Disrupting Period Products: 4 Lessons For Corporate Innovators

Disrupting Period Products: 4 Lessons For Corporate Innovators

Disrupting Period Products:
4 Lessons For Corporate Innovators

Corinne Post Contributor
I analyze executives, C-suites and boards, often with a diversity lens

Models of a pair of menstrual cups and a tampon are on display during the press preview of the new Vagina Museum in Camden market, north London on November 14, 2019.

AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Models of a pair of menstrual cups and a tampon are on display during the press preview of the new Vagina Museum in Camden market, north London on November 14, 2019.

AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Menstruation, a natural physiological process experienced by more than 300 million women and girls worldwide every day, has long been plagued by stigmatization and cultural taboos. After decades during which market leaders only tweaked established products, social ventures have disrupted the market with radical innovations, like period underwear, menstrual cups, and reusable pads.


Feminine hygiene product revenues are set to hit $47 billion globally by 2023 and a projected 5.10% market growth over the next 5 years. The strategies of these period product innovators hold crucial insights for corporate leaders looking to disrupt other stigmatized and taboo markets.


Social ventures’ approach to period product innovation is uniquely purpose-driven. It focuses on dismantling the stigma and taboo surrounding menstruation, menstruating women, and period products, more so than on achieving commercial success. This is what researchers at Erasmus University and Vrije University found after analyzing the work of 90 social enterprises in the menstrual products industry and interviewing 50 founders, CEOs, or communication and brand managers.


These social entrepreneurs realized that offering innovative, high-quality products and services alone was not enough to overcome the stigma and taboos surrounding menstruation and period products. Instead, they made the stigma and taboo a focal point in their business model.


Social enterprises openly challenge the menstruation stigma, according to the study. For example, influencer Jessica Megan featured posted on Instagram in lingerie and a Natracare sanitary pad. This is in stark contrast with traditional firms’ typical stealth approach – like offering discrete period product packages.


The researchers also discovered that social ventures utilize explicit verbal and visual communication, on multiple channels, to normalize discussions about periods. WUKA, for instance, shows blood losses in their commercial for period underwear. In contrast, established firms avoiding taboo aspects of menstruation – for example, advertising leak-free pads with blue liquids.


What can market leaders interested in disrupting other stigmatized and taboo markets – like menopause, disability, and obesity – learn from these social enterprises?

Embrace Stigmatized Issues


Corporate leaders should consider addressing sensitive and taboo subjects in their industries. By actively engaging with and finding solutions for such issues, organizations can enhance their societal impact and create more meaningful connections with their stakeholders – not just customers, but also employees.

Promote Diversity And Inclusivity


Environments where open conversations around stigmatized issues are encouraged can contribute to normalizing the topic, making it more accessible and discussable as an area for innovation and growth. When the stigma affects employees, open conversations can also improve feelings of inclusion and organizational support.

Explore Social Entrepreneurship Partnerships


Collaborating with purpose-driven organizations can enhance an established firm’s social impact and credibility while also providing opportunities for learning.

Integrate Stigma-Debunking With Your CSR Agenda


Integrating initiatives that challenge societal stigma and taboos into a company’s CSR program can contribute to positive social change. It could also enhance brand reputation and employee engagement.


Social enterprises’ disruption of the menstrual products industry serves as a valuable reminder of the value of purpose-driven strategies and of the innovation-potential of diversity, equity, and inclusion.