Bons mots

Slips of my tongue

“Have a happy period” – how (oxy)moronic.

Below is a letter from one Wendi Aarons, a frequent contributor to literary websites such as mcsweeneys.net, to one James Thatcher, brand manager for Proctor and Gamble, regarding their Always feminine products. It was sent last year (and was voted PC Magazine’s 2007 editors’
choice for best webmail-award-winning letter) but I posted it now because: one, it still resonates; and two, it’s a good example of brands and the emotional ties people have to them, which is a topic I recently studied in class. It goes to show you that no matter how good your product is, your brand should be better. Read on for a great laugh; my comments follow the letter.

Dear Mr. Thatcher,

I have been a loyal user of your Always maxi pads for over 20 years, and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the LeakGuard Core™ or Dri-Weave™ absorbency, I’d probably never go horseback riding or salsa dancing, and I’d certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach in tight, white shorts. But my favorite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that maxi pads be aerodynamic. I can’t tell you how safe and secure I feel each month knowing there’s a little F-16 in my pants.

Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr. Thatcher? Ever suffered from “the curse”? I’m guessing you haven’t. Well, my “time of the month” is starting right now. As I type, I can already feel hormonal forces violently surging through my body. Just a few minutes from now, my body will adjust and I’ll be transformed into what my husband likes to call “an inbred hillbilly with knife skills.” Isn’t the human body amazing?

As brand manager in the feminine-hygiene division, you’ve no doubt seen quite a bit of research on what exactly happens during your customers’ monthly visits from Aunt Flo. Therefore, you must know about the bloating, puffiness, and cramping we endure, and about our intense mood swings, crying jags, and out-of-control behavior. You surely realize it’s a tough time for most women. In fact, only last week, my friend Jennifer fought the violent urge to shove her boyfriend’s testicles into a George Foreman Grill just because he told her he thought Grey’s Anatomy was written by drunken chimps. Crazy! The point is, sir, you of all people must realize that America is just crawling with homicidal maniacs in capri pants. Which brings me to the reason for my letter.

Last month, while in the throes of cramping so painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I opened an Always maxi pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing, were these words: “Have a Happy Period.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

What I mean is, does any part of your tiny middle-manager brain really think happiness—actual smiling, laughing happiness—is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James? FYI, unless you’re some kind of sick S&M freak girl, there will never be anything “happy” about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on Motrin and Kahlúa and lock yourself in your house just so you don’t march down to the local Walgreens armed with a hunting rifle and a sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory. For the love of God, pull your head out, man. If you just have to slap a moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn’t it make more sense to say something that’s actually pertinent, like “Put Down the Hammer” or “Vehicular Manslaughter Is Wrong”? Or are you just picking on us?

Sir, please inform your accounting department that, effective immediately, there will be an $8 drop in monthly profits, for I have chosen to take my maxi-pad business elsewhere. And though I will certainly miss your Flexi-Wings, I will not for one minute miss your brand of condescending bullshit. And that’s a promise I will keep. Always.

Best,

Wendi Aarons
Austin, TX

There is really not much I can add to this. It’s brilliant.

My question is: What kind of focus groups did they run? Was it made up of five-year-olds? Men? I kind of understand the logic behind the HAHP brand – they are trying to make a negative experience into a positive one. But having a menstrual cycle is like going to war. You don’t want to do it but you know it must be done. You grit your teeth and trudge into battle, Advil in one hand, chocolate in the other. There is nothing happy about it, P&G. Just give us the equipment we need to fight and wish us luck. Would you wish a soldier a happy war? I didn’t think so.

(On a side note, I enjoy the camaraderie menstruation creates between women, even if they are strangers to one another. All you have to do is mention you are having your period and no words need be spoken – a simple roll of the eye and nod of the head is confirmation that yes, they feel your pain. It’s like Lee Marvin telling John Cassavetes about the shrapnel in his leg and Cassavetes just nodding, pointing to his own leg and handing Marvin a cigarette. It’s a bonding experience.)

I guess Aarons’s letter didn’t have the intended effect. If you visit the website for Always, the greeting is still there, wishing you and yours a very happy period. The US site even has games, recipes and tips on throwing a HAHP party. (What would happen if you get a group of menstruating women in one room? You wouldn’t stick around long enough to find out, that’s what would happen.) If a box of Always products  had a voice wishing you a happy period when you opened it, it would probably be very cloying and aggravating, the same voice that tells you your call is in sequence and will be answered by the next available customer service agent.

That is why I no longer purchase Always products. It was a hard decision, as they do have some great offerings. But I do not like to be patronized by my feminine products. It’s bad enough I have to pay the GST on them.

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March 4, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

9 Comments »

  1. i’d heard about this letter but hadn’t seen it ’til today. “Vehicular Manslaughter Is Wrong.” hilarious.

    i almost wish i used always products (i myself am a playtex/kotex fan) so that i could join the boycott.

    Comment by Pamela | March 9, 2008 | Reply

  2. What I think is even more hilarious than this letter is the number of sites that casually mention the PC Magazine award it won… without doing any checking whatsoever. I’ve searched the PCmag.com site repeatedly, as well as Google, and see no sign that the award mentioned even exists, let alone was awarded to this obviously fictitious letter.

    BEFORE everyone starts boycotting P&G, or starting World War III, perhaps someone who buys more maxi pads than I do can confirm whether the alleged “Happy Period” message is even real?

    Comment by fungo | March 17, 2008 | Reply

  3. Quick update: this year-old blog post seems to be the actual source of this widely-reposted “letter:”

    http://wendi-aarons.blogspot.com/2007/03/as-seen-on-mcsweeneysnet.html

    Amazingly, the “happy period” message seems to be for real. (Never over-estimate the marketing mind, I guess.) The PC Mag thing… my team is still searching.

    Comment by fungo | March 17, 2008 | Reply

  4. Yes, it is real.

    Comment by bonsmots | March 18, 2008 | Reply

  5. Ms. Mots would know better than to make a public claim without checking her sources. I believe it’s real if she says it is.

    And although I no longer have to endure the pain and aggrevation of our monthly so-called “friend” I still guffaw at that stupid commercial.

    No woman on earth has ever ENJOYED their period. Ever.

    Comment by Darlene | March 20, 2008 | Reply

  6. On behalf of the other side of the gender line I’m amazed these gentlemen were not tackled to the ground and dragged away kicking and screaming before this message went up. Though I’m sure it wouldn’t have been as painful as the public ridicule they received (hopefully).

    I dare not dream should they decide to re-brand the joys of prostrate exams. I can only imagine them saying how it ‘hits the right spot.’

    Congrats again on another insightful, educated and warped post.

    Comment by Brett | April 4, 2008 | Reply

  7. […] some of you know, I wrote a post in May about Always’ “Happy Period” branding. Well, it seems the folks at Proctor […]

    Pingback by Ugh, I just got my [insert euphemism here]. « Bons mots | August 13, 2008 | Reply

  8. […] some of you know, I wrote a post in May about Always’ “Happy Period” branding. Well, it seems the folks at Proctor […]

    Pingback by Ugh, I just got my [insert euphemism here]. | October 31, 2009 | Reply

  9. […] Best Complaint Letter Evah By Tina, on December 31st, 2008 This is an actual letter from an Austin woman sent to American company Proctor and Gamble regarding their feminine products. She really gets […]

    Pingback by Best Complaint Letter Evah « The Agonist | September 24, 2012 | Reply


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