the many faces of U by Kotex

I’m guessing that most of you will by now have seen one of the videos by the U by Kotex marketing campaign, in particular the widely circulated “Apology” video and television commercial, in which a young woman delivers a hilarious deadpan skewering of feminine hygiene advertising clichés.

I’ll be upfront in admitting my initial shock and mildly jealous irritation at seeing what has essentially been our message for the past 10+ years being trumpeted by a disposables manufacturer.  Realizing that widely broadcasting these kinds of messages to the mainstream is simply not within our financial means, I was consoled by the fact that at least somebody is doing it.

I had decided not to give the campaign more airtime than it was already getting until I happened to view the TV ad for the Australian version of U by Kotex – “Platinum”. The ad, in which a young woman (whose hair is “great”, an attribute mocked in “So Obnoxious”, another of the video series) breathlessly sighs “Only U can take me there”, is completely absurd and falls squarely within the tradition that the other videos nominally seek to confound. The ad is so bad, in fact, that it made The Frisky’s “12 Stupidest Menstrual Advertisements, Period” list. If Kotex is genuinely sincere about presenting “a whole new attitude in protection”, why create a different message for Australian women?  Is it because Australian women are still falling for the same old message, or is this an attempt to play multiple sides of the field: those who can still only deal with blue liquid and leaping around in white spandex, and those who are ready to call a spade a spade?

I feel certain that the American campaign’s message was drawn straight from some pricey market research that told them that young women were (surprise!) pretty ok with talking about their periods and vaginal health, enjoy humorous online videos and are of the view that old school menstrual marketing clichés are kind of dumb and over. While it would be nice to think that Kotex is sincere about wanting to “Break the Cycle” (U’s social media campaign dedicated to eroding the decades of shame its own marketing has heaped upon women and girls), their mixed message to Australian women tells me that it’s more a clever move driven by the research speculated about earlier. What really gets me is that despite this new marketing campaign, the products haven’t changed, (unless you count sleek black boxes and brightly colored wrappers as meaningful innovation, which I don’t so much) – still the same, bleached disposable junk heading to a landfill near you.

Last but not least, a little sleuthing at reveals that those bold, cycle-breaking neon colored wrappers are pretty pricey – while OB and Tampax are $0.19 and $0.18 each, U by Kotex are a whopping $0.30 apiece. I guess progress (or rather, fancy packaging and expensive marketing campaigns) has its price.

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  • I’m so pleased that I’m not one of the Australians that these marketing people are trying to target/fool. *rolls eyes*

  • Co-signed, Madeleine!

    We’ve written quite a bit about this new campaign and marketing strategy at re:Cycling, but I had no idea there was such a staggering price difference between YOU.BUY.KOTEX and the other brands. That’s a couple of bucks per box!

  • When I bought my first box of “U by Kotex” all-nighters, I was shocked at the price. A couple of my blog readers and a few girl-friends asked me to do a review on it. Although given a male review of a pad holds little value for the girls, what did stand out is the fact that at regular price, I calculated it would cost 32 cents (CAD) per pad, which is as noted, a very expensive pad compared to other brands/equivalent absorbency.

    Feminine hygiene in most countries have never been cheap, or at least I can say so in Canada… then on top of that, we still have to pay tax and now Kotex comes up with this brilliant plan to make colouring/packaging changes to their products and sell it off at double-cost per unit and people ARE buying them. Clearly their advertising campaign and such created enough hype that people are buying them – heck, even I had to run out and buy my first box when it became available locally so I’m guilty as well.

    Nevertheless, seeing these new pads/tampons being cleaned off the shelves by consumers makes me think whether they have taken the time to calculate the cost that they are paying for a funky design!

  • Thanks for the comments, you guys! It’s a weird situation, because the U by Kotex ads are so cool, and yet the rest…not so much.

    Elizabeth, we are avid followers of the Re:Cycling blog, so your support is particularly meaningful. YOU.BUY.KOTEX. is hilarious – mind if I cadge it? Prexus, what an interesting blog you have! Thanks for joining us.

  • Madeleine, glad to be here. I will say it’s embarrassing for me not to have much coverage on reusable products. I have received emails/comments before asking me why I lack coverage on it and simply it is because I have no way of testing them (lol – unfortunately due to my anatomy)… however, I have made connections with the past with women who have tried it and have posted up their reviews. If at any time you have anything that you would think would be of value to have posted on my site, please let me know and I’d be happy to post it up for you! I’m all for environmentally-friendly feminine hygiene alternatives and even one of my ex’s has asked me “what I thought about them” (mentioning Lunapads directly) and I couldn’t really give her much of a response 😉


  • Jan

    How about menstrual-themed hockey gear? I typically feel more like beating people up than bathing in moonlight, wafted about by fern stalks or whatever that was! Honestly, my “jill” (i.e. lady bits armor) typically feels pretty darn good during that time of the month.

  • They cost about as much as tampax pearl-which when I used tampons, was my brand. 8 bucks for a box of 40.

    But the “generic” kotex brand is half the price for a box of 40.

    God, I don’t miss buying tampons.

  • Amy

    We don’t have TV, so thanks for filling me in on the fact that there is a teeny tiny bit of change WRT those dang feminin products commericals. The Australian Platinum ad is waaay out there, I agree! Thank goodness that with my menstrual cup and Lunapads I am no longer part of the target market for these things. Hooray!

  • i actually was just ranting about this on my blog and how it ties to feminism at large if anyone’s interested:

  • Courtney

    Oh I so agree. Nothing more than marketing, still the same toxic, overpriced junk. Yuck. Thank goddess there’s lunapads giving us an option that will save us a ton of money in the long run and keep us healthy.