Emergency contraceptive pill brand Julie is celebrating its first birthday.
While the brand had been in development for some time, the timing of the launch in September 2022 seemed kismet, as the constitutional right to abortion was overturned months earlier allowing state legislatures to ban the medical procedure.
“When we first launched, the atmosphere was total unknown, insanity. You had a major brand that had been on the market for 10 years, but 60 percent of Americans still believed emergency contraception was the same as the abortion pill, so total misinformation, total confusion,” said Julie cofounder and president Amanda E/J Morrison. “You had a new ruling from the Supreme Court taking abortion access and rights back down to the states as a statewide decision. Of course with that misinformation, it was total chaos. People had no idea what their rights were going to be.”
Upon launch, the brand had several goals in mind: disrupting the sleepy category dominated by heritage and generic brands, educating consumers in the midst of growing misinformation, providing access and doubling down on social impact.
Below, E/J Morrison discusses the brand’s approach to these key goals and the future of Julie.
On disrupting the category:
Disrupting the category has always been at the heart of Julie, starting with the brand’s bright yellow, pink and blue packaging and graphic logo. While the appearance alone was enough to disrupt the aisles early on, the brand has continued to shake things up in the category, through its witty messaging and most notably its two-pack launch — emergency contraception pills are typically sold in single packs, stigmatizing the purchase.
“Women call that kind of like the second walk of shame,” E/J Morrison told Beauty Inc. “If we need to help encourage preparedness so that people don’t have to face that massive panicky experience at retail, then it’s a two-count… how do we give you one for now, one for later.”
The two-pack, with a suggested retail price of $59.99, has grown 25 percent month-over-month since its launch in March, according to the brand.
On educating consumers:
When it comes to education, Julie’s approach is widespread. As with the actual product, the brand’s goal with its content is to be everywhere — think commercials, social media and in-person activations — to ensure customers know that emergency contraception is accessible in the United States.
“We’re in all the places,” E/J Morrison said.
In an effort to reach and educate as many people as possible, the brand has tapped 148 creators through its influencer program, which was established in November 2022, to create fun but informative content. For example, TikTok creator Nick Trawick recorded a video dressed as Dora the Explorer scavenging the aisles to purchase Julie — while humorous, the video introduced Julie and informed consumers that the product is accessible at CVS.
“We’re always trying to strike this balance of culturally relevant and medically accurate,” E/J Morrison said.
On providing access:
Upon launching the brand, providing access to emergency contraception was essential, as consumers, especially in areas where state legislatures banned abortions, feared they wouldn’t be able to find the product. Furthermore, 95 percent of emergency contraception is purchased on-shelf, according to the brand. With this in mind, retailers were eager to bring on Julie, according to E/J Morrison.
Retailers were saying “we need a brand that is going to come in and say something, someone that’s going to come in and bring real clarity and comfort to our customers,” she said.
Since its launch, Julie has entered 10,000 retail doors, including CVS, Walmart and Target; it will expand its footprint at CVS by 25 percent, entering an additional 1,300 doors, and will enter a new major retailer next month. And consumers are increasingly shopping in-store — the emergency contraception category is up 5 percent over the past six months compared to the previous. Julie’s sales are growing at nearly 200 percent over the same time frame, according to the company.
Furthermore, creating diverse messaging was top of mind in providing access, as the brand aimed to reach consumers who have been ignored by the category.
“We’re bringing a new person to the category that hadn’t previously been spoken to or thought it was for them. We know, overall, Hispanic and Black women use emergency contraception less than white women,” said E/J Morrison. “If you look at our content, we’re featuring Hispanic and Black women. We’re saying that everybody is welcome in the emergency contraception tent. Therefore they’re using emergency contraception now.”
On social impact:
Nestled within the brand’s goal to create access is its emphasis on social impact. Since the start, Julie has donated one pill for each pill purchased, making it the largest donor of emergency contraception in the United States, according to the brand. While executives declined to share specific 2023 sales figures, they did note it is on track to donate half-a-million pills through its one-for-one donation program in 2023.
While the brand considers donations to be key, establishing a unique strategy to where the products would be donated has been as essential.
“We built relationships with 75-plus donation partners that range from really big ones like Sirum that already do a ton of medical donations to all of these little tiny partners. In Mississippi, there’s a woman who gives emergency contraception out at nail salons. There’s a bar in Louisville, Kentucky, that we showed up in earlier this year,” E/J Morrison said, noting Julie also partners with college campuses. “We’ve tried to be really thoughtful of like, ‘Where are the places that it’s meaningful.’”
E/J Morrison said the key to providing true social impact is creating a program that is “responsive.” For example, when Idaho and Iowa ruled that emergency contraception wouldn’t be provided to sexual assault providers, Julie redirected more of its donations to these states.
On the future:
As Julie continues to expand with retail, getting the brand’s messaging out is essential to the overall strategy. According to E/J Morrison, the brand will be collaborating with women writers, directors and celebs next year to create new commercials. Julie will also increase its social impact programming, focusing on areas like the South and Midwest, as well as double down on its physical presence, popping up in hotels and on college campuses.
“Ways in which it’s just more convenient to be able to access emergency contraception is what we’re focused on for 2024,” E/J Morrison said. “How do we get in these unexpected places?”