Birds Eye View

The glaringly obvious gap in the subscription market and why should you care

By Senior Digital Account Director, Megan Ashdown 

Subscription services have had a bit of a rocky ride of late.

We’ve gone quickly from all-time highs during lockdown to a stark decline in demand as we move further into our “new normal”. The numbers speak for themselves, as when comparing the 1st (locked-down) week of January 2021 vs 2024, we’ve seen a 57% decline in brand demand for Makeup boxes [1] and a 39% decrease for recipe boxes [2]. Despite the decline, 19% of us are still in the market for a subscription box in 2024, equating to around 11.3 million in the UK [3]. And what is the highest indexing demographic for these boxes? Women age 25-34 [4].

So what is there available for these 11.3 million? A whole lot, it seems. Glamour recently published a list of the “best 2023 subscriptions”, and the range is exhaustive…food, books, makeup, alcohol, coffee, flowers, and SOCKS… it’s an enormous list of 49 different subscriptions ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous (who honestly is paying for a pancake subscription box!?)

But as I scrolled through this list – written by two women for a woman’s magazine – there was one huge glaring omission. An omission that, unlike every subscription on this list – is essential. Every. Single. Month, for roughly 1/3 of the UK population.

Where is the Period Box?

We know the demand is there – and It’s not like they don’t exist – with options including YoppieDaye & Calla.ly. So I ask again, why is there not a period products subscription box included on this list?

Is it because, ultimately, there are too many of the same decision-makers in charge? Was there a version of this list which was censored because it did include a period subscription box?

Or – with 26% of UK women still admitting that they are ashamed of their period [5] – has the narrative not changed enough to give FemTech a viable platform to showcase its benefits? After all, FemTech is only receiving 3% of all Digital Health Funding (2.5 billion in 20216 [6]) so considering this (tiny) investment – is the reality that we just don’t know this is all out there?

Let’s, in this instance, assume the problem is point 2, that we don’t know enough about FemTech or the availability of women’s health subscriptions.

From a media perspective, there are crucial ways we can (and should) drive up awareness and adoption of these essential services.

Grab Attention

Even in 2024, talking publicly about female biology is, in many cases, a taboo subject. We are still seeing examples of Gender Bias and double standards in the advertising industry today; for example, women’s Sextech company Dame Products in 2019 sued the Metropolitan Transport Authority of New York when their campaign set out to run on the subway was denied due to the policy of “banning of sexually orientated” companies; at the same time however, Viagra was approved to run… Closer to home in the UK, we’ve already kicked off 2024 with controversy, with Calvin Klein’s internet-breaking ad with Jeremy Allen being compared to a similar advert by FKA twigs in 2023. What is the difference between the two ads? Allen is in nothing but his Calvins. Twigs is in nothing but a Calvin Shirt. No prize for guessing which one was banned by the UK Advertising Standards Agency for nudity [7].

This does prove that “shocking” or “disruptive” content for FemTech doesn’t need to be shocking. All you need is to call out any part of the female anatomy, and you’ll grab a lot of attention. You just need to be “brave” enough to do it.

A brand which has historically done this beautifully is Elvie, which has launched varying “disruptive” campaigns around women’s health, such as #Leakshappen (March 2022) [8], FreeTheFeed (March 2019) [9] and Pumping Unplugged (Sept. 2018) [10]. The results of speaking publicly about women’s health bluntly and honestly are outstanding. After the 2022 #leakshappen campaign, Elvie saw their awareness (across women aged 18-49) jump from 23% in February to 30.6% in March once the campaign had launched, while consideration for the brand also jumped from 0.5% to 2.4% the same month [11]. And that’s for urinary incontinence – which affects 50% of women… Imagine what the uptick could be if we spoke about something which affects nearly all of them.

At the Kite Factory, we are proud to disrupt around moments and causes that matter. We’re honoured to have worked on the Crisis at Christmas “Impossible to Ignore” campaign – which saw a 4.3m high statue of a person experiencing homelessness installed outside Kings Cross and the Birmingham Bull ring, which resulted in a 36% uplift in homelessness buzz nationwide [12].

Change perceptions

“Brands can and should play a role in changing the narrative around periods, and in doing so, have the opportunity to create lasting and fruitful connections with women” [13]. Continuing the conversations through your earned, owned, and paid media after-awareness activity is vital to ensure ongoing traction for your brand. Changing a narrative is tantamount to changing an attitude – which requires clever, bold, and educational creativity – coupled with high media frequencies.

Creatively – Bloody Good Period has done this excellently with their #NoshameHere campaign, which celebrates and educates on the everyday realities of menstruation. The film was created with a conscious effort to make it entertaining, celebratory and positive –actively rejecting any stigma or shame that’s so often prevalent in period narratives.

On the flip side, Hey Girl’s hero video for the #seeingred campaign begins with a trigger warning: “designed to provoke anger”, and what follows is a visceral and chaotic ad which mirrors the horrors of period poverty, ending on the frame “Angry? Good.” Again, Hey Girl has moved female health narratives away from being shameful or under-represented. Still, in this case, they are championing angry & indignant reactions – gearing women up to fight for – and facilitate – change.

We’re no strangers to changing narratives here at The Kite Factory. As recently as December 2023, we broke boundaries with Sexual wellness company “Love Honey” as we secured them their biggest ever TV Advertising spot on ITV 1 – during primetime viewing of I’m A Celeb. Securing a spot in one of the biggest shows on TV was just another step on the journey Love Honey and TKF are on to break down legacy taboos when it comes to sexual wellness [14].

Generate Loyalty

It seems obvious – but for FemTech subscriptions to grow, there needs to be active and proactive adoption; in short – women need to subscribe and stay subscribed. You need loyalty. But with only 5% of women having admitted to having visited a mobile website on “women’s health” [15] at all, how do we change such a conditioned behaviour when women are accustomed to having health afterthoughts?

There are two answers – Fractions & Emotion.

  1. Fractions – The Binet and Field brand vs. activation split dictates that, in general, to facilitate long-term growth, you need to invest 60% in brand and 40% in activation. But this notably changes for subscriptions vs. one-off purchases. Subscriptions require 74% brand spend vs. 26% for activation [16]. Why? Subscriptions are a more committed purchase – you really need to trust the brand before committing. So, push your brand activations harder – in the long run, your ROI will thank you.
  2. Emotion – Creatively, what’s been proven as most effective for subscription services is advertising, which balances both fact and emotion. Therefore, when activating conversion drivers – emotively centred pieces we’ve explored with Hey Girl and BGP aren’t the way forward. For conversion driving and loyalty building, it is best to emulate a campaign such as #painstories from Bodyform, which educated about the “Gender pain gap” but in a way which wasn’t led by emotion.

Through working with multiple charities, we know the equilibrium between logic and emotion is a crucial element needed to harvest regular donations, so walking this tightrope is part of our bread and butter. It’s encapsulated through our work on WaterAid’s Fempowered Campaign, where the balance of fact in an emotional context led to a 6,495% increase in RG transactions.

The Kite Factory doesn’t shy away from breaking barriers or bold ideas.

We love to work with meaningful brands who want to make a difference – using our insights and expertise in media to drive forward ideas that soar for our clients. We’re always looking for a positive difference with our campaigns – and if that’s the same for you and your brand, get in touch. We can’t wait to get started.

[1] Google Trends, (Birchbox, Glossybox, LOOKFANTASTIC)
[2] Google Trends, (Gousto, Hello Fresh, Mindful Chef)
[3] YouGov crunch.
[4] YouGoc crunch.io.
[5] https://www.actionaid.org.uk/latest-news/quarter-uk-women-face-period-stigma-millions-miss-school-work-and-exercise
[6] https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare/our-insights/the-dawn-of-the-femtech-revolution
[7] https://www.creativereview.co.uk/advertising-women-asa-rulings/
[8] https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/elvie-normalises-urinary-incontinence-giant-peeing-billboard/1751166#:~:text=Taking%20aim%20at%20social%20media,videos%20as%20%22graphic%22%20content.
[9] https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/mother-puts-giant-breast-its-roof-stand-breastfeeding-mums/1428858
[10] https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/tommee-tippee-launches-battle-cry-mothers-feed-infants/1707993
[11] Brand Index
[12] https://thekitefactorymedia.com/art/crisis/
[13] https://www.thriveagency.uk/insights/how-do-gen-z-and-millennial-women-in-the-uk-talk-about-menstrual-health/#:~:text=Many%20cultures%20around%20the%20world,think%20and%20feel%20about%20them.
[14] https://madtechmag.com/2023/12/11/lovehoney-breaks-more-boundaries-with-biggest-ever-tv-advertising-spot-and-first-time-on-itv1/
[15] Yougov.
[16] IPA Databank, 1998-2016 for-profit Cases.