Durex is the biggest seller of condoms in the UK market. In fact, it holds a 26% global market share and distributes over one billion products every year. There is just one problem – it wants to be known for much more than that.
While the brand insists its values and focus on quality have not changed since its conception in 1915, it has been trying to bring the brand to life differently and evolve in line with people’s attitudes towards sex.
Durex’s global senior brand manager Shane Kerr explains: “In the last 16 years, we’ve really wanted to establish ourselves as a sexual wellbeing brand instead of a condom brand. It’s not just about the physical but the emotional as well.”
One noticeable way Durex is aiming to achieve this is by taking a different approach to marketing. Its most recent campaigns have all featured real couples or young singletons who are taught valuable lessons about sex, prejudice and intimacy.
For example, the Durex #DoNotDisturb campaign, which launched in May this year, challenged couples to give up their phones and technology on holiday to teach them a lesson about how it might negatively impact their levels of intimacy. The ‘When It’s On, It’s On’ campaign also featured groups of young men and women talking about safe sex and misconceptions when it comes to using condoms.
“We want to make people aware of the basics when it comes to sex and wellbeing and make them change for the better. With our adult campaigns, we wanted to hold up a mirror to real-life couples and viewers too.
“Showing real-life situations can be much more engaging as people empathise with it.”
Shane Kerr, global senior brand manager, Durex
He adds: “We want to get our brand out with product messaging, but then bring in more emotional communications around their sex lives where customers see themselves in our campaigns.”
Partnering up with charities
Besides featuring real couples in its marketing campaigns, Durex is also hoping to make a broader impact on society by partnering with charities and local NGOs. Earlier this month, it launched the #DontShareZika campaign during the Rio Olympics, teaming up with the International Planned Parenthood Federation to raise awareness of the fact Zika is a sexually transmitted disease.
“There are lots of organisations that share a common purpose and want to drive protection among young people. The reason we work with charities for campaigns such as #DontShareZika is because they add credibility and reach to our messaging – and we can learn from them too.”
Kerr says its social cause campaigns have become increasingly digitally-focused. For example, last year it created a special condom emoji for World Aids Day to allow young people to “overcome embarrassment around the discussion of safe sex”.
According to Kerr, this new approach is steadily changing consumer perceptions of the brand. “We can see in some of our equity trackers that we are increasingly seen as a sexual wellbeing brand and that people are forming an emotional connection with us. But we can’t do it overnight.”
‘Sex doesn’t have to end after university’
Besides working with charities, the brand is also hoping to make sex a more approachable subject for discussion in schools. Kerr is a firm believer that good sex education will lead to a healthier sex life, which is why Durex is keen to take a grassroots approach.
In the UK, Durex has launched a platform for schools, providing teachers with tools to talk to young people about sex. However, the brand does not talk directly to young students itself as it wants to avoid pressuring them into having sex.
“We don’t want to actively encourage people to have sex. They shouldn’t be pressured into it. The statistics show that if you have a good first time, you have a happier healthier sex life as you grow older. We want to make sure people make that choice when they’re ready,” he explains.
“We simply want to be there as a brand and provide consumers with the right information – even those who are entering relationships later in life. Sex doesn’t end when you leave university, we want to be there for everybody.”
Battling people’s perceived invincibility
Durex products are sold in more than 150 countries, but as public attitudes towards sex differ from country to country, the brand has to carefully tailor its messaging on a local scale.
“There are definitely challenges, culturally but also legally in some markets. When it comes to our campaigns, we’ll simply have to make slight edits. In some markets, for example, you can’t have too much skin on show. But the big idea has to work for couples everywhere,” Kerr says.
Another problem is that Durex sells a product that many people see as a necessity rather than a product they are eager to buy. To get around this, it focuses on two things – product and personal empowerment.
Kerr concludes: “Some people believe using condoms makes sex less pleasurable, so we need to give them right products. Unfortunately, many people also feel invincible and believe STIs won’t happen to them. As a brand, we need to empower them through education so we can drive usage.”
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