“Red is the color of life. It’s blood, passion, rage. It’s menstrual flow and after birth. Beginnings and violent end. Red is the color of love. Beating hearts and hungry lips. Roses, Valentines, cherries. Red is the color of shame. Crimson cheeks and spilled blood. Broken hearts, opened veins. A burning desire to return to white.”Mary Hogan
FemCare is a booming market, with hundreds of brands selling everything from organic tampons to period underwear. So, we wanted to get the lowdown from somebody on the inside (pun intended).
Danela Zagar is Global Brand Manager for INTIMINA; a Swedish-born brand that invites women to have an intimate relationship with their bodies.
Since 2009, INTIMINA has been working to make women’s lives easier and healthier – from menstrual cups to pelvic floor exercisers – their products are both cost-efficient and eco-friendly.
Danela tell us more about you, and your work at INTIMINA?
“I’ve always wanted to work with a brand or an NGO that is doing something socially responsible. That’s my intrinsic motivation.
I studied in Zagreb, Croatia and graduated with a Master in PR and Journalism. I started with an NGO, working with a marginalised group of people. It was a great job; it’s really cool to see that what you’re doing has some kind of impact on people’s lives.
From there, I wanted to get corporate experience and after a few years working in the advertising and marketing industry, I got the job at INTIMINA.
What I really liked was the potential of a FemCare brand to empower women, and so you are doing social responsibility somehow, in a corporate world.
INTIMINA was created, not just to sell products, but to break taboos and spark conversations about women’s intimate health.”
Getting Ziggy with it
INTIMINA thinks about every age and every stage of a woman’s life, from first menstruation, to menopause – their sex life, too.
“We have our Lily Cup One, which you can use when you get your first period. Then, when you start experimenting with sex, you can try the Ziggy Cup, so you can have mess-free period sex.”
“We have a collapsible cup – the Lily Cup Compact – which is really practical to carry around in your bag – or whatever.
And, after you’ve had children or if you’re getting pre-menopausal symptoms, we have the KegelSmart which helps to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.”
Menstrual cups are intrinsically more sustainable than tampons or pads, (which for very good reasons are single-use).
What’s INTIMINA’S take on the sustainability story?
“Our younger consumers, let’s say 16 to 25-year olds, they’re looking for sustainable period products, so menstrual cups are a great option for them.”
“We talk about menstrual waste, and do our bit to educate women on the environmental benefits of using menstrual cups.”
Plastic from pads and tampons are the 5th most common plastic found on beaches.
“On average, a woman buys 12,000 disposable menstrual products in her lifetime, and most of those end up in landfill or in the sea.
Those 12,000 disposable products also translate to about $3000 (roughly £2100), spent over a lifetime.
An INTIMINA cup can last up to 10-years, so theoretically, you can use the same one for a decade. You probably want to change your menstrual cup occasionally, but even so the waste and money you save from not buying products every month is huge.”
We are part of nature, we’re not apart from nature – the female body is the epitome of that. As we rediscover our love and respect for nature, let’s hope we will do the same for our bodies.
It seems that, at least in western society, we live so much in our heads that we’ve lost touch with our bodies..?
“We did some research in the US, where we asked women to name all the parts of the female reproductive system. Only 1 in 10 women answered all the questions correctly.”
“47% of women we interviewed couldn’t identify their vagina. That’s really, really shocking.”
“Knowing their bodies and knowing how the reproductive system works, gives women the power to be able to advocate for their well-being and get the support they need.”
“We want to broaden the discussion around women’s intimate issues and get everybody talking about menstrual and pelvic health, as well as menopause.
To make sure we do it right, we have formed the INTIMINA Medical Advisory Board, to provide women with the most accurate health information about intimate wellness.
A team of specialist doctors with expertise in pelvic health and reproductive medicine, support our customer service, and enable us to provide valuable insights by fact-checking all our content. They also provide knowledge on the latest wellness trends and medical breakthroughs.
We are trying to gather our community – we call it our sisterhood – a really safe environment where we can talk about everything.”
“We created the concept of INTIMINA Talks a few years ago, which started as small intimate events where we gathered women from all walks of life, together with health experts. We said, okay let’s just talk and see where this conversation takes us.
Now we are doing more to build our sisterhood on social media. Particularly with young people who are really open to talking about their experiences, in a way that will engage and maybe trigger somebody to talk about theirs as well.”
“Why would I follow somebody on social media, who talks about periods?”
“It can be positive or negative or whatever, but they do it in a really cool way. Just sparking this conversation is important for us.”
INTIMINA is clearly a brand with a purpose. Such brands use their voice in different ways, from the supportive and softly spoken, to the rallying cry of an activist.
Where do you think you sit on that spectrum?
“We are somewhere in the middle…we definitely have a purpose that we want to share with our consumers, and wider society.”
“I don’t believe in being loud just to be heard. You really need to have substance.”
“We want our message to promote menstruation as a positive part of being a woman; something that can empower your life, not get in the way of it.
We choose activations that we think are valuable.
We’ve taken an active role in the Period Movement in the US. We were one of the first to be involved in the initiative from the corporate world – the dark side, let’s say!
They started campaigning two years ago, very, very loudly; advocating for the removal of the ‘pink tax’ that’s put on menstrual care products.
We’re also very happy to be supporting the City To Sea Rethink Periods campaign, for the second year running. Rethink Periods is a free, nationwide schools programme updating mainstream period education, in primary and secondary schools in the UK.”
Breaking the bloody taboo
“Despite the fact that billions of people experience menstruation, it has historically been treated as something that shouldn’t be seen or talked about publicly.
So we collaborated with Pantone to create a bold shade of red to break the taboo and get everyone to talk about periods, regardless of gender, age, stage – whatever.”
Period Red is part of a campaign called Seen + Heard, and included a donation from INTIMINA to Action Aid. The charity helps people living in poverty where managing periods is an extra financial and social burden.
“We got some criticism that this shade of red isn’t everyone’s period red – it’s meant to be symbolic.”
“In PR terms, this has been our most successful campaign. In only a few days we got media coverage in more than 700 outlets, which was huge, and things are still rolling. And, this wasn’t only in the markets where we already had a presence; we got coverage in Ukraine, Russia, India, Turkey – it resonated globally.”
Inclusivity is an issue that many brands in your space are grappling with right now. Some use more neutral language; they refer to menstruators or people who bleed, rather than women, to avoid defining people by their sex or gender.
How is INTIMINA navigating this sensitive issue?
“We do have some steps to take to be more inclusive. We’re still a bit lacking in our communication, to be completely honest. But then, on the other hand, I don’t know if ‘menstruator’ is right either.
We have some collaboration with representatives from transgender groups in the US, supporting through sponsorship of Pride events, for example. I know this could be seen as not enough, and that if we are being loud about period poverty and education, we should be more involved in this debate, too.”
Just because a brand doesn’t actively target transgender people, doesn’t mean to say it’s against transgender people, or that it doesn’t support the cause. People get confused with that; you can’t fight everything loudly.
It doesn’t all have to be in the shop window…you can do things within your organisation. It comes down to authenticity of purpose.
“Yes. We want to be true to who we are.
Ditching women and everything that is connected to that gender, like our brand colour – you know. I don’t think that feels right for us.
We need to be open to everyone, but we are talking to women and those that feel like women. And this is something that won’t change.”