Kimberly, Clark and Company was formed in 1890 with an investment of $30,000 by four young businessmen. The company quickly became the largest paper producer in the Midwest. By 1905, John Kimberly was the sole surviving founder, a circumstance which led to reorganization. In 1906, the company was incorporated as Kimberly-Clark Co.
The company, which had primarily produced paper for use in printing – including newsprint – began to explore new product opportunities. They created Cellucotton – a cotton substitute – first used as bandages in World War I. Once the war ended, the company explored other uses for Cellucotton. The first product they developed was Kotex feminine napkins, introduced in 1920. In 1924 Kimberly-Clark introduced a second product – a tissue which they advertised as a disposable “sanitary cold cream remover”.
Over the next two years, consumers wrote to the company stating that they were using the tissues as a disposable handkerchief. Consumer research revealed that over 60% of respondents used the tissue for that purpose. In an early example of a company responding to the ‘voice of the customer’, Kimberly-Clark changed its advertising message. By 1930, sales had more than doubled.
Over the next decades, the company introduced a variety of product enhancements and extensions – pop-up tissue cartons, colored tissues, printed tissues and pocket packs. Man-sized tissues were introduced to broaden the product’s appeal to male consumers. Innovations continued – scented tissues, new package designs, tissues to clean eye glasses, juniors, purse packs and more.
Competitors entered the category with some positioning themselves as a preferred choice based on price, claiming superior quality or improved attributes. Still others pursued success through different distribution channels such as commercial sales.
In spite of competition, the original facial tissue continues to be the category leader and has spawned a brand franchise with sales of nearly $2 billion. The brand has grown to be valued at $3+ billion and ranks in the top 100 of Forbes’s list of the World’s Most Powerful brands. These are the types of results generated by a fearless brand.
That brand? Kleenex®. The Kleenex name was derived from a unique spelling of its original purpose, to ‘clean’, combined with the suffix of its sister brand – Kotex. What makes it a fearless brand? Its core purpose was determined early, it’s a quality product which has seen continuous improvement. Importantly, Kleenex has continued to adapt and improvise to ensure relevance to a broad market.
Fearless brands are built on trust and value
Kleenex brand tissues were created for a specific use, yet consumers redefined its purpose. To its credit, Kimberly-Clark listened to consumers, shifted the brand’s focus and set the stage for stratospheric success. For over ninety years, the Kleenex brand has not only maintained – but expanded and strengthened its value proposition. The brand has broadened its uses and its user base.
When it comes to understanding the results of fearless branding – Kleenex is a powerful case study.
Powerful sales growth – A key element of a fearless brand is relevance. In its infancy, Kleenex came to understand that its original premise had merit yet consumers defined a broader purpose. It was the public who defined the Kleenex brand by identifying how it was relevant to them. The result? Sales doubled within two years.
Efficient use of marketing dollars – Fearless brands are built on consistency. A consistent brand message leads to greater brand awareness. Greater brand awareness can be maintained – even increased – with a lesser marketing spend than brands with splintered or unclear messages.
Successful brand extensions – The trust and value created by a fearless brand set the stage for the introduction of new products leveraging the brand name. Kleenex tissues. Kleenex toilet paper. Kleenex wipes – towels – facial cleansing and more. A fearless brand sets the stage to introduce products which are compatible, products which appeal to a similar user base, product with the same commitment to quality.
Powerful emotional connection(s) – Perhaps the greatest result of effective branding – fearless branding – is the creation of strong, positive emotional connections between consumers and the brand. A fearless brand is trusted to consistently deliver value. That means that the user’s needs and wants are being successfully met on a regular and reliable basis. Since all decisions are made based on emotion – to one degree or another – the result is brand loyalty. Consistent, repeat business.
What makes building a fearless brand important? It’s the results. Who wouldn’t want to achieve greater sales, spend fewer marketing dollars, develop line extensions and create a powerful connection with their target audience?
Take the time to fully understand your brand’s purpose, stay committed to delivering quality and remain relevant and you too will realize that the results of fearless branding are nothing to sneeze at.