Kimberly-Clark was born in 1872 as a paper company in Wisconsin’s Fox River Valley, which many still call the “Paper Valley.” Entering its second century, the company made a momentous decision. Rather than slugging it out with competitors in commodity paper businesses, K-C elected to focus on higher-margin consumer products.
Kimberly-Clark’s first entry into the disposable diaper market created by Procter & Gamble’s Pampers® brand was a major advance, but not for long. K-C’s superior new entry was quickly surpassed by competitors, and ultimately withdrawn. The KIMBIES® diaper saga became a lesson learned: performance is everything in consumer markets, and it had better improve. Or else.
In 1978, Kimberly-Clark tried again with HUGGIES® diapers — Baby-Shaped® diapers with elastic at the legs to help stop leaks, just like the rubber pants so many consumers used over cloth diapers at the time. Consumers flocked to HUGGIES, and this time Kimberly-Clark followed up with improvement after improvement. In 1985, HUGGIES took leadership of the category for the first time, and has been the number-one selling diaper in America since 1993.
Looking back, KIMBIES® diapers may have been the best thing that ever happened to Kimberly-Clark as a consumer product company. Today, HUGGIES Brand introduces a demonstrably better product every year, and the imperative to innovate extends far beyond the HUGGIES® diaper franchise. It’s no accident that Kimberly-Clark offers consumers the number-one or number-two brand in 80 countries.