Ann-Sophie Claus and her team worked for more than a year to raise awareness of the tampon tax in Germany, where tampons were taxed as a luxury good at a staggering 19%. They collected more than 190,000 signatures against this practice.
However, reality soon hit them. When the German Finance Minister said that he would not support a reduction tax because he couldn’t be sure companies would pass the reduction to consumers, they realised nothing was going to change.
So Ann-Sophie and her team created the Tampon Book. Her company, the Female Company, sells organic sanitary products, and the founders decided to put their creative minds to work to find a way to make their protest more effective.
Books are taxed at 7% in Germany, so if they put tampons in a book with illustrations and stories about menstruation they could actually sell tampons at a lower price.
The Tampon Book was launched at €3.11 (£2.78). It contained 15 organic tampons inside a 46-page book. The initiative went viral. The first printing of the product sold out in a day, and the second in a week.
The Tampon book won the PR Grand Prix at Cannes. The campaign, created by Scholz & Friends, is bold, irreverent, smart and direct.
More interestingly, if you think about what they wanted to achieve (changing the law), the Female Company was more successful at it by selling tampons in a book than by collecting signatures.
The Scottish government has plans to eradicate period poverty and to provide free sanitary products to women in low-income households. Canada is discussing making free sanitary products available in the workplace. Kenya and Uganda have removed the tax on tampons, and many other countries are debating the implications of taxing sanitary products and whether governments should fund these products for everybody.
Ann-Sophie didn’t start this. She took her indignation and frustration and created a story that people could buy and share. The interesting part of her story is that buying and using it the book visualises the problem and offers a creative way of responding to discrimination.
Authenticity is not about telling the truth and the real facts but about finding empathic ways of expressing how it feels so that other people can relate to it and act with us.