Column | Unmentionables: Embrace the Awkward

By George Farris

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A few months after I got married, I was in the grocery store, shopping from a list my wife gave me. I saw that sanitary napkins was on the list.

Suddenly I felt anxious. I knew it was silly – I’ve skydived, drag-raced and done all kinds of crazy things. Yet the idea of going through the checkout with a feminine-needs product made me very uncomfortable.

I conducted some reconnaissance, found the right aisle and wheeled my cart in. I began looking for the brand my wife requested. Two female shoppers came down the aisle and began looking at the same shelf. I grabbed what I needed and sheepishly hurried out of the aisle.


My shopping experience that day was very awkward. But some marketers have turned those awkward situations into opportunities. Many are loudly and proudly promoting products once considered unmentionable – solutions for periods, hair loss, shaving, erectile dysfunction, irregularity and more.

Most marketing for these products takes a direct approach, often with a touch of humor. Midol, a well-known brand, has brought a personality to menstrual concerns.

In The Drum, Adam Payne writes that Midol’s latest campaign is a good example, with dialogue like “Mi-cramps suck. Mi-boobs hurt. Mi-period has no mercy.” Rather than hiding, Payne says Midol is creating more open conversations around these topics.

Frances Tang, CEO of Awkward Essentials, a company that makes Dripstick, an after-sex cleanup sponge, says marketers of personal-use products should use humor to break the ice, embrace the embarrassment and develop a strong personality. “It requires creativity and an empathetic approach … but your ideal audience will be thankful for your product because it solves their problem …” Tang writes.

Women have not cornered the market on awkward products being sold successfully. Dude Wipes is primarily advertised for use on the toilet but it also claims to be useful for faces, armpits, hands and other bodily regions. But the bathroom throne is where it reigns. According to, Dude Wipes is used by 4.4 million U.S. households, making the brand the No. 2 (pun intended) flushable wipe.

Speaking of the bathroom, Garden of Life Probiotics uses a bold and humorous TV commercial titled “PooPowerment” to encourage women to speak up for their needs.  One actor proclaims, “It’s 2021. I think everyone knows that women poop.” Another admits, “I love pooping.” A third offers support, “You poop girl!”

Hims is an online telehealth platform for men that provides care for mental health, sexual health, hair loss, skincare and more. Its best-selling product is a generic version of Viagra. Hims is widely marketed on social media and search engines and doubled its revenue, hitting $527 million in 2022.

Manscaped, a male grooming company based in California, has a TV spot for The Lawn Mower 4.0, which it claims is the “ultimate pubic hair trimmer.” The spot features a British actor playing snooker (UK-style billiards) who proclaims, “When it comes to balls, you don’t want to muck about. The Lawn Mower 4.0 … is used by over two million men — that’s over four million balls.”

Considering how much marketing has done to reduce the awkwardness from purchasing personal products, would I feel anxious buying that feminine needs product today?  Of course not. I’d just use InstaCart.

George Farris is CEO of Farris Marketing. Email [email protected].