We’re all familiar with classic period advertising — women running through fields, gleefully smelling flowers, looking to the camera with the “confidence” only an uncomfortable pad can give her. By now, we are used to the corny-cheesiness (and not the delicious kind) of traditional period marketing, and if you are reading this blog, you know that THINX is not the-running-through-a-field type… So what gives?
Our gang at THINX HQ spends a lot of time thinking about the menstrual hygiene industry— especially the way products are branded and marketed (yes— we’re pulling back the curtain people! Pour a glass of whisky, light a cigarette, and pull on your best Peggy Olsen twin-set).
What’s special about period products? Well, not only is it an industry that is marketing to women, but it is also dealing with a subject that has historically (and in 2k17!) been shrouded in taboo. The advertising and imagery is all euphemisms and winks to the camera because to be real about what is actually going on (here are some things you can use to stop your vagina from bleedin’ all over the place) is horrifying!!
To get the lowdown on the THINX approach to creative direction, I had a chat with our Design Director, Meng Shui, about what’s really going on behind the grapefruits.
“The problems we found when we looked at some of the classic period ads were that things were too clean, too cheesy,” Meng explained. “It’s like trying to pretend that people aren’t messy, bleeding human beings.”
“THINX is a brand that breaks taboos and challenges norms around menstruation — we try to do the same when we are designing. We want to have an honest, straightforward conversation with our community, and cut out the fluff. Instead of avoiding red, not mentioning blood, and *definitely* not saying vagina, we approach those things head on. Like, our tampon packaging literally shows a tampon going in and out of a vagina.” Gasp!
“We really feel that our product is revolutionary, so our creative branding should to be too! Women deserve more than the blue liquid test.”
Ok, so what about the famous grapefruit image that nearly had our THINX ads rejected from the New York MTA or being “too suggestive”?
Well, turns out, it’s kind of a funny story. “One of our founding THINX team members was at a party, wearing jeans, and sitting on a white couch (and not wearing THINX!). But, surprise! She got her period and stained the couch. Luckily she happened to be eating a piece of cake at the time, so “dropped” it on the couch where the stain was, and everyone jumped to help her clean it up. She thought it was so funny, and from there, started thinking about how food could be used to represent taboo topics.”
Many old-school period advertisements zero-in on women’s insecurities about their periods. That it’s embarrassing, shameful, or should be hidden. Meng explained: “While we know that periods aren’t always fun or something people look forward to, we make sure our imagery shows women who are strong and empowered. Every detail, down to the hand and feet placement, is a show of strength (or sometimes, just to be a little bit weird).”
“Ultimately, we also want our imagery to be inspirational, beautiful, and leave room for imagination. Our product is something that makes women feel secure and in control, and we want to evoke the same feeling in our ads. Everything is intentional, nothing is random, and we have an amazing team who work super hard to make these ideas and principles come to life.”
So what does Meng see as the future of design in the menstrual hygiene space? Well, things are definitely changing. “After brands like THINX have had a lot of exposure for non-traditional ads, companies are beginning to realize that there are other ways to do it.”
“We want to let our community know, we get it. We want to say — hey, periods are messy and inconvenient, but here’s a way you can deal with it! We never want to pretend that at the end of the day, we aren’t all messy, bleeding human beings.”
So, in a world of puppies and purple flowers, here’s to period advertising that doesn’t beat around the proverbial bush!