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13 May, 2016 - 13:23

Unilever division Unipath is to begin the global rollout of a contraceptive product that has been 15 years in secret development and that the company is hailing as a major brand launch.

"The biggest thing to happen to contraception since the 60s," as the UK print and poster ads through Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, London, describes it. Persona is the fruit of tens of millions of dollars investment.

"This is going to be a big Unilever brand," said Senior Brand Development Manager, Susannah Day, at its UK launch, backed by a USD 7.8 million marketing campaign that also includes an Internet site, a free phone "careline", retailer training, point of purchase displays, and direct mailings to the medical profession. Ogilvy & Mather (O&M), a Unilever roster agency, was appointed in 1995 to create ads that would work internationally.

First evidence that all this was not mere launch puffery came at Unilever's results meeting, when co-chairman Niall FitzGerald revealed sparkling sales and awareness statistics and details of the product's march just into Italy and Ireland and then into the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Germany.

In the first few weeks of the UK launch, Persona was the biggest selling item by value in the 1,247 stores nationwide of Boots—the retailer through which the brand was exclusively launched—and it achieved 55 per cent consumer awareness within a month. In pre-launch research among hundreds of women in the UK and Germany, 30 per cent said they were likely to buy the product.

“We expect Persona to be a mainstream form of contraception in most markets in Europe and the US," notes Ms Day. Plans are to take the brand into 20 countries by 2000, including Australia and ultimately, it is expected to go on sale worldwide. This occurred in July of 2000.

Persona works by measuring a woman's hormone levels via home urine tests and revealing the days in a month when she is least at risk of becoming pregnant. An electronic monitor records the days in a woman's cycle. On the mornings when a test is required, a yellow light flashes, asking for a stick carrying a urine sample to be inserted into the monitor. After the hormone level is measured, either a red light denoting high risk or a green light denoting low appears. Reliability is claimed to be 95 per cent—the same as condoms. 1


  • What will be some of the problems Persona faces as it enters markets outside of Europe?
  • The initial monitoring machine costs USD 78, plus USD 16 a month for the sticks. Will these costs present problems?