Durability, reliability and excellence. These are the key attributes which have made Durex (the name is a combination of the core brand traits) the world’s No. 1 condom manufacturer. More than four billion condoms are sold every year and Durex accounts for around 29 percent of this global market. The company is a market leader in more than 40 countries. With a long legacy of investment in marketing, research and development, the company is now recognised internationally as the premium condom brand in terms of quality, safety and reliability. The Durex brand is credited with many developments in the condom’s modern evolution. These include the first lubricated condom, the first anatomically-shaped condom and, more recently, the world’s first non-latex condom. Durex also works with healthcare professionals, governments and organisations including the World Health Organisation, UNAIDS and United Nations Population Fund in promoting good sexual health and the importance of consistent condom use to prevent HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
The traditional business
The Durex brand is well known and well trusted. So was the company’s marketing strategy. Condoms are most used by the 16-to-35 age group– a group most at risk in terms of sexual behaviour. For an older target group, the relevancy of Durex products wanes. This group is in a different life phase and has different sexual needs. Most people over 35 are married or in long-term relationships and therefore use other protection. While brand name recognition in this group is still very high, the product is no longer considered as relevant.
The traditional and ongoing challenge, according to Durex global marketing head Mark Critchley, is to constantly attract new customers to the company’s primary age group, 16 to 35, to compensate the natural drop on the upper side, 35 plus. “We call it youth recruitment; we have to keep attracting young consumers to the brand as older consumers use Durex less because the condom is less relevant to them.” Critchley said.
Stretching the market
Rather than just replenishing the existing consumer base, over the past few years Durex has taken the decision to expand its business concerns into other areas of sexual wellbeing. Durex wanted to expand its product base; to stretch the market by introducing products that would be relevant to the lives of its older consumers.
The company started by researching potential consumers. In the past five years Durex has polled more than a million of them, focusing on different themes: concept level, users’ research (every time a new product is launched the product is always tested with consumers before launching), online research and also a comprehensive worldwide sexual wellbeing survey, led by an independent research company. The results showed that there was an opportunity for Durex to expand into new product categories, by shifting its brand positioning from safer sex to better sex.
The goal for the company’s marketing team was therefore to expand Durex’s market and map out various products which consumers want to use to improve their sex life. The company also wanted to change the perception of these products. “Whilst the traditional sex toy in many cases is effective, they look awful. We wanted to ensure our products are well designed, effective and don’t look pink and phallic.” Critchley said “The goal for Durex in stretching the brand is to appeal to both males and female consumers, all our products therefore need to be well thought through and relevant.”
Durex needed to come up with a range of products that would be relevant to the 35-plus age group: a group concerned with better sex, rather than just using a contraceptive, given they are in long-term (thus low risk) relationships. The company formed the sub-brand Durex Play, a new brand under the wings of Durex. Durex Play focuses on just this! The products in the Durex Play range are lubricants and devices. The brand also emphasizes different brand values, moving from durability, reliability and excellence to more fun, playfulness and experimentation.
This also shifted the tone of the company’s key branding. “The Durex brand has always had a slight masculine brand personality,” Critchley said. “For the Durex Play brand this personality is more unisex. In our communications this applies through the tone of voice which is more feminine.”
Durex Play also shook up the traditional distribution method. The company wanted to change consumer perceptions of these products. Where as before, they were only sold in sex shops, Durex Play began making them available in supermarkets and traditional chemists. “Durex Play has helped to give permission and normalise the buying process and thereby changed consumer behaviour by making people feel less embarrassed about buying lubricants or sex toys,” Critchley said.“ Because Durex is so well known, its recognition and trust provides an element of reassurance to consumers.”
Communication for Durex Play has also taken a different track. Durex has long used the internet to communicate with young adults across the globe and provide them with safer sex information in their own language. With Durex Play, however, the company moved to use above-the-line communication such as TV ads, a method not much used for these products before which again helped to change consumer perceptions about these goods.
For the younger target group, Durex’s communication focuses on education, prevention and encouraging condom use. Durex Play focuses more on the slightly older audience, emphasizing the fun and experimental values.
Playtime is serious business:
Non-condom products have grown into a major component of Durex’s key business concerns. Starting from scratch less than four years ago, this product range is generating around USD 60 million in revenue each year. The company has also become No.1 in the vibrating ring market and the number 2 brand in the lubricant market.
“In the future we hope that Durex will continue to play a major role in helping consumers be inspired to try new things to improve their sex life.”