Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Something to Sneeze At

by Connie Cortright

The story of Kleenex facial tissue is similar to the paper toweling article from last week: both of them started out with an "oops".  Kimberly-Clark, the company that invented Kleenex, and Scott Paper Company, which we heard last week invented paper toweling, both demonstrated the greatness of capitalism. When the companies were handed a disappointment, instead of getting a bailout, they used their ingenuity to retool a failed product idea into a profitable replacement.

In the early 1920's Kimberly-Clark manufactured a paper product that did not sell on the market at the time. As a result they had a stock pile of crepe wadding that was not usable. They had to find another way to utilize the already produced materials in a different format. They changed the ingredients of the blends and used different paper pulps to come up with a softer crepe. Kleenex facial tissue was invented.


Next they had to find a way to market the product. They decided to market the tissues to women for wiping off cold cream used in removing makeup. In 1925 they drew up advertisements for magazines, such as Ladies Home Journal, with this idea. The ladies went for it in droves.

That's because earlier in the decade, women's cosmetics and women's monthly magazines were blossoming into booming businesses. The arrival of modern electrical appliances, such as vacuum cleaners and electric washing machines, made housekeeping less time consuming. Women used the free time to read women's magazines which featured advertising urging them to invest in cosmetics to stay young-looking for their husbands. Thus, the increased sales for cosmetics.

Kimberly-Clark was aware of this interest in cosmetics and piggy-backed on it with the idea for a disposable cleaning wipe. They took the opportunity placed before them and marketed a product to fill the niche. Prior to this, cloth towels were used for cleaning off make-up, so the disposable cleaning tissue - dubbed "Kleenex" - was a welcome innovation to women.

Meanwhile, a Kimberly-Clark researcher "sniffed out"another use for this product. During the hay-fever "sneezin'-season", he discovered how very convenient Kleenex was in dealing with his allergy symptoms. Kleenex partnered well with his nose while sneezing and in dealing with the, um, "after effects". Back then, everyone routinely carried cloth handkerchiefs and hankies in their pockets or purses for that purpose. But can you imagine how many handkerchiefs would be needed per day during high hay-fever days?

Kimberly-Clark's marketing department thought the researcher's idea was brilliant. Instead of being just a "women's product", Kleenex belonged in the pockets of every man, woman, and especially children as a more hygienic and convenient way to handle colds and hay fever. Introduced this way in 1930, sales of Kleenex doubled in the first year. Today, of course, the brand name has become a household word and using cloth handkerchiefs instead of Kleenex is considered gross, especially by younger people.

For myself, I can't imagine life today without facial tissues or paper toweling. We can be thankful for both of these companies who created useful products from "oops'.  You might say, it's nothing to sneeze at!

Information taken from The Kleenex Brand Story.

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