I read an article in Newsweek today about periods. Not the literary sort, but the kind that every woman encounters as she matures. The article was discussing cultural taboos about discussing periods and Thinx‘s problem marketing their products for women because of it. And by the end of the article, I knew how to solve their problem.
Confronting the Taboo Head-On
Head-on collissions are among the most violent collisions out there with the highest casualty rate. There’s a reason for this. It’s full momentum colliding against full momentum with nothing to offset the collective energy being driven into the collision.
Thinx’s current campaign ads have been confronting the taboo head-on. They are attempting to achieve conversions to their cause by forcing people to look at something they don’t want to see, think about something they don’t want to imagine, and talk about things they aren’t comfortable discussing. The resulting collision is producing casualties – most importantly of all, the chance to discuss very real issues confronting women today.
A peeled half of a grapefruit without its center is exposed in one frame, then a woman in tank top and undies in the next frame. It’s relatively tame compared to more skin-baring ads by Victoria’s Secret on the surface. However, the two paired together turns the relatively innocent grapefruit into a visual image of the labia, and that visual together with the words they are using leads to an visual image that makes people squirm.
“Underwear for women with periods”
People aren’t ready to talk about periods. They don’t want public reminders of periods. They don’t want visual images of periods. Parents don’t want to have to explain what it means to their kids and neither women nor men are comfortable with it being brought up. Most teenagers and adults know it happens, but nobody wants to be reminded of it.
Don’t Force the Issue
Recognize that you are approaching a topic that is uncomfortable for most people to discuss. Be respectful of their discomfort even when you prepare to challenge them on it. And this is where being creative can allow you to talk about the issue without being in-your-face about it.
The Comfortable and Mundane
People do talk about periods all the time in a different context. Discussions about grammar revolve around the proper use of the period. Periods are critical elements of good writing. They tell us where the sentence ends so we can prepare ourselves for a new beginning. So if we want to talk about periods, we have to find an approach that embraces the comfortable and mundane and allows us to use it as a metaphor for the uncomfortable discussion that needs to take place regarding another kind of period.
Parallels, Similarities, and Metaphors
This is where we need to look at the two periods and find the common language we can use in our campaign to achieve the result of having a socially unacceptable conversation using socially acceptable language. We need to ask ourselves the deeper questions: What are periods? Why do they exist? What purpose do they serve? How are they beneficial not just to the experience of conversation or of life? How are they alike?
Let’s Talk about Periods
Things that can be said about both kinds of periods:
- Mark the end of one thing and the beginning of something new.
The period matters.
Where the period takes place matters.
Are powerful but undervalued
Are a necessary and essential ingredient
Deserve attention and recognition for their role
Are a beautiful thing in the right context
Crafting Potential Slogans
“Go with the . flow”: This shows how incorrect placement of a period interrupts and intrudes in the value of the words just as a period showing up at the wrong time and wrong place for a woman interrupts and intrudes in her life.
“The . matters”: Again, using the unexpected placement of the period to show how an unexpected period can cause problems for a writer allows us to demonstrate how an unexpected menstrual period causes problems for a woman.
“Control your . Control the message by controlling the flow.”
The trick is to be sure that we point out by showing the audience through how we use it how the period placement matters, or how the existence of the period makes a positive difference. It allows us to provide people a way to talk about periods in a socially acceptable context.
Image and Message Combine
Here is my take on an improvement to their ad. It’s subtle, but I think it makes the point without being in-your-face about the discussion we’re having. The woman in the image supports the concept of flow and where her crotch lands gives us an indication of the context without being so obvious.