Interview: How Feminine Care Company Blume Is Changing The Conversation Around Periods
Swapping 'feminine hygiene' for 'self-care,' subscription service Blume works to de-stigmatize menstruation and sex-ed, positioning itself as a lifestyle partner for teens and providing trusted resources
As Gen Z grows older, gaining independence and financial freedom, they continue to redefine consumer expectations across the industry. While many established retailers have made efforts to meet these new standards, some have trailed behind, leaving room for newcomers and emerging startups to fill in the gaps and ultimately earn the coveted loyalty of these young consumers. For feminine and period-related self-care, this company is Blume.
Unlike traditional feminine care retailers, Blume prioritizes its role as a lifestyle partner versus a business. In fact, Blume customers might not even encounter the typical, often times uncomfortable vernacular associated with menstruation products, as the brand prefers labels like “self-care,” encouraging a society-wide de-stigmatization of period-related products in general. Among Blume’s many strategies that make it so appealing to a Gen-Z consumer base is its commitment to transparent and sustainable products, despite zero federal regulations to disclose ingredients in tampons and pads.
In conversation with PSFK, CEO and co-founder Taran Ghatrora speaks to the decisions behind such strategies, as well as how Blume is fostering open dialogue on female self-care through education and awareness:
PSFK: What led you to launch Blume? What are your thoughts regarding how the existing feminine care brands were failing to serve younger consumers?
Taran: The answer to both of these questions is linked. We originally launched Blume out of our own need for convenience, and then the shock and horror of finding out the ingredients in mainstream brands. That was around 2016, when it was primarily subscription-based. We offered a monthly subscription to help women get access to organic pads and tampons, because they weren't readily available at the time.
Running that experience taught us about how brands are really underserving women, and not offering them products that break with stigmas around feminine hygiene. Also, there's a big trust element with the types of ingredients found in many of the big–box brands. We wanted to be able to solve that problem for girls when they first got their period and beyond.
Do you find that younger consumers are more concerned about the ingredients in these products that they're using compared to older consumers?
Gen-Z consumers are really hyperaware of ingredients as well as what brands stand for. It's something that they're conscious about even down to what the social impact of the brand that they're supporting is.
However, even consumers who have been using certain brands for years are becoming more aware of what's in them. We found that 79% of girls use the products that their mother used for period products, which isn't really common in any other space. That was really interesting, but then when we would talk to parents, they would say, “I don't necessarily want my daughter to use what I use. I just don't have an alternative.”
That's where Blume comes in. A lot of parents are grateful to find a brand that they can share with their daughter that speaks to her in a voice and tone that she resonates with, as well as products that have safe, effective ingredients.
Was there a particular reason that these parents didn't want their children to use the same products?
Many of the parents we talked to cared about the transparency of the ingredients. When they do find Blume, we've had a really overwhelming response from parents around the sex education and how helpful they find it. They download our first period guide to either read for themselves or share with their daughters, or both, and then also our blog. We did a mother-daughter series for Mother's Day recently, which helped to foster open conversation with mothers and daughters about self–care and sex ed.
Could you talk a little bit more about how you educate girls about puberty and their health?
We're obviously not here to replace a doctor, but we want to help prepare girls so that when these things happen, they don't feel alone or isolated, whether it's their period, which happens to everyone, or something like a UTI, or PCOS, or a yeast infection. So many people in our community would tell us that it took them years to get a diagnosis, or that they didn't know what was going on with their body, which is pretty unacceptable, we think, for 2019. A lot of that education is in the form of video on our Instagram or YouTube.
Our blog is called Blume University, and that's where we do most of the articles for questions that our community requests. One of our best performing articles is “What is the shade of your period blood?” It's actually something that is really frequently Googled.
I remember my mom just handing me a book. It seemed like it hadn't been updated in 20 years, and it didn't really speak to me. Do you find that formats like video make this more accessible and interesting to consumers?
Yes, and that's one of the reasons we're creating our own content. It's because we felt the same way, and a lot of our audience felt the same way about voice and tone just not reaching them where they were or being way too clinical. Whether it's a blog post, or an Instagram post, or a video, we really try never to speak down to our audience. We meet them where they are, but also have the information to be factual and accurate.
I've read that there's this drop in self–esteem that many girls experience around puberty. Could you talk a little bit about how Blume is trying to combat the stigma surrounding menstruation, and perhaps prevent that drop?
When we did the survey I told you about earlier, our audience also told us that 60% of women can pinpoint that their self–esteem plummeted when they went through puberty, which is really sad. We think that self–care and sex ed are tied together because you don't really learn how to take care of yourself and your body as a teen—just the basics of self–care, like checking in with yourself or meditating. Those are some of the big things that we do to help our audience, and we really try hard not to perpetuate the existing taboos and stigmas.
By positioning it as self–care rather than a problem to deal with, do you feel like that helps change their attitudes around menstruation?
I think at the end of the day, for most people, their period isn't something that they look forward to, and that's fine. It's painful, it's hard to deal with. It's not the most convenient thing, but there's so much that comes along with the changes that your body experiences, whether it's the way society is now treating you because your body is changing or the fact that you feel like you can't talk to anyone about it. We think that self–care is a big component in helping with self–esteem.
One of the things that is striking about Blume is the branding. It seems very different from other feminine care products. It's not pink and flowery. Could you talk a little bit about the intention behind the branding?
That was definitely intentional. We surveyed our audience, then worked together to create packaging and branding that really resonated. Even for us, as founders, we didn't want the typical pink and flowery packaging. We wanted something that we'd be proud to display on our bathroom counters or carry in our purses, like Cloud 9, or Hug Me, or any other products that you can take with you on the go.
The products are gender–neutral. They're really minimal, and we consider ourselves the brand girls grow up with. The person using it might start using it in their teens, but continue to use the brand well into their twenties.
You offer a subscription service that lets consumers build their own box with their desired products. Could you explain the intention behind that, and how it adds value and convenience?
Of course periods happen every month, and a lot of times when something is consumable that happens every month, it can be easier to have it on subscription, whether it be razors or period products. That was one of the things that we did to make purchasing and having the product delivered to their doorstep easier, just by being able to put it on an automatic subscription.
How about your distribution strategy? You started off as a DTC brand, but now you've partnered with third–party retailers like Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom. Do you see Blume expanding to more stores in the future?
For us, we chose strategic retailers where we felt it would be easier for our audience to discover us, like Urban Outfitters and Riley Rose. We might do more retail in the future, but for now we'd like to keep the retail distribution to some of the smaller stores that we work with.
Tell us more about how you're building community through social media or otherwise, and building a strong relationship with your customers as well as among themselves.
A lot of it is through our Instagram, and our audience is really vocal, really engaged. They talk to each other in the comments, and we get hundreds of DMs a day. We are expanding different channels to be able to facilitate those relationships amongst our customers with one another. There's more to come there, so definitely stay tuned.
Could you talk a little about how you incorporate consumer feedback and opinions into refining your offerings?
Pretty much every step of the way we incorporate our audience's thoughts and feedback, because at the end of the day, we're creating this product and this brand for them. We'll frequently do surveys. We actually record feedback and tag all incoming customer requests so that if we start to see any patterns, or there are things that come up often, we make sure to include that feedback in the roadmap of our products and everything else that we create.
I'd love to hear more about your social impact efforts like Days for Girls, and how that fits into your company's ethos.
That's been part of our company's ethos since day one. Days for Girls is a really amazing organization that helps girls avoid missing school, and empower them so that they're not missing education because of their period. For example, this month we did a campaign for menstrual hygiene day. We ran it for the whole month around our product Cloud 9, where the profits went to Days for Girls. With every purchase of Cloud 9, we were able to supply three years' worth of pads and tampons to a girl so that she wouldn't have to miss school for three years. That's something that we do quite frequently, and then we also do a monthly donation.
To finish, what's in store for the future? How you see Blume growing and continuing to serve your customers' needs?
It'll definitely include more educational content, and then we'll be expanding the product lines as well in the future.
Lead image: Blume