Feminine product turns to PR for relaunch initiative

AUSTIN, TX: The makers of an unconventional feminine hygiene product launched a $1 million marketing test this month in the city often considered Texas' free-thinking oasis.

AUSTIN, TX: The makers of an unconventional feminine hygiene product launched a $1 million marketing test this month in the city often considered Texas' free-thinking oasis.

The Instead Softcup, a disposable device that collects menstrual flow, has been around since 1996. New York-based Ultrafem introduced the product, but went bankrupt in 1998. Private investors in the Dallas suburbs bought the company's assets, and formed Instead Inc.

While the new owners worked to reduce production costs, a small but devoted group of consumers had continued buying Instead, said company president Mary Frost.

Dallas' Michael A. Burns & Associates is handling PR duties, and is working with Sullivan Perkins Advertising.

The campaign focuses on sponsorship of women's sports, including a local soccer league and University of Texas swim meets. Marketers will attend sporting events in a customized VW Beetle, and distribute starter kits complete with product samples and an instructional video. Burns staffers will also reach out to area obstetricians and gynecologists.

The messaging targets active women, and focuses on convenience and safety.

Instead can be worn for up to 12 hours as well as during sex, and it hasn't been linked to cases of toxic shock syndrome.

The educational component means PR will take the lead in the effort, Frost said.

"You just can't promote this product like a new detergent. You can't get it in 30 seconds," Frost said. "PR allows us to do what we need to do, and that's trial, sampling, and education."

The Austin test will last at least six months, and if post-campaign evaluations deem the initiative successful, the model will be replicated in 10 to 15 other large US cities, Frost said.

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