A Bold New Feminine Front

In a hall adorned with flowers, strawberries and red hearts, Hogla Kimberly Monday fired the opening shots in its campaign against rival Proctor & Gamble, unveiling its Kotex feminine hygiene brand.

P&G controls the feminine hygiene product market with Alldays and Always. However, Hogla's general manager, Avi Brener, and the company's absorption products manager, Ari Malamud, are confident Hogla can become the leader in the feminine hygiene category, just as it did in disposable diapers, where the past few years have seen a bitter battle between P&G's Pampers and Hogla's Huggies.

In order to reach its goal, Hogla is planning to invest some NIS 15 million in launching and promoting Kotex products. The EDB group and Kimberly-Clark are committed to this process, Brener notes. Hogla plans to build the brand based on a connection with the urban-pleasure lifestyle and to use broad sales promotion activities to ensure that a high percentage of women try Kotex products.

Data gathered by the ACNielsen research company and presented this week by Hogla shows that sales in the feminine hygiene market in Israel total NIS 280 million annually. Sanitary napkins account for 48 percent of sales, panty liners 32 percent and tampons 20 percent. P&G dominates the sanitary napkin and panty liner market.

"The market currently offers no alternatives to Always and Alldays," says Brener.

Always has a 70 percent market share in the ultra type sanitary napkin market, versus 30 percent for Lily Intimate products, manufactured by Hogla. In the panty liner market, Alldays has a 54 percent market share, Lily Intimate has 21 percent, and Carefree, by Johnson and Johnson, has 18 percent, with the rest of the market going to small manufacturers. OB, by Johnson and Johnson, leads tampon sales, with a market share of 50 percent, P&G's share is 36 percent and Playtex, by Hogla, has 14 percent of the market.

Malamud is proud that Hogla invested some NIS 500,000 in research to find out "what women want." He says one of the things that came up in the research is that "in the post-feminist era, the monthly period is no longer an issue for the modern woman, but rather part of her being a woman." In addition, the study found that women prefer products "in attractive packages that are no cause for embarrassment."

Kotex's packages meet this demand while breaking the traditional rules for feminine hygiene products. Instead of pastel colors, the most prominent motif on the white boxes is red. The individual wrappers are also decorated with red motifs, such as strawberries, and they are reminiscent of condom wrappers.

"The Kotex wrappers are very pretty," admits P&G's feminine hygiene division manager, Noa Shumovitz, "but the question is what is in them."

P&G is the leading company worldwide in the feminine hygiene product field, according to data gathered by the Euromonitor research company, but Malamud says that data reflects P&G's dominance in the European market. In many American and Asian countries, Kotex is the leading brand. Malamud knows P&G won't give in easily, even in a relatively small market like Israel. He notes that P&G has already lowered the price of Always and Alldays to prompt consumers to purchase more products and build up a supply at home before the launching of Kotex in February, so that women will put off trying the new products. "We have no intentions of entering a price war," responded Shumovitz. "Our three brands are premium brands, and we will not erode them. Even so, we will continue to have special offers from time to time."

Post-feminist woman

A substantial sum of Hogla's investment in Kotex will be in advertising, which will be handled by McCann Erickson. In recent years, this company has featured two prominent "red" launches - Tnuva's Yoplait and Pelephone's Escape. Malamud says the 2004 advertising budget will be about $2.5 million (about NIS 11.3 million), most of which will be spent on the launch.

Although this is an impressive advertising budget, it must be remembered that in the past year P&G allocated some $2 million for advertising Alldays, about $2.5 million for Always and about $1 million for Tampax, and these budgets will probably grow in the wake of competition from Kotex.

Malamud's model of the post-feminist woman is Sarah Jessica Parker, the star of "Sex and the City." Malamud says he is not worried that this strategy seemingly appeals only to young women in the center of the country and ignores the rest, because among his target audience, viewership of "Sex and the City" is 30 percent, compared to about 12 percent among the general population.

Brener and Malamud agree that one thing that is essential for Kotex's success is ensuring that as many women as possible try the products. Malamud said that their studies found that many Always, Alldays and OB users who tried Kotex products said they preferred the new products over the ones they are currently using.

Hogla will be spending about $1 million on sales promotion. "With a budget like that," says Malamud, "I can be certain that most women in Israel will try Kotex."