Kleenex gets into the cold-prevention business

The Kimberly-Clark brand launches an online tool to track the spread of germs before they hit where you live.

By Jonathan Berr Sep 17, 2013 1:05PM
Kleenex tissues stacked on store shelf (© Jeff Chiu/AP) Kimberly-Clark's (KMB) Kleenex, which for generations has helped people alleviate the misery of their cold and flu symptoms, now wants to help them avoid getting sick in the first place.

According to Advertising Age, consumers will be able to enter their ZIP code in MyAchoo.com and learn where germs may strike within the next three weeks. Kleenex is betting that the site, which will use data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will go "viral" in a good way.

In theory, people who get a heads-up on the next Andromeda Strain will stock up on Kleenex before they get sick rather then when their symptoms start to emerge. Preliminary tests show that MyAchoo is 90% accurate.

Kleenex will also use data from MyAchoo to help target digital ads and other promotional efforts. A new TV ad campaign is set to start Sept. 16 showing "the shame of people who have been forced into unfortunate alternatives" when they don't have a Kleenex -- such as (yuck) having to wipe their hands on the family dog, the site says. 

Kleenex was launched in the 1920s as a cold cream or makeup remover and didn't come to be used a disposable handkerchief until a few years later when Kimberly-Clark's head researcher began using them to treat his hay fever symptoms, according to the company's website. The idea was a hit, and sales of Kleenex doubled as a result.

Decades later, people are still loyal to the brand. According to data Ad Age cited, Kleenex has a 46.8% share of the $1.6 billion facial tissue market. Sales were up 2% in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 31.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine estimates the total economic costs of lost productivity from colds is about $25 billion annually. A working adult loses an average of 8.7 work hours from every cold they experience and 1.2 work hours to care for children under the age of 13.

And of course, all these miserable people will need something to wipe their noses.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr or jonathanberr.com.

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Tags: KMB
Sep 17, 2013 1:32PM
Hey hypochondriacs buy kleenexes now before you catch a cold
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