Last month, Pantone released a new colour, ‘Period Red,’ in partnership with Swedish menstrual product brand, INTIMINA. The aim was to create a colour that was ‘energising’ and ‘dynamic’ and inspires people who menstruate to feel proud of this natural function of their body. The reaction online to this announcement ranged from wholehearted appreciation to accusations of ‘virtue signalling.’ Publicity stunt or not, recognition from an influential body, such as Pantone, brings awareness to a subject that is still too often a taboo. On any given day, more than 800 million people worldwide are menstruating, yet in many parts of the word, lack of access to proper hygiene products, has made menstruation a barrier for equality.
In Ireland, research from Plan International in 2018 found that over half of Irish teenage girls struggled to afford sanitary products. In addition, six out of 10 young women reported feeling shame and embarrassment about their period. Nearly 60% said schools did not adequately educate them about periods. We saw the conversation about period stigma play out again when, this summer, the Advertising Standards Authority Ireland banned a Tampax, ‘Tea and Tampons’, television ad after 84 complaints were made. However, the ad did not go off the air quietly. Its cancellation prompted widespread dissent and passionate dialogue on the subject. While we still have a way to go, recent years have shown us a lot of positive momentum in making period talk, not only more socially acceptable, but more honest and inclusive. Meanwhile, there has also been a surge in product innovation and effort to make menstruation a more seamless and environmentally conscious part of life.
While activists and charities continue the fight against period poverty, ‘fem tech’ and period-related technology is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing areas of the technology sector. Last year, Apple announced it would include a period tracking feature on the Apple watch. While there are several, Clue, a period and ovulation tracking app, has become one of the most popular. There has also been a surge of period-related developments in the wellness space. From natural PMS wellness elixirs to CBD patches or essential oil blends to sooth cramping, today there are countless premium products to make that ‘time of the month’ more bearable. Period subscription boxes, such as My Lady Bug, ensure that you are prepared every month with supplies. Overall, there has been a huge move towards more sustainable period products from the wider adoption of menstrual cups to biodegradable, and organic cotton products. Dame, for example, created a reusable tampon applicator to curb the impact of single use plastic, while brands like Thinx and WUKA aim to replace pads and tampons all together
The language around periods has also progressed to become more inclusive to non-binary people. For instance, last year Always made the decision to remove the female symbol from its packaging. As periods become less of a guarded secret, new brands are charging into the sector and giving people more choice than ever. With this, much of the branding has moved from outdated and garishly feminine to artistic, sleek and gender neutral. Brands, in any industry traditionally marketed on the basis of gender, should take notice of this evolution. Ethically and aesthetically, consumers today are gravitating towards brands who are both eco conscious and put forth an inclusive image. The days of painting it pink and hoping women will buy it are very much over.