Fifteen years ago, market researchers at Kimberly-Clark began to send out warning signals: Kleenex was in trouble, through no fault of its own.

“Consumers just weren’t engaging with the business anymore,” Lisa Hurwitz, VP/Global Brand Design at Kimberly-Clark, reported. “Kleenex had very little relevance for them. When we looked into our consumers, moms just didn’t see the need to buy it for every room.

“Worse,” she told delegates at the standing-room-only Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) 2018 Brand Masters Conference, “millennials didn’t see the need to engage with the category at all. Facial tissue was not relevant. They were substituting with things like Starbucks napkins, paper towels, and toilet paper. And, even worse, their sleeves.

“These were not kids. These were adults who actually were using their sleeves.”

But they weren’t fessing up to it: “They’ll tell you they use a tissue every time. But when you look at their behavior, they’re actually substituting with everything under the sun … including their sleeves.”