble social stigma. Periods are meant to be talked about — period.