How Procter & Gamble brought the Diaper Revolution to China

Chinese split pants called ‘kaidangku’

My friend Esther, who lived in China for several years  when her children were tiny, once showed me a photograph taken inside the local train station near her home there.  I asked about the countless puddles of water dotting the station’s vast expanse of tile flooring.  “Oh, that’s not water. It’s pee!” she explained. It’s how I first learned about kaidangku — colourful little open-crotch pants that let Chinese children squat and relieve themselves in any open area, whenever the urge strikes.

So let’s imagine that you are Procter & Gamble, manufacturers of disposable diapers called Pampers, and you’d love to break into the lucrative potential diaper market in China.

When Procter & Gamble set out to sell Pampers in China more than a decade ago, it faced a daunting marketing challenge, according to a BNet Media report last month.

P&G didn’t just have to persuade parents that its disposable diapers were the best. It had to persuade many of them that they needed diapers at all. The diaper just wasn’t part of the cultural norm for many Chinese babies.

In China, potty training for little children often begins as early as six months of age.  In the meantime, babies may wear cloth diapers, but in many cases, no diaper at all. How could Procter & Gamble possibly convince all those Chinese mothers to start buying Pampers?   Continue reading