I’m keeping an eye out for any potential examples of cultural leadership. This may be one, though I’m not sure. According to Ad Age:

Work from WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather, New York, leads the effort for the nearly three-year-old offshoot of the venerable Kotex brand. U by Kotex reversed a decades-long decline for the franchise by using offbeat, colorful designs, new packaging and a campaign that broke the conventions of feminine-care marketing.

Now, the brand is taking a step further by talking more directly about the anatomy it serves. The Generation Know effort addresses such “vaginal health myths” as the idea that using tampons means girls lose their virginity, or that the products can get lost in their bodies.

“One might view this work as provocative,” said Melissa Sexton, integrated marketing planning director at K-C. “But it’s provocative not for the sake of being provocative, but because that’s the way the honest conversation needs to happen.”

This raises, once again, the question of definition:

  • Is this cultural leadership since, on one hand, it seems like stark business necessity?
  • Corollary: Can brands back into–or get backed into–a position of cultural leadership? Can they be forced to lead?
  • Is cultural leadership simply a matter of doing something with your marketing that no one else has?  Is it enough just to be first?

Where K-C has certainly led is in developing communications approaches that emphasize identifying the business challenges that their products face and then designing marketing to overcome them.

The above quote also speaks to the idea of incremental change. This is a direction that’s three years old. I was talking to cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken and he mentioned being on a panel recently at Futures of Entertainment 6 with Continuum Innovation’s Lara Lee. On it she talked about the importance of creating change incrementally, not introducing radical change as a big, audacious (and scary) idea. I’m taking massive liberties in paraphrasing here, but my point is this: K-C has had time time get used to being in this space. I can only imagine that three years ago, they were pushing the limits of the corporate comfort zone. But now, the corporation is used to occupying that space and it’s “ready” to push further.

I’ll do my best to get some insights directly from K-C. Stay tuned.

Posted by Rob Fields

Observer. Curator. Marketer. Dot connector.