Let’s Talk ~ Periods ~

If you’re squeamish about discussing periods – this post probably isn’t the post for you, because today we’re talking Tampon Tax. Don’t worry, I won’t show any graphic pictures, but we’re going to be talking about it so I thought I’d let you know upfront (although if that’s the case – did you read the title!?!).


Any certified vagina owner knows periods suck (okay this isn’t a fact, but have you ever met anybody who disagrees?). Up to 80% of people with periods experience symptoms such as acne, tender breasts, tiredness and irritability, however, symptoms can be as extreme as menstrual psychosis. Yet in multiple countries, hygiene products for periods are currently taxed as luxury products, this is commonly referred to as The Tampon Tax.

Today I was in Tesco when I came across this sign about Tampon Tax:

Tampon Tax - Tesco
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We’re paying the Tampon Tax so you don’t have to.

I immediately took a picture, saying to my friend ‘I’m going to Tweet about this later. Don’t you think this is the sweetest marketing campaign? It’s so nice to see big corporations caring about the customer.’ Then the cynical side of me kicked in. By paying Tampon Tax themselves, Tesco makes less profit. Surely as a for-profit organisation, this doesn’t make sense? Is this nothing more than a marketing campaign? A quick search on Twitter shows numerous news outlets covering this story when Tesco announced it. Here I am writing a blog post about it that I will then promote to thousands of people – they’re definitely getting coverage from this.

Tampon Tax - Pads
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Image source: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/body/health/a21070764/heavy-periods-reasons/

The increasing public outrage against Tampon Tax over the past few years suggests this topic is close to the hearts of an increasing percentage of the population. If a consumer feels a brand’s values are similar to their own they are more likely to choose this brand over others. The brand agreeing with consumer’s values reassures them they are right, reinforcing feelings of self-worth and consequently self-esteem. This in turn positively reinforces customers shopping at Tesco, making them more likely to shop there rather than other Supermarkets. With most popular Supermarkets having very few differences between them, differentiating themselves from others becomes particularly important. Put more simply, acting in a way that consumers find ethical increases customer loyalty.

Consumers don’t like being advertised to, so covert advertising campaigns can often be more effective than overt ones. This is because consumers inherently distrust advertisements. If this is a campaign, it doesn’t initially appear like one. Rather, it appears as though Tesco are simply doing something nice for the consumer which lowers the levels of distrust as consumers don’t feel they’re being sold something.  Additionally, this makes the customer feel as though Tesco has done something for them thus they feel grateful – as though they owe something to Tesco. These feelings may then make it more likely Tesco is the consumer’s Supermarket of choice in the future.

What do you think? Is Tesco simply fulfilling their social responsibility and standing up for something they believe in? Or is this just a clever marketing campaign?

PS if you found this interesting, you’ll probably like this journal paper too!

Tampon Tax - Becky LouPin It

Read More Consumer Psychology Posts Here: Limited Edition, Who Cares? OR Gimme more, more, more, MORE.



  1. Olivia

    Hi Becky. This article was really interesting and it shed some light on an issue I never really had to deal with, growing up in Pennsylvania. The tampon tax there, along with eight other US states, was dropped a while ago. It outrages me that tampons and other hygiene products are taxed here. I think Tesco is simultaneously standing up for a social issue as well as capitalizing on the good publicity it’ll get them.
    I think it’s also interesting that you mention how people are inherently distrustful of advertisements and that this subtle way might be a better strategy. I thought this article did a good job of summarizing why about 70% of people don’t trust traditional adverts. https://www.marketingweek.com/2017/06/29/arrogance-brand-purpose-distrust-ads/

    An interesting thing I thought I’d throw in here is that Pontio actually provides free pads and tampons to anyone who needs them in Bangor. You can find them in a vending machine on the fourth floor. https://www.undebbangor.com/news/article/6013/Tampns-and-Pads-for-Free/

    • beckyloubuttonBlogger

      Hi Olivia, thanks for reading! That’s amazing that so many US states dropped the tax! I suspect you could be correct in Tesco both working on the social issue and good publicity – I’d like to hope the social issue is the main focus though!

      Oh that’s so cool of Pontio! So thoughtful! I’ll definitely be checking that out.

      Have a lovely day!

  2. Meera

    Wow this was such an interesting post! Having not visited a Tesco in months, seeing your picture instantly made me want to go there just for the better sanitary deals! Then reading the rest of your post blew my mind haha.

    I think this scheme could be partly incidental whereby, they wish to enforce some sort of social responsibility but clocked that the potential points-of-difference could result in more profit and brand equity. As mentioned, this could enhance consumer’s perceptions of the Tesco brand. In turn, enhancing customer-based brand equity of Tesco because, consumers will exhibit more favourable responses to the tampon tax scheme – increasing brand loyalty when buying sanitary products (Keller, 1993). If you’re going there for some good deals on these products, why not do the rest of your shopping there? Very clever I think!

    Keller, K. L. (1993). Conceptualizing, measuring, and managing customer-based brand equity. the Journal of Marketing, 1-22. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1252054.pdf

  3. Duhita

    I really liked your post, the content is interesting and very well- written. Thank you for sharing!
    The Indian government recently scrapped the tax on female hygiene products entirely, and women were rallying for this change for a long time, so I really found this post very relevant to the times we are living in. While I appreciate Tesco’s initiative, further reading of your post made me think if it was a marketing strategy. I have not shopped in Tesco as of yet, and if this was a marketing strategy I am skeptical. I might just get advantage of the deal but won’t be a loyal customer. Robert Cialdini talks about how to say no when someone uses principle of reciprocity. In the book ‘Influence’ (page no. 51), he says that accept the first offers but only for what they fundamentally are, not for what they are represented to be. So if Tesco attempts to sell you products that you don’t need, in combination with the tampons and pads, it might be better to focus just on the deal and not get carried away.

  4. Sonja Milano

    Hello Becky, your blog is very interesting and very truthful, I did not even know that there was the Tampon tax before moving to the Uk because in Italy never existed or at least never advertised anywhere, although the prices are much higher than in the Uk. Regarding Tesco marketing campaign I think that is a very smart way of alternative advertising. Many marketer retails, in fact, use different methods of advertisements that can vary from retail pricing or such the Virgin Company did a while ago in regards to their airlines company, making the most of a scenario in order to be advertised ( sometimes for free) on journals and other media. Moreover, many big brands, especially supermarket, often introduce this kind of advertising campaigns that include statements of new legislation or new environmental problems ( such as the example of Iceland and Palm Oil) in order to increase brand equity in consumers. hope this make sense, many compliments again for the wonderful blog , you can find more here : https://www.jstor.org/stable/1247695?casa_token=B6pVhDjMKkAAAAAA:cNS3IlAvULZwpIG4EsW2uIBZRmwFX7LY6QcLzKcDGiK-wLnxF6bzNBUMHMmEalZin-e3Bpi1Hkhzc5PF0XPj3hOEEf71jI9GKVpVCCynOiGnBAH7-ABDwQ&seq=1#metadata_info_tab_content

    Sonja Milano

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