It is a good initiative for big companies, to manufacture both expensive and affordable products, as long as quality is not compromised to an extent that it affects functionality.
Look at fashion houses and designer clothing lines. They will have the high-end brands but since they also want to serve other communities who would not invest that much money but still value prestige, they make alternatives to cater for these consumers.
Always was probably the most popular and trusted brand when it was introduced in the Kenyan market. The pricing and packaging alone gave it that uncompromising feel that it was a quality brand and people loved it. I mean, since I hit puberty and got to learn of how my body works through the guide About Me, (it had three happy teenage girls at the cover page) I’ve recognized Always as the best product to use at that time of the month.
Fast forward to 2018, things got better when P&G (Proctor & Gamble) the family company, introduced the budget sanitary pads, which were 41 percent cheaper. Compared to Ksh 85, which the flagship brand was selling at, the Always Cotton Soft retailed at Ksh 50. Little did kenyans know that this product, amongst the variants pulled from the market by KEBS, to be tested, came at price. No pun intended.
The variant products in question including, Always Platinum, Always Maxi, Always Ultra, Always Ultra-normal and Always Extra-long.
This investigation by KEBS followed after women joined the bandwagon on twitter to express their concerns and experiences with Always, many complaining that the pads were heavily perfumed, caused rashes, discomfort and burns from plastic friction.
The conversation under the hashtag #myalwaysexperience evoked many reactions highlighting the key areas that Kenyans thought to be the root cause of this issue and the availability of other low quality products in the Kenyan market. The big questions being;
What measures does KEBS use to regulate and authorize products in the market?
When will Kenya stop being the “dumping site” for other low quality/counterfeit exports?
Is this a standard case showing how the government compromises quality and human rights by valuing capitalism?
Always as the brand known to have majority users, the excuse could have been that different women get different experiences from using the range of products available in the Kenyan market. In this case though, the outrage which surfaced on March had different women in Kenya and natives abroad coming together to propose a ban and boycott against the brand altogether. For it had disappointed its longtime users and trustees.
An astonishing fact being that the Always sold in Kenya was different in quality from the type supplied in developed countries. Many felt cheated.
To address the issue, Always tweeted backing their statement with a link to show the contents in the variant lines of pads. The tweet read,
“All our products go through rigorous tests and are also tested with women to ensure that they are safe for use.”
This did not change the sentiments of users in Kenya against the brand. Instead, #KOT sought this as an opportunity to highlight alternatives giving testimonials on products like Sunny Girl and Kotex. Ouch! Always cried.
For instance, Always should:
- Stop using the plastic lining. It causes friction causing burns, rashes and utter discomfort.
- Not scent the pads.
- Make the pads adaptable to humid weather.
- Take the Kenyan market seriously. We should have the same products, (that is if they are from the same company), as those supplied in other countries.
- Improve pads absorbency. It does not last 8 hours as advertised. A caution to influencers who advocate for products they do not use.
In that note, did you know that days after this outrage, Always tried to get an influential Kenyan male blogger to support their stand? Kenyans had a field day on tweeter asking if the influencer used the proposed sanitary pads.
In the spirit of curiosity:
- Even as a joke, from which standpoint did Always decide on a male brand ambassador instead of involving its users who can provide a better experience/solution?
- If this was not for sales and pure marketing, what is?
Brands should take notes; for this serves as a lesson to remind manufacturers that social media is a double-edged sword. In as much as social media makes it easy to create awareness and promote products, it is also a platform where companies can maim their reputation by promoting brands that do not walk the talk.
Do you think Always will regain face in the Kenyan market or will brands like Kotex take over?