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May 2010

Kleenex Proves Brand Storytelling Is Nothing To Sneeze At

Kleenex is one of the world's most recognizable mega-brands. Regardless of whether we buy no name versions or the authentic Kleenex brand, our referral to the actual product is always "Kleenex." The name has worked its way into our culture and language as the standard in high quality tissue products.

The Kleenex website offers consumers a unique trip down memory lane with key insights into the brand story. Originally marketed in the 1920's as a "cold cream towel", the product was adopted by movie stars as a way of staying beautiful. Tissue ads stared appearing in leading women's magazines featuring testimonials from the stars of stage and screen. Men started using the product as an easy replacement for handkerchiefs.

Throughout its history, the brand took on new meaning for consumers through the innovative use of product design. Funky patterns were integrated into product packaging that seemed to reflect consumer zeitgeist at the time. Pocket versions of the product were also introduced making the brand easier to use while on the go.

To follow the Kleenex brand story through the ages is an interesting study in both consumer product success and human psychology. Much of its initial success was due to celebrity endorsements, a technique that is still in use for major brands today. The brands integration into the entertainment world and Hollywood proves its cachet and usefulness were well ahead of their time. As the world moved on and consumer tastes changed, Kleenex adapted its product and marketing strategy to reflect the current culture. To this day, Kleenex remains one of the world's mega-brands and the name continues to be used for both no name versions - as well as for the original product.

Kimberly-Clark is smart to offer the Kleenex brand story by taking the timeline approach. A brand is, in essence, the sum of its experiences with the consumer - and the history of a brand is a reflection of our own experiences with it throughout time. As a child, I remember using Kleenex while recovering from the flu. I still use it today, as I know it will have the strength to do the job. Deep down inside, the brand also conjures up memories of being taken care of...something that still comes to mind when I need to recover from a cold or flu. As the Kleenex tagline itself says - "It feels good to feel."

Why does taking a historical or timeline approach to brand storytelling help sell brand attributes? Can you think of any other mega-brands that have the same emotional affect on you? If so, which ones and why?