Tale of Two Kleenex Packages

Repackaging is a popular way to refresh an existing product, and sometimes capture more off-season sales. Take the case of Kleenex tissues, which enjoy the greatest sales during cold and flu season, but during the warmer months, not so much. Kleenex looked to spur year-round demand by designing packaging with decorative seasonal themes. Last summer it introduced wedge-shaped “fruit” boxes at Target stores. Offered with colorful watermelon, orange and lime illustrations done by Los Angeles-based artist Hiroko Sanders, the novelty boxes were a huge hit with customers who wanted to add a happy slice of summer to their décor. This year Kleenex has extended its award-winning fruit packaging to major retailers nationwide.

Conversely, the new Kleenex hand towels box is a product that has lovely packaging, but, in my opinion, an unconvincing advertising strategy. The TV commercial shows every household member from the dad and kids to the family dog handling the same cloth hand towel, sending the message that one-use disposable paper towels are more hygienic. Maybe so, but given the fact that cloth hand towels have been shared by family members for decades, maybe centuries, without causing an epidemic illness or skin rashes, the extra precaution seems extravagant and unnecessary. Environmental and sustainability blogs are not buying the argument either, and people have posted comments about wasteful packaging and nonrecyclability, etc. They have a point. Even the way the product is displayed in photographs — wedged in place behind a bathroom towel bar — seems impractical and improvised.

That said, this seems to be a case of good product, wrong marketing pitch. As someone who keeps a roll of paper towels in my car and in my office desk drawer, an attractively packaged box of hand towels has its appeal –more convenient and sanitary than an open roll tossed on the car floor. There are other times when a box of paper towels would come in handy. One can be placed by the workbench in the garage, taken on picnics, used by moms at kids’ playgrounds, and set in the bathroom for occasional guests. Like the seasonal Kleenex tissue boxes, the packaging for hand towels can be designed for different occasions and uses. Actually, a tissue/hand towel combo box would be great too. You never know when you need one or the other.

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