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How One Brand Turned Women’s Health Into a Social Marketing Movement

(Warning: This article accommodates content material that could be unsuitable—or a minimum of considerably disagreeable—for individuals who don’t have durations. But you must learn it anyway.)

My grandmother’s mom died of most cancers when she was a toddler. I as soon as requested my grandmother what sort of most cancers, each out of curiosity about household historical past and a want to raised perceive my very own health dangers. She stated she didn’t know for positive—perhaps cervical most cancers, perhaps ovarian most cancers. But “people just didn’t talk about those things back then.”

Seventy-five years later, it’s OK to say women’s cancers. Even youngsters find out about breast most cancers (how might they not in Pinktober?). It’s turn into widespread to see PSAs reminding women concerning the significance of month-to-month breast self-exams and common cervical most cancers screenings. We even see advertisements encouraging mother and father to get their youngsters vaccinated for HPV, the sexually-transmitted illness that’s often responsible for cervical most cancers, amongst different health issues.

Yes, the taboos surrounding conversations about women’s health have slowly begun to fall away . . . besides relating to the gross stuff. Most individuals (particularly males) nonetheless don’t need to hear about durations or the disagreeable elements of being pregnant, which is comprehensible. Man or lady, when you study what a mucus plug is, you’ll in all probability want you didn’t know.

Still, each organic lady of a sure age has a interval. It’s an disagreeable matter, and an much more disagreeable expertise. It’s additionally an essential element of our reproductive health, and an inevitable a part of life for a giant proportion of the inhabitants—thus one thing that must be OK to speak about, with out euphemisms and with out disgrace.

Some trendy entrepreneurs agree and are addressing women’s health subjects—even the gross stuff—head on. Chief amongst them is a firm referred to as THINX, which manufactures absorbent, leak-proof interval panties.

“Prior to the THINX debut in 2013, the most recent innovation in menstrual hygiene was in 1937 with the menstrual cup,” says Maeve Roughton, head of content material for THINX. “That’s a long time to wait for something new, different, better, whatever it is, and people with periods throughout the world were starting to want something beyond the conventional products and traditional ways of talking about this. Our debut also aligned with some cultural movements that have made women more active in society and more demanding of equality and transparency when it comes to their lives and health.”

The THINX model is extra than simply clear. Its advertising content material is edgy, irreverent, unapologetically frank, and sometimes controversial. For many women—particularly taboo-busting Generation Z—it’s a refreshing and long-overdue strategy to marketing to women. And for content material entrepreneurs, it’s a lesson within the energy of brand name storytelling.

Bye-Bye Clichés—Hello Controversy

I keep in mind the primary time I heard somebody discuss with a interval. I used to be 5 or 6 years previous, driving the bus residence from faculty. Two older women within the seat in entrance of me have been teasing me about one thing, and one in every of them stated, “You’re such a baby. I bet you don’t even know what a period is.”

“Sure I do,” I countered, placing my palms on my hips and summoning up my greatest smarty-pants expression. “It’s the dot at the end of a sentence.”

They laughed and rotated, and that night time, my mom needed to clarify greater than she needed to about feminine copy. She defined that durations are a pure a part of being a lady, and that having a interval makes us particular and able to the miracle of start. (She kindly omitted the very fact it might harm a lot that I’d typically sit up for menopause.) Still, she stated, these women shouldn’t have been utilizing that phrase in public, and neither ought to I.

It was good recommendation. No one needs to speak to a five-year-old about durations, and my mom definitely would have gotten a name from the varsity if the instructor heard me use that phrase in that method.

When I lastly obtained my interval—on the tremendous mature age of ten—I discovered to make use of euphemisms when speaking about it outdoors my house. I caught to the previous classics like “time of the month” or “girl trouble,” however in response to the International Women’s Health Coalition, there are greater than 5,000 slang phrases for having your interval. The listing consists of all the things from previous requirements like “Aunt Flo” or “the rag” to extra creatively descriptive phrases like “shark week” or “crimson wave.”

THINX determined to forgo the slang and use the phrase interval. It’s even a part of their tagline, “for people with periods.” That alone has been controversial, particularly in 2015 when THINX determined to run advertisements in New York City subway stations, proper in plain view of youngsters.

The advertisements featured the phrase “underwear for women with periods” and a image of a halved grapefruit. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) refused to run the advertisements, calling them offensive and suggestive. THINX founder and then-CEO Miki Agrawal pushed again, mentioning that subways already featured advertisements for breast augmentation, certainly one of which confirmed a lady frowning whereas holding small oranges in entrance of her chest and smiling whereas holding giant grapefruits in entrance of her chest. Not solely was that offensive to women, nevertheless it was additionally an advert for elective surgical procedure, whereas durations are a pure and inevitable a part of life for many individuals.

Finally, an MTA government advised her, “What if a nine-year-old boy sees these ads?”

Unfazed, she responded, “Wouldn’t that be great if a nine-year-old boy sees these ads, because then maybe he would ask his mom, ‘What’s a period?’ and maybe his mom would say, ‘Well, sweetheart, this is what helped you grow inside mommy’s belly.’”

If 9 years previous appears a little younger to speak to boys about durations, contemplate that women are beginning their durations youthful and youthful, typically as younger as age eight. “We want those girls to know there’s a place for them, a community where they can learn more about what’s happening to their bodies,” says Roughton. “And shouldn’t their male peers have some idea of what’s happening to them?”

THINX took the story to the press, and it shortly went viral. Turns out, many women all over the world agreed with the argument. The MTA acquired hundreds of tweets demanding they run the advertisements, and a month later, they did.

The story additionally helped THINX develop its viewers of loyal followers, or as Roughton persistently refers to them, “our community.”

Empowerment, Empathy, and Education: three Marketing Strategies That Work with Women

While many manufacturers at the moment are experimenting with storytelling, solely 10 percent have absolutely embraced it as not simply a sort of content material however quite a new strategy to content material.

THINX is amongst these trendsetters. The THINX blog reads like a provocative however progressive women’s journal (assume Cosmo meets Ms.). There are interviews with inspirational women, women’s health updates, and tales about information and popular culture by means of “a fab feminist lens.”

Not solely does THINX inform tales to interact its group, it tells tales about them—tales that empower, empathize, and educate.

Empower

Grace Robertson provides new which means to the previous quote, “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels.” No offense to Ginger, however Grace did one thing a lot more durable—and she or he did it on her interval, with endometriosis.

The female firefighter passed the Georgia Firefighters Laboring and Mastering Essential Skills (FLAMES) check, an examination so strenuous that the majority male firefighters don’t even try it. Many who do attempt fail, and a few even depart in ambulances. But six women have carried out it, together with Grace. Then she did one thing even braver, particularly for a lady in such a male-dominated career: She talked about it . . . on digital camera.

“Last spring, Grace wrote us a really heartfelt email about going through her FLAMES test,” says Roughton. “We were just totally blown away by what this women went through on her period. That sparked the idea that there are a lot of women in male-dominated fields or relying on endurance and adaptability to get through every day, and they’re doing it on their period. We started wondering what it’s like to be a racecar driver on her period, or a worker out in a field and you’re far away from a toilet and among men in a really physically demanding position. As a society, we give a lot of credence to celebrities and what they’re doing and everything they accomplish, and everyday people in awesome, thankless positions don’t get spotlights shined on them. We wanted to share their stories and celebrate all they’re doing to make this world better.”

Grace’s story turned the impetus for a collection of tales referred to as “One Woman.” So far, the collection additionally consists of Tia Norfleet, the primary African-American NASCAR-licensed driver. Despite the polycystic ovarian syndrome that worsens her durations, she should race by way of the ache as soon as a month. Then there’s Kiko Matthews, who survived two mind tumors, discovered the best way to row, and have become the quickest lady to row the Atlantic Ocean solo. The journey took 50 days, which meant she was perioding at sea.

Anna Mackenzie, artwork director and producer at THINX, labored intently with Video Horse Films to supply these three tales and a fourth episode, which debuts later this month.

“When we began with ‘One Woman,’ Video Horse and the team at THINX spent considerable time discussing visual storytelling,” says Mackenzie. “We wanted a way of showing that woman’s experience, from the moment she wakes up to the end of the day, really showing the small, menial tasks while telling a story about this incredible thing she has accomplished.”

You’d assume it might be robust to get women like Grace and Tia to talk publicly about their durations, particularly understanding they’ll return to their testosterone-driven workplaces. But Mackenzie says that wasn’t the case.

“Everyone we’ve interviewed has been so open and generous in talking about their experiences,” she says. “I don’t think at any point we ever felt a hesitation. Even Video Horse, a team of men, were really getting involved in the conversation. Here at THINX, we want to introduce men into the conversation and break that taboo. It was so nice to see everyone getting into the nitty gritty with the storytelling and thinking deeply about it. Each episode has been a learning experience for us all.”

As for getting pushback from male colleagues, that gained’t be a drawback for Grace. “She had so much love and support from the rest of her shift, who are all men,” says Roughton. “By the end of the day, they were helping us set up shots and giving feedback on creative. It was really nice to see how proud they were to be part of her team and to see her have this moment of being celebrated.”

Empathize

Grace, Tia, and Kiko are awe-inspiring and completely worthy of celebration. As somebody who can barely pull myself off the sofa lengthy sufficient to stroll to my work pc, which is all of 20 ft from the sofa and heating-pad-accessible, I like and applaud them. But I’ll proceed to complain about my interval to my husband (and typically to others), insist it looks like my abdomen and decrease again are competing to see which could be probably the most sadistic, and justify naps every time attainable throughout my interval.

Turns out, THINX has tales for me too. “A lot of period-related advertising up until now has been butterflies and women running through fields, and, ‘Oh my god, look at all the things I can do on my period,’” says Roughton. “That’s great, and we want our community to feel like they can do anything on their periods, but as people with periods ourselves, we fully respect that you might also want to do nothing, and that’s something we should talk about in the larger conversation about menstrual health and menstrual care—that sometimes cramps really suck, sometimes blood is weird, sometimes you feel gross or strange or not like yourself. That’s perfectly OK, and you should have a space to make those complaints or ask those questions. Those things shouldn’t be glossed over to make you feel like you’re somehow having the wrong period experience.”

The content material group at THINX has taken it upon themselves to inform tales about (and for) individuals with all forms of interval experiences—from the marvel women within the “One Woman” collection, to the whiners like me, to women in wheelchairs, to women and women in overseas nations, to males getting durations.

“A couple years ago, it was brought to our attention just how much of the trans community was using our products,” says Roughton. “No longer did trans males should go to the female care aisle and select a pink field of tampons or have that embarrassment at checkout. Once we realized that was such a huge a part of our group, we began to consider how we could possibly be higher allies. Here in NYC, we have now loads of associates who don’t determine on the binary or have numerous gender identities. That’s once we modified our tagline from ‘women with periods’ to ‘people with periods’ and launched our boy shorts. We additionally discovered a trans man in our group named Sawyer DeVuyst and informed his story.”

THINX additionally ran subway advertisements that includes Sawyer—as soon as once more inflicting controversy, and as soon as once more being OK with that.

THINX ad trans man

“Every period is as unique as the person who has it, so storytelling is really important for us,” says Roughton. “Highlighting the diversity of period journeys and the diversity of the people who have these journeys is our way of saying you’re not alone. What you’re going through isn’t gross or weird, or anything to be fearful of. It’s totally normal and natural, and there are plenty of other people who’ve had the same experiences—whether that’s putting in a tampon for the first time, or what it’s like to be a Muslim woman and having that cultural influence on managing your period, or being in a wheelchair and what that means for managing your period. There are so many differences and similarities. It’s all part of our greater mission of evolving the way people are thinking about taboos, and if we can have someone from a conservative background look to a trans man and say, ‘Hey, there are a lot of similarities to why we both hate our periods,’ we think that creates a bridge to more unity.”

Educate

My mom prepped me for womanhood properly, however not each little woman has a mother who’s a nurse and speaks frankly. Some women don’t even have a mother, and never all faculties do a nice job with intercourse ed. Even grown women typically have misconceptions or information gaps surrounding their durations.

“Coming onto the workforce, there was a entire bunch of stuff that I didn’t know and located actually fascinating and insightful,” says Mackenzie. “We run a global girl’s club and we’re currently teaching young girls in the Bronx (fifth to seventh grade) what’s available and what happens during that time of the month, and what’s going on with their bodies. I went to a class just recently to do some filming, and the questions they all had were so interesting. I said to myself, ‘I wish I’d had this.’ This wasn’t part of sex ed, and some schools don’t even have it, and it really does feel like it should be taught to you in the beginning when you’re figuring it all out. It could have been so much easier if you had that knowledge.”

There are numerous misconceptions about women’s health, and THINX needs to assist clear issues up—not only for younger women however for women who’ve suffered in silence for lengthy sufficient.

“Our overall strategy when it comes to our voice and messaging is to be like talking to your best friend,” says Roughton. “Periods are a taboo topic, however we expect one of the simplest ways to deal with subjects individuals don’t need to speak about is to deal with them head on and make them really feel accessible, such as you’re speaking to your greatest pal. We get suggestions on a regular basis from individuals who say they’re simply comfortable to be in a place the place they will study and converse frankly about their our bodies. And typically you don’t need to do this together with your precise greatest good friend or your mother or a physician, for a number of causes, so we created this digital area the place individuals can come and say, ‘How much discharge is too much discharge?’ or ‘At what point should I be going to see a doctor to talk about ovarian cancer?’ We run the gamut of subjects about women’s health, and it’s as a lot us taking the initiative to create that area as it’s us listening to our viewers and understanding that that is what they need—particularly the youthful era. They don’t simply need to see this type of frank communication from a firm; they absolutely anticipate to see it.”

THINX doesn’t simply educate individuals with durations about their very own our bodies; the model additionally shines a highlight on what’s occurring to individuals with durations all over the world. This yr, for International Women’s Day, it was a literal highlight. To rejoice the event, THINX projected “Demand menstrual equity. #IWD2018” on the Brooklyn Bridge and “Period poverty is real. #IWD2018” on the United Nations Headquarters.

“The lack of menstrual equity affects people in the US and beyond,” says Roughton. “It’s not just that girl who’s dying in the menstrual hut because there’s this cultural norm of banishing women while they’re on their period. It’s also the 12-year-old girl in middle school whose family can’t afford pads, and her school doesn’t have sex education to help her understand what’s happening with her body. It’s homeless women and incarcerated people. There’s a lack of access and education when it comes to menstrual care that affects people of all different backgrounds all over the world. We’re breaking down this stigma and demanding menstrual equity of legislators, of other companies, and certainly of ourselves. That’s really our mission, and the conduit is creating innovative period solutions. That touchpoint allows us to start having this conversation and making real social change.”

Marketing to Women: Measuring Success

Social change is a huge, necessary objective, however from a enterprise standpoint, how does THINX measure the success of its content material advertising and model storytelling?

“Our top metric for almost everything we do, across all departments, is how does our community respond to it?” says Roughton. “We use other metrics—engagement, open rates, shares, click rates. We’ve enjoyed a lot of success there as well. The second episode of ‘One Woman’ featuring Tia is just shy of two million views on YouTube. All our videos are in six-figure engagement levels across social. We’ve seen uptick in traffic to certain pages on our site. But our goal—especially with the ‘One Woman’ series—was really to deepen our commitment to our community and create a content series our community could feel proud of. We feel like we’ve done that, and our community has let us know that we’ve done that.”

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Featured picture attribution: Allef Vinicius


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