One iconic brand provides all the evidence that anyone needs to re-think what they have always thought about change and brand transformations. Once upon a time Kimberly-Clark produced a product made of “Cellucotton” that was used to line and filter gas masks during WWI in response to the cotton shortage.
Ten peaceful years later the product was re-engineered and re-positioned as a facial tissue designed to remove cold cream and make-up. The Kleenex® Brand “absorbent pad” was initially marketed to Hollywood and Broadway starlets. Sometime later Kimberly-Clark made the decision to offer the disposable solution to a slightly broader market segment, American women.
Convinced that customer feedback suggested an alternative and sizable untapped niche, a Kimberly-Clark researcher tried unsuccessfully for several years to persuade the powers that be to re-imagine the Kleenex® facial tissues. Finally in 1926 a one question, two answer survey was featured in a Peoria, Illinois newspaper. Did consumers use the Kleenex® Brand product to remove cold cream or as a disposable handkerchief? The compelling results proved that the customer-centric, insightful researcher had been on to something all along. By 1930 Kleenex® had a re-purposed identity, a more generalized use, and advertising approach that doubled sales and made Kleenex® one of the few, but proud, *genericized products of our time.