How a DTC period brand is trying to stand out

From Shopper Marketing Report: Only believes its eco products can disrupt shopping habits and steal away market share.


Since Dollar Shave Club broke the mold for personal care products typically sold in retail have followed suit to try their hand at a DTC model.

And menstrual products are no different. The battle to usurp the market leader – P&G’s Tampax, with 29% global market share – has frequently played out online, with entrants like Only going direct-to-consumer, touting better-for-the-planet bona fides with the tagline, “Only what you need. Nothing you don’t.”

The brand, which offers pads, tampons and liners made of organic cotton, wrapped and packaged in biodegradable materials came to life last fall with a big, punny OOH campaign claiming it’s time to change your tampons.

Kathryn Plouffe, a Carleton University grad and an Ottawa native, came up with the subscription idea in a pub when she discovered rayon, cellulose fibers and pulp bathed in chemicals, is a key ingredient in tampons.

“It’s an interesting brand, because it is obviously fully ecommerce,” says Caitlin Pursell, co-founder of Apartment, a Toronto digital, social and creative agency that handles Only’s creative.

For hygiene products, shopping habits are ingrained – going to a pharmacy and grabbing something off the shelf – and according to Pursell, a lot of the time it’s a need state that’s fulfilled too late, something done in a rush. The subscription model and purchasing in bulk is a new habit to get consumers on board with, but one that jives with pandemic stock up/resupply method of purchasing across CPG categories.


According to Pursell, Apartment has been working on this brand for four years, and as Only evolved its business, it found a Spanish supplier for its liner, Green Umbrella (below), that checked “green” boxes too.

When Apartment and Only first developed the brand, it was around “no BS” messaging and being tired of the sameness in the market in 2018. “We wanted to create a brand that put the product first,” Pursell says, rather than typical and cliched category conventions surrounding feeling fresh, for example.

“A lot of people weren’t thinking about what is in their period products,” she says, and the focus was inspired by nutritional information, simple and austere black and white. The verbiage was updated, and offerings are called “period products” and not menstrual care or hygiene, to “be real.”

There’s also a reusable applicator, which has been recognized by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada brand recognition program. And as Pursell explains, it looks like an air pod case and lasts for a decade, a differentiator as mainstream CPG brands have plastic applicators.

According to Only, its reusable applicator kit is its best-seller, representing about 30% of its total sales, with refills (app-free tampons) being the company’s second-best seller.

The products are stirring up conversations online, generated by word of mouth and TikTok engagement, as the reusability factor requires a bit of education.