The teenage years can be awkward for anyone, but especially for young women having to deal with periods. Underwear brand Knixwear knows this and has launched a line of protective underwear called Knixteen, aimed at both helping teen girls deal with the reality of periods, but also talking about it in a way that takes away the stigma of actually…uh, talking about it.
CEO Joanna Griffiths says that ever since the brand launched in 2013, the response from customers has centered around two things: First, they wished Knixwear had existed when they were teens because so much embarrassment could have been avoided; and second, they wanted to buy them for their daughters.
“All of our best ideas come from listening to our customers, so we started to do the research,” says Griffiths. What they found was that girls are now getting their periods younger and younger, that periods were a main stress driver among teens–no one wants to be the first, no one wants to be the last to get their period. And 86% of girls are stressed about leaks, listing it alongside bullying, peer pressure, school grades, body image, substance abuse, and depression. The new campaign, created with agency Leo Burnett, shows the various socially awkward times a girl’s period could show up–a test, a school dance, the cafeteria–and bluntly says, “Hey Period Shut Up.”
“Most teens think that their periods work against them in every way possible,” says Griffiths. “We wanted to show periods interrupting teens at the worst possible times imaginable, in moments that were also timeless enough that any mom could relate to them as well. Periods and leaks have, until very recently, been a ‘taboo’ topic. We don’t think that they should be. It’s a natural, healthy part of being a woman.”
The Canadian-based brand has long been overshadowed by the louder, broader marketing campaigns and media coverage of its American competitor Thinx. But in the wake of allegations that Thinx founder and former CEO Miki Agrawal bullied and even sexually harassed employees, which broke in March, Knixwear said it saw sales jump by more than 300%.
Beyond that, with Knixteen the brand is smartly targeting a market with a rarely addressed problem. Simply put, that periods can be awkward, not a lot of people talk about it, and the legacy of advertising around the subject has too often featured blue liquid, windsurfing, horseback riding on the beach, or just dancing around your apartment in white pants. Kotex’s 2013 “Reality Check” ad may have been the first (and only) real talk ever seen in that category.
“The non BS approach and insight is pretty simple,” says Griffiths. “Generally speaking teens want to carve their own path and tell anyone who tries to get in their way or embarrass them–bullies, politicians, younger siblings–to shut up. There is something so liberating about adding periods to that list.”