From Insight to Innovation: How Always Empowers Girls and Women
This post is part of a series celebrating 100 years of P&G Analytics & Insights. Click the link below to read our first story.
Since 1984, P&G feminine care brand Always has used consumer insights to dispel myths surrounding menstruation and empower girls and women from their first period and beyond.
It starts with asking the right questions
“We start nearly every feminine care consumer research interview by asking women about their first period. We do this because all women remember it — it’s a rite of passage,” said Daniela Margescu, Vice President, Global Head of Analytics & Insights for Feminine Care at P&G.
Through these conversations, Always has found that a woman’s menstruation experience is profoundly shaped by her education, culture and support system.
There’s a stark difference between girls who have adequate puberty and period education from trusted sources before their first period and those who do not. For the latter, it can be quite a harrowing experience, surrounded by taboos, myths and even fear.
For the last 40 years, Always has been uncovering and trying to break deep-rooted taboos, providing accurate information about puberty and periods — and providing access to period products for those who don’t have it — through different initiatives and campaigns inspired by the insights discovered by our team.
Turning an insult into a rallying cry
One of the most iconic and universal insights discovered by our consumer research efforts showed that stereotypes in many parts of the world portrayed girls as weak, overly sensitive and less capable. The demeaning phrase “like a girl” was so ingrained and accepted, few even noticed the negative effect it had.
Ten years ago, Always launched their “Like A Girl” campaign to help change the narrative. Today, 76% of people feel “Like A Girl” is a positive expression, versus 19% before.
Busting myths and breaking taboos
By interviewing and spending time with young women, our team at Always has uncovered insights that have helped the brand tell powerful, authentic stories — and change the narrative around menstruation.
In India, consumer researchers for Always (known as Whisper), discovered that three out of 10 girls were unaware of menstruation at the time of their first period. Many are subject to outdated cultural restrictions during menstruation. They are told not to sleep in their bed, not to enter places of worship, and not to touch the family pickle jar — otherwise, the pickles will rot because women are unclean when on their period. These beliefs and behaviors inspired Whisper’s “Touch The Pickle” campaign, which encouraged girls to challenge outdated practices and live their lives to the fullest — even during their period. The campaign earned the Grand Prix in the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity Glass Lions category in 2015.
But the Always team didn’t stop there. They’ve continued to work to understand cultural norms in India, including periods are something that you do not talk about, to the point that most schools do not provide period education. This led to 1 out of 5 girls dropping out of school, as they are not prepared and don’t have adequate support.
Through their 2021 campaign, “The Missing Chapter,” Whisper broke a social taboo by sharing their findings and advocating for period education in schools. Whisper’s efforts in India are to prompt a change to a century-old education system and add the “Missing Chapter” on period education to the school curriculum. This earned another Grand Prix in the Sustainable Development Goals category at Cannes in 2022.
Period Poverty, the lack of access to good menstrual health, hygiene and period products, are unfortunately a universal truth that affects millions of girls and women around the world, virtually in every country, and not only in low-income nations, as many would have thought.
Research shows that one consequence of period poverty is that many girls miss school every month. When girls don’t have access to the products they need to effectively manage their period, not only do they not feel protected, but it also puts their confidence and education at risk. That’s why Always launched the #EndPeriodPoverty Program in 2018, generating awareness in more than 28 countries and donating more than 290 million period products globally since.
Setting our sights on the next 100 years
Throughout its 100-year history, Analytics & Insights at P&G have used the combination of human, data and technology to uncover consumer insights that drive innovation. This approach is not just a strategy for Always — it’s how we fulfill our pledge to champion girls and women at every stage of life. With deep consumer understanding, Always will continue to challenge taboos, innovate products and empower girls and women to live without limits.
For the last 100 years, P&G Analytics & Insights has been at the forefront of understanding consumers, driving innovation and discovering future opportunities to drive growth and enable superior consumer experiences.
It all started with the insatiable curiosity of one P&G employee.
One question sparked a revolution in consumer understanding and led to the birth of the field of market research:
What percentage of women use Ivory Soap for face and hands versus dishwashing?
Keep in mind this was 1924. The man asking that question was “Doc” Smelser, a PhD working in the P&G Economic Research Department at the time. The interesting truth was that nobody knew the answer, and so William Cooper Procter, then CEO, suggested Smelser himself “go find out.” And he did.
Smelser conducted our first-ever research by knocking on doors — and he both asked and observed how women used Ivory. This led to P&G’s creation of a Market Research Department and development of market research skills. These professionals went door-to-door and sought to answer questions like, “Which fragrances should be put into Camay soap bars” or “Which colors looked best on the newest packaging.”
From then on, we’ve been on a relentless journey, focusing on consumers and using their insights to inform strategies, develop superior products and make a positive impact in small but meaningful ways on lives worldwide.
Consumer understanding has shaped P&G's strategies.
From product development to communications, insights have directly influenced the creation of products like Tide, which revolutionized how people wash their clothes.
As the world changed, P&G adapted its methodologies to connect with consumers on an even deeper level. From in-home visits to telephone calls, mailed surveys, and now digital platforms and AI Models, P&G has always sought innovative ways to bridge the gap between consumers and brands. By always moving closer to the people we serve, P&G has been able to gather invaluable insights and deliver propositions that meet their needs.
We are now reimagining the synergy between human, data and technology in homes, retail environments, and digital and physical spaces. And while we are innovating and embracing data and technology in new ways, we never lose sight that Data is Human.
We never lose sight that data is human.
Consumer data is the product of human behavior or insight. That may be a consumer viewing a digital ad delivered through a programmatic platform. It may be the purchase of a package of Pampers at their local supermarket, where the beep of the register and scan of the loyalty card generates a transaction. The data we use to analyze and plan our business comes from real people. From our consumers. The same people we aim to serve with our superior products every day. This is what sets P&G apart.
P&G Analytics & Insights has come a long way from its humble beginnings.
As we celebrate a century of success, we look forward to a future where Analytics & Insights continues to drive innovation for P&G and our brands in our mission to improve the lives of consumers worldwide today and tomorrow.
Together, the team will continue to be driven by an insatiable curiosity and a relentless pursuit of understanding consumers. This will unlock new frontiers and shape consumer understanding for the next 100 years and beyond.
Follow us throughout the year to hear stories from our heritage to today — stories from our brands, our innovations, and our people.