Why you should sense check your communications before unleashing on your audience

You will probably have seen the news this week that Kleenex has decided to drop Mansize tissues from it’s range. I can hear some of you at the back shouting ‘about time too’, and I agree.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that you’re going to exclude 50% of the population from using larger tissues by saying they’re only for men.


I’m being flippant of course, and not everyone will be offended, think the branding is sexist, or choose not to buy Kleenex based on a product name, but it certainly isn’t appropriate in this day and age.

Kleenex for men tissues were launched in 1956, a whole world away from the time we live in now, and I do wonder why it’s taken so long for them to make this decision.

But it’s not just Kleenex. Brands and businesses are still making mistakes time and time again on what they call their products or services and how they launch them, and these could often be avoided in just ten minutes.

Some of my “favourites” over the years include:

Bic pens for women, brilliantly taken apart by Ellen on her US TV show.


Leeds United u-turn on a new club badge

Leeds United football club decided a rebrand in time for their 100 year anniversary was needed, and released this new club badge earlier this year, to the amusement of football fans from every other club. It made them a laughing stock and it didn’t take long for the club to abort the idea, following much negative coverage and a petition from the fans.

H&M condemned for casual racism in their advertising

H&M really didn’t think through their advertising when their coolest monkey in the jungle’ hoodie for kids was worn by a young black model on their website, quite rightly leading to widespread condemnation and a brand boycott by many people.

Easter is all about the Eggs

And finally, last year Cadbury got into hot water with the British public, including Theresa May, for rebranding their annual event with the National Trust the “Cadbury’s Great British Egg Hunt.” I really felt for the press teams at the National Trust and Cadbury that week, as they had to field accusation after accusation from the press that they’d ‘banned Easter’, given I was part of the Lambeth Council comms team accused of banning Christmas back in 2005.


Many of these issues could have been solved with a bit of user testing beforehand - otherwise known as a common sense check - and I would advocate this for any communications you’re doing. This doesn’t have to mean large user groups with your target audience, complex surveys, or weeks of analysis. Simply asking colleagues what they think is a quick and cheap way of seeing if you’ve missed anything obvious.

In the past I’ve sent team members out to local cafes with a handful of £10 vouchers, to do quick sense checks on work that they’d been doing with the public. Would you give up 10 minutes of your time for £10? Most people said yes to that question, and the team always came back with useful feedback.

I’d also suggest you test before you’ve finished your work, whether that’s a campaign, website or a simple printed product. You don’t need the finished article for people to get a sense of what you’re trying to achieve, and it’s far more cost effective than having to start from scratch.

So find an extra ten minutes in your time to check your communications. You won’t regret it, but you may do if you don’t.