In 2017, global feminine hygiene brand Libresse – maker of Bodyform products —recognized a huge issue: there’s virtually no mention of menstruation in popular culture, period. A simple fact of life for half the people on Earth, menstrual periods are ignored by mainstream media and absent in the depiction of female characters in TV and film. (And in the rare occasions it is mentioned, it’s usually to humiliate women).
The silence and shaming of periods has allowed cultural stigmas about periods to perpetuate, leaving women feeling disgusting and men disgusted. Libresse wanted to challenge the silence on behalf of women everywhere.
Controversy comes naturally for a brand whose motto is “Live Fearless.” The Libresse/Bodyform attitude encourages women to be true to themselves and overcome self-doubt and insecurities.
The brand’s communication goal was equally ambitious: to boost brand equity levels, positive perceptions, and affinity/loyalty to the brand among women.
Describe the cultural/social/political climate in your region and the significance of your campaign within this context
The absence and shaming of periods in culture fuels the taboo. Our idea believes that the opposite is also true: the visible and positive portrayal of periods and period blood in culture normalizes them and therefore begins the process of ending the taboo.It’s encapsulated in Bloodnormal’s campaign line: periods are normal, showing them should be too. Our campaign aimed to show a world where periods were completely normal, where women openly ask for pads in mixed company, where boys unashamedly bought pads, where period pain wasn’t euphemised and the sight of period blood is treated as something beautiful and normal. However, as the ban shows, this world doesn’t exist. But if a mainstream brand is prepared to be brave enough to show periods for what they are, it could have a massive effect on this stubborn taboo that is so damaging to women’s mental and physical well being.
Describe the creative idea
Murder, fights and surgical operations, in all their bloody glory, are allowed on entertainment screens in nearly every channel and medium. Yet when it comes to period blood, censorship is in order. Even feminine hygiene brands use an artificial blue liquid in product demonstrations. These restrictions have allowed taboos to thrive. 90% of women attempt to hide their period; 42% of women have been period-shamed; and 56% of global teens say they’d rather be bullied than talk to their parents about their periods.
Enough was enough. The only way you make periods normal is by showing them as normal. Through an online film we would boldly show period blood for the first time. We’d end the era of the “blue liquid,” and show period pain, intimacy, and even include men in the conversation. Each scene would provide a springboard for a PR activation that would continue spreading the message.
Describe the strategy
Libresse sells products used during the menstrual cycle, so it is appropriate that the brand lead by example. A company ashamed of the biology it profits from will become a relic as young women question the unjust stigmas of the world they’ve inherited.
Conversely, the power of a mainstream brand to challenge these taboos — to acknowledge that periods are normal and show them in action — could have a hugely positive effect on women and young girls.
To reach women and girls, we decided to defy broadcaster bans, ignore hate, and redefine the feminine care products category. The bans themselves became a strategic weapon for our campaign. Using a provocative film to demonstrate the menstrual blood taboo, we could prove our point while generating massive earned media headlines. More importantly, we would begin to “normalize periods” by visibly injecting their discussion into mainstream media and social conversation.
Describe the execution
Empathy kills shame.
Libresse collaborated with fashion bloggers, models, artists, dancers, comedians and other cultural influencers to incorporate menstrual periods into their work. They became part of “#BloodNormal,” a short film depicting periods with unprecedented candor and honesty. In a taboo-busting first, we turned the infamous blue liquid into period-blood red and showed period blood on film.
Just as the film makes a compelling case for “normal,” it becomes pixilated, an abrupt reminder of current broadcast restrictions.
PR carefully crafted and tested messaging ensuring the sensitive topic was well received. Media toolkits anticipated press questions and drove coverage and views of the film. Key stakeholders were approached, including potentially unreceptive male journalists. Media exclusives and branded social platforms were synchronized for the global media launch. Post-launch PR activations used designer underwear, a graphic novel, playful GIFs, school workshops and even hate mail to drive conversation and coverage.
Describe the results/impact
Bloodnormal is working. Empathy is killing shame. The campaign launched in four countries and reached over 32. Emboldened by the success, more and more Essity markets are preparing official launches in their territories. The US is next.To date we have a PR reach of over 4.5 billion. Love is drowning out hate with a 72% positive reaction to the campaign. Fans and consumers took up the debate on our behalf articulating and arguing for our period positive message on news forums and social sites. During launch the campaign trended on twitter and our share of social voice rose from 37% to 90%.Influencers and collaborations have spread our bloodnormal message through campaign to people we’ve never spoken to before. And perhaps best of all, by becoming news and a piece of culture, we found our way onto the television stations we were originally banned from.