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In the early 1920s, Kimberly-Clark, a paper manufacturer, was expanding and had developed creped wadding for its first ever consumer product, Kotex®. At this time, the feminine hygiene product was not immediately welcomed in the marketplace. So, the company needed to find other ways to use its large supply of creped wadding. Changing the ingredient blends and using different pulps, scientists were able to make a softer crepe and from this the idea of Kleenex® facial tissue was born.
While the Kleenex® tissue was envisioned as a disposable cleansing tissue, no one quite knew what it would clean yet. The same Kotex® team that had developed it, was now working on how to market this new cleansing tissue, so they first thought about women's needs, including the increased use of cosmetics. They hoped that the tissues could be a convenient replacement for the unsightly "cold cream towel" that hung in many 1920s bathrooms.
The tissue was trademarked Kleenex® and launched in 1924 as a cold cream or makeup remover; a disposable substitute for face towels. The name Kleenex® is likely a combination of the word "cleansing" (shortened to "clean") while the capital "K" and the "ex" ending were adopted from Kotex®.
In 1925, the first Kleenex® tissue ad appeared in the Ladies Home Journal as "the new secret of keeping a pretty skin as used by famous movie stars..." Soon, ads were in all the major women's magazines like McCall's, Good Housekeeping, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Redbook. In 1927, the ads began featuring screen and stage stars to endorse their latest beauty secret.
Around this time, Kimberly-Clark's head researcher started using the tissues in place of a handkerchief to help with his hay fever symptoms. He brought the simple but brilliant idea to market Kleenex® tissues for sneezing and other nose needs, instead of cold cream to the head of advertising. The concept struck and in 1930, the idea of Kleenex® tissue as a handkerchief substitute was launched. Sales of Kleenex® tissues doubled the first year of this new handkerchief strategy. Instead of being a product just for women, it now served men, women and children, too.
Since Kleenex® tissues came on the market in 1924, it has been the No. 1 brand of facial tissue in the world and today is a global icon. For a product originally made of excess material, it certainly exceeded everyone's expectations!
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