How Kimberly-Clark uses global insights to shape North American innovation

Geoffrey Precourt

Kimberly-Clark is an American consumer packaged-goods company that's accustomed to category dominance. Its Kleenex brand is so powerful in many parts of the world that the name is synonymous with its hand-tissue product. And other brands in its stable – Kotex, a feminine-hygiene product, Depend, an adult incontinence offering, Scott paper towels and Huggies diapers – all enjoy nearly the same kind of instant-name-recognition status.

So how does a company like this grow from a dominant position without risking its brand equity? For Kimberly-Clark, it's through a process that includes global scouting, ethnographic interviews, and smart needs-driven research with a group it calls "outlier consumers."

"We're constantly looking for people who use products in new and different ways," according to Rebecca L. Dilnik, research technical leader/global marketing research and analytics at Kimberly-Clark, whose focus on enterprise growth has brought her to 17 countries in search of consumer insight.