For challenger feminine hygiene Kotex to obtain 10 percent of the Russian market share, the brand needed to create a personal connection with young women. To do this, the brand created an ecosystem of content, conversation, and commerce available via Russia's most popular social network.
Objective and Context:
The feminine hygiene product market in Russia has two distinct leaders with more than 10 percent market share by value: Always is in first place with 19.8 percent, and Naturella is in second place with 16.1 percent. Kotex has spent years trying to break through, despite these dominant leaders, and achieve above 10 percent market share. But by the end of 2018, it was still lagging behind with a 8.6 percent share.
The leaders' dominance is determined by "auto-pilot" purchases. In fact, 85 percent of women remain committed to their first brand. Young women don't spend much time in front of store shelves when shopping for these products, so it's hard to get the audience to switch brands.
The fight to become the first brand chosen by a woman when she enters the market is therefore vital, as this leads to a long-term relationship. However, the topic of menstruation remains one of the most taboo topics in modern Russia. It is not openly or freely discussed, and for years, feminine hygiene product advertisements have used the same general phrases, clichés, and euphemisms. This paradigm supports "auto-pilot" purchases and the status quo, leaving women unaware of a better choice.
Kotex's core objective was to acquire 10 percent or more market share. The brand had two secondary targets. First, to build an emotional bond with consumers by demonstrating that Kotex understands and responds to the concerns and needs of young women. Second, to create spontaneous brand recall, becoming the first brand in mind in the purchase moment.
The target audience was young women 16-to 26-years-old. They are already decision-makers on hygiene product purchases and are still open to novelties unlike more mature audiences. They are active, ambitious, and sociable. This group lives online and is constantly on social media. They value socially responsible brands and their willingness to pay more for such brands is increasing every year. For this target, a brand should both correspond to their values and be able to prove its declared image with real actions.
This young audience practically lives on the biggest Russian social network VKontakte (VK). The social network provides this audience a well-rounded ecosystem and they prefer not to cross its borders. They use it to inform decision-making, search out new opinions and products, as well as find support.
Last year Kotex developed a branded chatbot or "cat-bot" character Kisa Anfisa (Kisa the word for cat in Russian) to generate trial purchases. Young women could get coupons for trial purchases from Kisa Anfisa, and receive an Anfisa sticker-pack which could be used in private chats outside the chatbot, in return for registered purchases. There were also rewards for answering questions about Kotex, and Anfisa could answer questions related to the brand or feminine hygiene. It proved itself as an effective communication tool as Anfisa was integrated into the chats of millions of women on VK.
To build on Kotex's developing relationship and turn a trial purchase into repeat purchases, the brand went further this year. It developed an entire Kotex ecosystem seamlessly integrated into VK, that would:
This strategy would help young women overcome the taboo surrounding the topic of menstruation and build a trustworthy service to enable them to speak freely on sensitive subjects, get useful information, and support their aspirations to make the world better.
Overall Campaign Execution:
Building on the success of the chatbot, Kotex created an ecosystem that transformed the brand's VK presence from a community into a multifunctional service to stay close to the audience 24/7 and 365 days a year.
The chatbot uncovered for Kotex that young women would value a tool to monitor their cycles. Kotex launched a menstruation cycle mini-app tracker integrated directly into the VK network. The app sent a reminder at the beginning of the cycle and prompted regular Kotex use at the most relevant moments.
Kotex added more content to provide young women with useful information on delicate matters such as menstruation, sex, and women's health. The content was personalized and delivered in a user-friendly card format (stories inside the tracker app). This meant that contact frequency was maintained throughout the month.
The most engaged topics were put forward for open discussion in the known YouTube show, which is increasingly popular among girls. That in turn helped Kotex increase awareness and usage of its services.
Ecosystem newcomers received coupons with product discounts for trial purchases and regularly engaged young women were offered an added value of different kinds - information on offline activations, relevant events invitations, or extra stickers, in return for sending the chatbot confirmation of purchase (photo of the store receipt).
Kotex also inspired young women to make the world better with real actions. For every Kotex purchase registered in the chatbot, money was donated to selected projects established by women and that empower women on the crowdfunding platform Planeta.ru. This included projects to improve public toilets for women and supporting a female ballet troupe.
Seventy percent of the overall campaign budget of around $600,000 went to mobile as it was the primary place to reach the audience. The balance supported the other activations and money donated to women's projects.
The entire project was centred around making a taboo topic one that women would engage with more freely. Menstruation is the most personal of topics, so it needed an approach that worked through the most personal of devices" the mobile phone. Women may not feel confident, using services like menstruation calendars or joining in on discussions if they felt they were not in a safe and personal place.
The ability to take the campaign beyond a discussion and transform it into commerce was also fully enabled by the mobile-first approach. The mechanisms to generate interaction through bespoke sticker packs, chatbots, period trackers and influencer content were all tied to the intimacy of the mobile device and helped move the target audience towards the moment of purchase in a mobile ecosystem.
In 2019, the Kotex ecosystem engaged more than five million young women, which equates to more than half of the total young Russian women population.
All of this led to impressive business results: Kotex became the fastest-growing brand in the category, claiming more than 10 percent market share in less than a year.
The Kotex integration inside VK completely revolutionised the approach to women's healthcare products and marketing in Russia. It not only broke through a taboo, allowing women to discuss menstruation in a safe and supportive environment, but it also provided women with a fully integrated way to access Kotex products in an environment that they love and trust.