Tess Wicksteed: How To Be Innovative When Talking About Intimate Products?

Tess Wicksteed: How To Be Innovative When Talking About Intimate Products?

Why design has the power to easily say things that are often times uncomfortable.

Tess Wicksteed, Pearlfisher
  • 17 april 2014

Intimacy has never been so in your face. We are all connecting in ever more instant and personal ways – largely, of course, through social media channels. And many brand marketers are now being very vocal about how best to maintain scales of intimacy: the ability to operate at scale but still foster individual intimacy and care for their consumers. But there’s a flip side to this. We seem to be blindsided to a potentially huge opportunity to create and redefine new levels of intimacy for one of our biggest and most diverse market sectors: our most intimate and personal products and brands.


Bold and explicit brands, such as Help Remedies, embraced branding to disrupt and steer a new direction for the pharma category in ways we probably never imagined. In turn, we are throwing issues such as mental health into the spotlight and innovating with product design and creative solutions to tackle and normalize stigma. But when it comes to sanitary brands or the huge sexual health and function arena, we still seem to be shying away from interaction – and how we start an intimate dialogue.

Our whole culture is focused on the experiential and emotive connections and finding new ways to facilitate this. Design has the power to say things that are painful, intimate and uncomfortable. And good design communication, as the starting point, undoubtedly helps the propagation of ideas and information – across any and all channels. The much talked about and unashamedly direct ‘Camp Gyno ad (for period-supply subscription service ‘Hello Flo’) is a case in point. The viral ad was far more direct than the tamer broadcast version.

Maybe it stands to reason. The Internet is intrinsically an ‘intimate’ medium and you have the scope to be more direct in an intimate setting. Intimate products used to only be available through your pharmacist with a discreet brown paper bag and medicinal packaging to protect you from embarrassment. Today, many of these brands are front of counter and both consumers and brands are required to come face to face with intimacy in all forms. We know it is not the concept of ‘intimacy’ that consumers are shying away from, rather the way it is communicated and experienced. This puts the emphasis firmly on design as a key and constant connection between the product and the buying experience.


The opportunity is for more brands in the personal sector to devise new and ownable design languages that help consumers feel proud of their products again. Brands like KY (both original and Yours) have begun tapping into this opportunity, redesigning their overtly personal offers in ways that are both efficacious and friendly.

Taking a far more direct approach is the exuberantly ironic Poo Pourri – a range of poo masking sprays. The naming is direct and indirect at the same time – toying with going too far depending on how lavatorial your sense of humor is (a cultural thing quite possibly). The role of design in this case is ironic too – conventional category language played to the hilt.

But one of our favorite new examples has to be Bonk Lube. The name leaves you in no doubt as to what it is but the organic material emphasizes the key organic ingredients of the lubricant range with the sensual intertwining of the male and female symbols conveying its gender-neutral positioning. It’s fresh, quirky, direct and tactically engaging with a design that amplifies the tagline: “Bonk, it’s only natural.”

We are starting to see a change here but there is no reason for these intimate brands to be behind the curve, like they were once behind the counter. It’s about finding the best way to scale intimacy for the benefit of your brand and its community. Some such as Bonk Lube will choose to say it loud and proud. For others, discreet may still be the desired option but discreet can still be better designed. In any case, design has the power to help intimate brands find their own unique voice and expression.

Tess Wicksteed is Executive Vice President at Pearlfisher. Having worked at Pearlfisher for over 13 years, Tess is a strategic driver in the development of Pearlfisher New York. Tess’s great talent is her instant ability to see the wood for the trees. As a major force behind Pearlfisher’s strategic offer, she trades in originality, clarity and logic, delivering bold imaginative thinking for brands like Coca-Cola, Absolut, Unilever, and Nestle.


PSFK's Workplace Vision: How The Nurturing Of Seeds Will Come To Define The Onboarding Process

Brand Development
Work Today

Editorial Roundtable: The Arrival Of The People-First Workplace

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary and thinkPARALLAX enumerate the reasons why companies need an employee-embracing workforce in order to exist

Arts & Culture Today

Transforming Light Waves Into A New Art Form

An artist uses glass treated with layers of metallic coatings to create a unique installation called lightpaintings


Get PSFK's Latest Report: Innovation Debrief: Boston

See All
Design Today

This Windbreaker Lets You Explore The Outdoors While Charging Your Phone

The apparel includes solar panels that allow the wearer to stay connected through the power of renewable energy

Asia Today

The Goal Of This Game Is To Not Get Laid Off From Your Job

A hit mobile app has you working really, really hard to not get fired as you climb the corporate ladder


Kevin Fliess

Online Travel Services

Advertising Today

Movie Critic Bot Guides Viewers Through Festival Offerings

The Toronto International Film Festival has created a Facebook Messenger chatbot to help attendants curate their schedule

Food Today

Disable Your Wi-Fi For Family Dinners With This Pepper Grinder Hacking Device

Dolmio has created a gadget that shuts down internet access so you can eat without being distracted

Entertainment Today

Nosulus Rift Delivers Horrible Smells Just For The South Park Videogame

Ubisoft has developed a unique peripheral for the upcoming title that will put players to the test


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

PSFK Op-Ed august 23, 2016

Modern Workplace Culture: No More Fat Cats Or Kissing Ass

Samar Birwadker, CEO & Co-Founder of Good & Co, on designing shared organizational values to optimize employee happiness and success

PSFK Labs august 24, 2016

PSFK’s Workplace Vision: The Annual Review Becomes An Everyday, Collaborative Activity

Our Future of Work vision is a web-based platform through which teams can collaborate on and monitor performance reviews across all channels, ensuring a happier workplace

Europe Today

Netflix’s Newest Programming Is As Slow As It Gets

Norwegian network NRK is coming to the streaming platform with their successful 'Slow TV'

Media & Publishing Yesterday

CNN Launched An Entire Drone Division Of Their News Network

CNN AIR incorporates aerial footage into the corporation's ongoing news coverage

Advertising Yesterday

Uber’s Breathalyzer Cards Let You Know If You Are Sober Enough To Drive

A new campaign from the ride-sharing service raises awareness about the importance of a safe trip home

Design Yesterday

Milk Proteins Could Be The Packaging Material Of The Future

A newly discovered casein-based alternative is biodegradable, sustainable and even edible

Technology Yesterday

Intel’s New System Will Help Technology See And Understand The World

Joule is a tiny board for developers designed to bring powerful computer vision to cheap and easy-to-make prototypes


Innovation Debrief: Boston
Business Concepts Born In 'The Hub'

Design Yesterday

This LA Hotel Is Designed Specifically For Cocktail Drinkers

The Walker Inn is a new Los Angeles "Bed and Beverage" experience that offers guests an intimate setting for their night cap

Education Yesterday

Bringing Virtual Reality And Telepresence Robotics To E-Learning

This Learning Management System is embracing new technologies to reallocate teaching resources to where they should be going

Advertising Yesterday

Interactive Art Exhibition For Dogs Provides Endless Fun

Installations created by artist Dominic Wilcox are based on activities loved by canines, such as fetching tennis balls and splashing in water

No search results found.