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Kleenex Marketing Strategy: Making Content Marketing Fun

Visakan Veerasamy
Visakan Veerasamy
August 29, 2013
2 min read
Kleenex Marketing Strategy: Making Content Marketing Fun

I stumbled onto a post on TheChive a while ago which poked fun at the language used by advertising folks. One of the jokes featured a stock photo of a man looking awestruck, with the following slogan:

"I just went to the Kleenex website. It is F***ING AMAZING!!"

Well... what if it is?

In the noble pursuit of science, dear reader, I hastily made my way to the Kleenex website. And this is what caught my eye immediately.


Slime cannon? Rolling mucus burst? That sounds disgustingly awesome! It immediately reminded me of my childhood, watching young celebrities get Slimed on Nickelodeon. You got me, Kleenex. I had to click on the call-to-action and see what happened.

The brand and its digital agency, Studiocom, reached out to 100 of the country’s top science and elementary schools to combine science and snot and come up with ideas to test the new tissues. Ten schools accepted the assignment and each got a $5,000 donation, and the five most compelling and creative were filmed to create Kleenex "Xperiments." -

How's that for marketing? It immediately makes me think of other cool things, like Red Bull launching a guy from space or Oreo commissioning someone to build a machine that separated the creme from the cookie AND having artists make sculptures out of people's photos.

Marketing is getting much more useful.

It's beautiful how many things come together in this one:

  1. Good teachers and schools are always hungry for new ways to get their kids interested in learning.
  2. Kids are always eager to learn stuff if it's fun.
  3. Studiocom created an compelling narrative that involved Kleenex as an enabler, harnessing the destructive forces of nature (i.e. kids) to do some product testing.
  4. We witnessing the kids learning and experimenting, and in the process develop an emotional connection with the brand.

Demonstrate, don't declare. Show, don't tell.

Maybe this is old news by now, but it bears repeating.I think we're beginning to see a new age of marketing- call it content marketing, inbound marketing, whatever you like.

It's an age where people are no longer interested in superficial declarations of value. We're practically immune to it. Consumers want to be romanced by brands with real contributions to make.

Whether or not you buy Kleenex, you've got to acknowledge that it's pretty cool of them to spend real money enabling kids to experiment and have fun.

If you want to be cynical about it...

You could say that this is just corporate advertising getting "more subversive" and "insidious". The end goal is ultimately to make people buy more tissue.

But let's be pragmatic for a moment.

Corporations are always going to be looking for ways to spend money on advertising.

Isn't it much better if they invest money in schools and space missions instead of spending ludicrous amounts of money bidding for Superbowl advertisement spots?


In the meantime, we're going to think of this as a marketing win. I honestly never thought I'd spend more than a few seconds looking at anything Kleenex might've done, but I ended up watching most of this video playlist:

Seriously, cool marketing. Well done Studiocom for coming up with this stuff, and Kleenex for working with them. Hope to see more things like this in the near future.

Kleenex is one of those names which almost everyone will recognize.

A whole generation of people have grown up thinking “Kleenex” is a word meaning “tissue paper” - including tissue paper by rival brands. That’s some next-level marketing.

head full of kleenex

Hey, can you pass me a Kleenex? Oh, yes, that's, stop.

Here’s how learning from Kleenex can help you do word-to-mouth advertising.

1. Appeal to social conscience by creating meaningful projects for a good cause.

Most people think of companies as evil, money-grabbing machines. But how can you set yourself apart from all the rest?

One important step is by demonstrating social conscience - be the “good guy”! Customers are more likely to support you if you stand for a good cause.

Kleenex’s ad “The Last Kleenex” shows a tale of strangers offering Kleenex tissues to one another on a cold winter day. The hashtag #KleenexCare shared instances of kindness and compassion where a Kleenex pack helped people suffering from colds and flu.

Kleenex then went one step further from just focusing about tissue. The “Time for a Change” campaign promoted caring and showed highly emotional videos: of a boy’s first day in school, and of a wheelchair-bound man and a dog who had lost two legs.

Unlikely Best Friends (the video with the dog) got over 138,000 shares in the week it was launched.

The campaigns - “viral, social, and generous” - were so effective that Kleenex became the “good guy” brand in people’s memories.

kleenex puppy commercial

Awwww. You’ll need tissues to wipe away your tears after this ad.

What can we take away from this?

  • Stay memorable. There are a ton of competitors, and everyone’s trying to get a limited amount of customer attention. The first step in building a brand is to make people remember you.
  • Be the “good guy”. Stand out by having an impactful social message. It may only be minimally related to your product. It might even involve some small cost at first. But it will make people talk about you and remember you - in a good way!  

2. Influence people who influence others

kleenex messages of care

Kleenex realised that while traditional ads are good, the best kind of advertising is where people advertise your stuff for you. 84% of customers trust recommendations made by family and friends, making them the most trustworthy source of recommendations.

Kleenex created a “Softness Worth Sharing” campaign, where people sent free packets of tissue to their friends. The campaign went viral (“viral”... colds, tissues, get it?), and over a million packs were shared.

kleenex free tissue 1 million

You get a free tissue! You get a free tissue! Everyone gets a free tissue!

The brilliance in this campaign was that it tapped on human connection. These people received these tissues from friends and family, instead of a distant faraway company.

With a fraction of the cost of a primetime television slot, Kleenex could reach a lot more people in a far more personal and powerful way.

How do you do this effectively? Give customers some incentive to advertise for you, whether through sharing your product in real life or “liking” your Facebook page.

Two quick lessons to take away:

  • Word-of-mouth gives you more value for your advertising dollar. If done right, you can get an impactful message to more people on a tighter budget, because your customers do your outreach for you.
  • Give customers a reason to share your product. People deeply care about what other people do, buy, or share. Word-of-mouth gets a more effective reach than traditional TV advertising.

3. Roll with the times: repackage and adapt!


Kleenex wasn’t always selling disposable tissue papers. It started out in 1920s as make-up remover and a cleansing tissue.

However, they quickly discovered (from customer feedback as well as observing the market) that a lot of customers preferred to use their tissues as substitute handkerchiefs instead.

Kleenex saw the opportunity and took it, running ad campaigns for Kleenex both as make-up removers as well as disposable handkerchiefs. It paid off handsomely, doubling their sales, and the rest is history


kleenex makeup removers

The best part is that they still sell make-up removers.

Almost a hundred years later, we still use “Kleenex” to refer to our “disposable handkerchiefs” - the tissue paper of today! What did they do right?

  • Don’t be afraid to repackage or move to new products. Insistently sticking to the “old ways” could mean you miss out on incredible opportunities. Imagine if Kleenex had stubbornly insisted on selling only cleansing tissue instead of the now-familiar “disposable handkerchiefs”.
  • Do your research. Don’t just jump head-first into a new venture. Like Kleenex, always take time to see if the new direction is feasible: run tests and do surveys before committing!


Read next: 110+ examples of marketing strategies

Visakan Veerasamy
Visakan Veerasamy

Visa is ReferralCandy's former Blog Editor [2013–2018]. He also co-founded, a fashion ecommerce label selling witty t-shirts. He's mildly Internet-famous for his elaborate Twitter threads. He hopes to enjoy a glass of scotch onboard a commercial space flight someday.

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