Incontinence Products: A State of Confusion

$130 wasted in trial and error mode
The average person buying incontinence products for the first time, wastes $130.

Consumer Research Validates Consumer Confusion

Kimberly-Clark, makers of market leading brands, Depend and Poise claim that people who buy incontinence products for the first time, waste, on average, $130 on trial and error until they find a product to best meet their needs. That’s about 10 bags of products that can’t be returned once opened.

What is causing this state of confusion? 

Lack of segment naming standards 
There are no naming standards for styles, and the descriptions are changed frequently. For example, undergarments are now called shields, even though there were shields that were a different product form. Depend briefs are now called Protection with Tabs while Depend Pull-On underwear is now referred to as briefs (which used to be the big adult diaper with tape tabs).

Some manufacturers refer to pads for men as male guards, while others call them guards for men. Now there are shields for men, a product named Real Fit for Men and Boxers for Men.

Lack of absorbency standards
There are no standards for describing absorbency levels. One manufacturer’s most absorbent product is “extra absorbency,” while another’s is “super plus.” How does an individual decide?

Here is a quote from a product user: “I would really like incontinence product companies to stop using names for products like "extra", "extra plus", "super", "super plus", "ultra". I mean what do those words even mean relative to each other?” 

Confusing and non standardized absorbency icons
Each of the brands represents absorbency in a different fashion – some with drips, some with cups, others in ounces and some in ML’s. Some use dots or an absorbency scale. In February 2014, Poise changed from showing colored in pads to signify absorbency and went to drips. And, all of these icons are on different sides of the package depending on the brand. Who wants to stand in the isle looking for and trying to compare all this information? And once you figure it out, they change the packaging again when a new set of marketers takes over. 

Poise Absorbency Change.png
Confusing product descriptors
Nomenclature used to describe products is not easily understandable, especially when trying to compare brands. For example, there are ultra-thin pads, ultra-thin with wings, ultra-thin long, and moderate and maximum - yet the maximum version is not as absorbent as ultimate. This is how just one manufacturer describes its pads; another uses its own descriptions, such as moderate, heavy and overnight. How does one decide?

To make it even more confusing, in 2013 the TENA people decided that people don’t want to shop by absorbency. They want to shop by ‘occasion’. So rather than using the same descriptors as the market leading Poise brand, they set themselves on an island by themselves by introducing three new descriptors – Active, Stylish and Anywhere. Since they have a small share of the incontinence category (10%) why would they not want consumers to be able to easily compare against the market leading brand, Poise? This just makes no sense to if you are wanting to grow your brand.

With all the styles, sizes, absorbencies and brands, what will work best? Many people buy what they think they need, and find out at home the fit is wrong or the absorbency isn’t sufficient, which leads to wasted money and time. That’s why the average new category entrant (NCE) wastes $130 in trial and error mode. 

Too Much Confusing Happy Talk
By last count, there were at least 203 confusing 'happy talk' feature descriptors.  Examples include 
  • Absorb-Loc Core
  • Air Dry Layer
  • AZS Advanced Zoning System
  • Award-Winning Confidence
  • Blue Stay Dry Strip 
  • Comfort Dry Cover
  • Diamond Linear-Channeling (DLC)
  • Dry Fast Core
  • Fearless Protection
  • Incontek Technology
  • Integra Mat Bonding
  • Multiple Insults
  • OdaSorb Plus
  • Reduced Roping
  • Space Age Technology
  • Strategic Placement of Super Absorbent Polymer
  • The Unexpected Leak (versus the expected one?)
  • Sam in my Pants
  • Three Dimensional Network of Fibers
  • Water PF Backsheet
  • Worry Free Protection
  • Zoned Body Fit
Stores and most ecommerce retailers are of little help
A person can’t rely on help from the big box stores or internet only websites. Today’s pharmacists are filling twice as many prescriptions as they were just 10 years ago and often don’t have time to come out from behind the counter. And the 18-year-old stock person in the isle doesn’t have the answers, even if you could find one in a store nowadays. Another common problem is running out of products and finding your store is out of stock and being told “there might be more in tomorrow afternoon.”

Internet only sites - no one to speak with
Most internet sites are just that – internet sites. There is no one you can actually speak with who is knowledgeable and ca help answer questions about incontinence products – even Amazon. Amazon offers ‘gift wrapping’ on Depends and you can add them to your ‘Wish List’. They don’t understand what consumers want. No one wants them gift wrapped or ‘wishes’ for incontinence.

Follow the tampon example
But what many people say they’d like is a simple system to make it easier to shop; and compare. One reader recommended something along this line:
  • Light (8-10 oz) 
  • Medium (11-20 oz) 
  • Heavy (21-30 oz) 
  • Maximum (31+ oz) 
Some have suggested these could be called Sorb Standards, Capacity Certification or Leaky Laws. This is the way tampons are marketed. Nomenclature and absorbency guidelines were forced on the tampon manufacturers by the Federal Government in the 1980’s after many women died from toxic shock syndrome (TSS) following the introduction of Rely tampons by P&G. The government wanted women to be able to safely and reliably compare between brands.

It is unlikely the incontinence manufactures will ever get together to agree on something like this.

The answer is real help from real people
Consumers want answers to their incontinence product questions: which product is best for my needs and which should I buy? The CareGiver Partnership provides personal help by an all-female team of knowledgeable Product Specialists who have each been a caregiver to a loved one. Since this is their only business, they know incontinence products inside and out. Call 1-800-985-1353. Ask about their try before you buy sample service where you can try over 100 different incontinence products for a $3.49 handling fee (2 to 4 pieces depending on the style).

They also offer more than 550 incontinence products – 10 times more than even the big box stores. Whatever you need can be delivered to your home on a schedule that you determine and that can be changed at any time. 

Other Helpful Resources
Incontinence Product Finder – Easily sort through 550 incontinence products to find what you need.

Caregiver Resource Library – world’s largest with links to 1,500 sites. Easy to search and find what you need.
Caregiver knowledge center – 1000+ custom written articles about incontinence and a wide range of family caregiver issues. 

Further Reading
Incontinence: Types, Attitudes, Skin Issues, How to Change, Odor, Innovation & More


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