Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Combating condom complacency

Brands are battling low category growth by innovating with thin condoms and partnering with retailers to reduce taboos around sexual health purchases.

By Hailey Settineri.

Complacent attitudes to condom usage, especially among Australian youth, are driving alarming figures in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), according to Australian Therapeutic Supplies Brand & Trade Marketing Manager Dianne Phan.

“Syphilis diagnoses are at the highest level ever recorded in Australia, while gonorrhoea rates continue to climb and the number of people dying from liver disease related to hepatitis C infection has more than doubled in the last 10 years,” she said. “The number of people diagnosed with HIV in Australia remains at 20-year highs.

“We’re highly concerned about these trends – young people in Australia are now only concerned about pregnancy, not diseases. They weren’t around in the early days of the AIDS epidemic when there was a large fear campaign.”

Ms Phan said it is important that brands continue to partner with retailers and drive the message that condoms shouldn’t be taboo.

“They’re an important health product that should be openly discussed,” she said.

She believes retailers could help to make the category easier to shop and understand at-shelf, and reduce the barriers to purchase.

“The stigma around the category means that it’s often hidden away and not at eye level,” she said.

“We continue to work with our retail partners to make the category easier to shop and reduce the barriers to purchase by normalising the category through our marketing.”

Focus on fit 

Australian Therapeutic Supplies manufactures the Four Seasons Condoms brand, which was launched with the aim of producing high-quality condoms to cater for Australians of all shapes and sizes.

“Four Seasons Condoms are all about fit,” Ms Phan said. “We believe it’s important that all our sizes are available for consumers – such our closer-fitting and our larger-fitting condoms.”

The Australian-owned business says it has been a leader in bringing to market innovative products in the sexual wellness space.

“The popular Naked range of ultrathin condoms are specially designed for increased sensitivity as well as strength – and feels like wearing nothing at all,”

Ms Phan said.

The full range also includes lubricants, massage oils and other sexual wellness aids. A particularly popular and iconic product is the Four Seasons Glow in the Dark Lubricant with a tube that glows.

“As people hopefully become more educated, open and frank around the sexual wellness category, they will begin to explore beyond the ‘regular’ condoms and into lubricants with the aim of enhancing their sexual wellness and experiences,” Ms Phan said.

Four Seasons Condoms is an advocate for the promotion of safe sex and condom research, especially among youth. The business supports universities, AIDS councils and sexual health clinics with its public health and sex education programs.

“Four Seasons Condoms will continue to focus on educating the youth of Australia on the importance of condom usage, to help to normalise the category through marketing and developing fun and exciting products that will help to address barriers to usage,” Ms Phan said.

“We will also continue to focus on driving awareness of the importance of a good-fitting condom, and driving the distribution of our different sizes so that they’re available for Australia consumers.”

Skirting controversy

The TV commercial for Four Seasons Condoms’ Naked range went viral on release on YouTube with more than 17 million views in eight weeks, according to figures based on original and reposted videos.

Ms Phan said the commercial, which was banned from free-to-air TV and cinema in December 2013 for being “too sexy”, was posted on the Four Seasons Condoms YouTube channel and promoted to its Facebook and Twitter fans.

“Sharing and reposting quickly occurred, with the commercial finding itself a global audience,” Ms Phan said. “Bloggers picked up on the social sharing, as did the international press with major editorial features appearing in The Huffington Post and New York Daily News in the US and the Daily Mirror and Daily Star in the UK, among other publications.”

Four Seasons Condoms partnered with stand-up comedian, actor and writer Gary Eck to create a commercial for the Naked condoms range that would get Australian youths and young adults talking, with the long-term goal of normalising condom usage.

“The idea behind the ad was to make buying condoms like buying a pair of shoes,” Mr Eck said. “If you’re not sure of your size, well, just try one on. Four Seasons Naked condoms come in four sizes so, of course, our [TVC] heroes ‘Raquel’ and ‘Tyson’ had to try them all on to make sure.”

Australia’s condom buyers

Last year, 10 per cent of Australian adults bought condoms in any given six months, slightly down on 2012 (11 per cent), according to data from Roy Morgan Research.

Men make up 57 per cent of total condom buyers, with 12 per cent of all men over 18 buying them in an average six-month period. Women make up the other 43 per cent of buyers, with nine per cent of them purchasing condoms in the same time frame.

There is a wide gap between male and female buyers in the under-25 age group. While 24 per cent of males under 25 bought condoms in an average six-month period during 2013, just 15 per cent of young women did the same.

Among 25- to 34-year-olds, the gap narrows dramatically, with 23 per cent of males and 21 per cent of females buying condoms. This age group also comprises the largest proportion of total buyers, accounting for 41 per cent of all Australians purchasing them.

According to the research, 55 per cent of buyers have a diploma or degree, and 15 per cent are currently at university. While this can be partially ascribed to the age groups most likely to buy condoms, academics around the world have highlighted the link between education and the use of contraceptives.

Employment status also seems to have some bearing: 13 per cent of people in paid employment bought condoms in an average six months, while only six per cent of those without a job did.

When it comes to place of purchase, supermarkets are far more popular than pharmacies or anywhere else, regardless of the buyer’s age, education or employment status. Of all adult Australians who bought condoms last year, 67 per cent did so in a supermarket and 21 per cent in a pharmacy. The relative ease and anonymity of a supermarket transaction compared with a pharmacy’s more personalised service would almost certainly have something to do with this.

Pleasure trend

There has been a shift from sexual protection to sexual wellness in the market. Ansell Healthcare Product/Brand Manager Sexual Wellness ANZ Hayley Allen says condoms were previously thought of as nothing more than a protective barrier but now they promise more than that.

“Not only do condoms and personal lubricants provide consumers with protection and choice, but they aim to enable a better sexual experience,” she said. “Consumers are forever evolving and so the leading condom brands are continually innovating to meet the needs of an increasingly dynamic, savvy market.”

There is a clear trend toward non-latex condoms, with Ansell’s Skyn achieving 37 per cent growth year on year and 42 per cent growth in the last year (Aztec Grocery Value, MAT to 5/10/14, supplied by Ansell Healthcare).

After just four years in the market, Skyn has become the world’s number one non-latex condom brand (based on the most syndicated data available in the top 11 countries around the world, May 2014, supplied by Ansell Healthcare). Ms Allen said Skyn is Australia’s fastest growing condom brand and holds

20.2 per cent share of the total condom category in this country.

“Skyn is a high-quality, premium condom made from a synthetic material called polyisoprene, which, compared with other condom types, provides a softer, more natural, skin-like feeling,” she said. “Studies show that 97 per cent of people who try Skyn recommend it [Ansell study, 2011], so it’s no wonder Skyn condoms have been described as the closest thing to wearing nothing.”

Earlier this year Ansell launched Skyn Intense Feel 10-pack in Coles and Woolworths stores. The product combines the natural feeling of Ansell’s non-latex material with a uniquely textured surface. Ms Allen said it was the first textured condom that meets male and female needs.

“The textured segment has grown by 20.3 per cent, with 14.8 per cent share of the total condom category in grocery, which makes it the third largest segment nationally [Aztec Grocery Value, MAT 5/10/14],” she said.

“With a massive marketing support campaign running through 2014/15, Ansell expects Skyn Intense Feel to be a major contributor to growth in the textured condom segment.”

Skyn marketing support includes a two-week brand activation on the Gold Coast, with sampling, advertising and condom education for revellers joining the annual ‘schoolies’ celebrations.

Sampling remains key to the Skyn marketing strategy, with internal research showing that one in three of those who trial Skyn become Skyn purchasers.

“Throughout the summer, Ansell will distribute over a third of one million Intense Feel samplers at various events,” Ms Allen said.

The Skyn brand will be further supported with a $2 million investment in marketing activities throughout FY15, including experiential, social/digital, outdoor, in-store, TV, and print activations

This month Skyn has again partnered with the Movember Foundation to support men’s health. Ansell has developed a limited-edition Skyn Movember charity pack from which $1 for every pack sold will be donated to the foundation.

“More than just fundraising, Skyn is aiming to increase awareness for men’s health issues in general, with the creation and promotion of a series of Movember ‘call-to-action’ videos, which encourage the moustache-growing public of Australia to sign up at and grow a mo,” Ms Allen said.

Refreshing the classics

In addition to growing the non-latex condom segment, Ansell continues to innovate and drive market value with its natural rubber latex brand, LifeStyles, which holds 46.1 per cent value share of the total condom category (Aztec Grocery Value, MAT 5/10/14, supplied by Ansell Healthcare).

“The natural rubber latex segment accounts for over 75 per cent share of total condom in the grocery channel, so Ansell will continue to drive innovation

among natural rubber latex,” Ms Allen said. “Ansell plans to continue to grow the category, innovate and expand, keeping consumers more satisfied than ever.”

Ansell’s latest innovation, LifeStyles Dual Protect, is claimed to be the world’s first anti-viral condom.

Two decades in the making, LifeStyles Dual Protect condoms are coated with VivaGel, a special lubricant that contains 0.5 per cent w/w astodrimer sodium, which has been demonstrated in laboratory studies to have antiviral properties.

“This world-first innovation is the result of partnership between Ansell and Australian bio-tech company Starpharma, with over $20 million and years in research and development,” Ms Allen said.

The launch of LifeStyles Dual Protect will be supported with a huge PR and social media campaign this summer.

Other recent additions to the LifeStyles family include LifeStyles Party 10-pack, a premium assorted condom pack with the first-to-market Snake Skin condom and fun flavours such as Tutti Frutti and a special novelty game for two.

“The assorted segment is currently the fourth largest segment nationally with 9.8 per cent share of total condom in grocery [Aztec Grocery Value, MAT 5/10/14],” Ms Allen said. “Ansell aims to premiumise and grow the assorted segment with the introduction of LifeStyles Party.”

Also joining the LifeStyles range is LifeStyles Nano-Thin 10-pack, a extra stretchy, ultra-thin condom providing the next level in sensation and comfort.

The ultra-thin segment is the second largest segment nationally, accounting for 25.9 per cent share of total condom (Aztec Grocery Value, MAT 5/10/14). Ms Allen said while most products within this segment focus purely on thinness, LifeStyles Nano-Thin differentiates itself as the ultimate in comfort and thinness.

“These new products join the brand family of other unique LifeStyles natural rubber latex innovations, including LifeStyles Zero, Australia’s thinnest condom [natural rubber latex meeting ISO4074] and LifeStyles O-Max, with studs 2.5 times deeper than any other condom on the market [supported by internal data],” she said.

Modern merchandising

Although consumers are becoming more confident about their sexual health choices, advertising is still very conservative within the category, according to Ms Allen. This, she said, can make it difficult to communicate the unique benefits of a particular SKU in mediums such as catalogues, websites, and point of sale.

“It’s difficult to increase condom volume sales on a large scale as people only purchase them as they use them,” she said.

Retailers can improve category sales by updating the way they merchandise products based on the latest research. Wobblers/aisle flags, counter units, off-

location displays, branded shelf trays and price promotion during peak periods are well established methods. Retailers can also consider making condoms available at self-serve check-outs.

“From the data available to Ansell [Aztec Shopper Panel data, Grocery, to MAT 10/3/13], we can see that self-check-out family planning purchases in grocery appear to over-index against the other lanes,” Ms Allen said. “Given the personal nature of the category, this trend comes as no surprise.

“Retailers have a great opportunity to off-locate in this space and take advantage of impulse with smaller pack sizes or a travel-and-trial-type offer to suit space limitations.”

Sexual wellness product sales in Australia

Total condom Total lubricant Total sexual wellness
MAT to 5/10/14 Quarter to 5/10/14 MAT to 5/10/14 Quarter to 5/10/14 MAT to 5/10/14 Quarter to 5/10/14
Grocery 5.1 2.6 2.0 2.0 1.6 -0.5
Pharmacy -1.7 -1.5 -1.9 -3.0 0.2 -0.2
Convenience -6.4 -4.2 20.0 2.4 -4.9 -4.5
Australia 2.9 1.3 1.6 1.0 0.9 -0.7

Aztec data, dollar growth percentages YA, supplied by Ansell Healthcare.


Category News

Hero swoops into grocery

Socially responsible brand Hero Condoms is now available in grocery, following a year of success in pharmacies, P&C stores, university co-ops and adult shops.

Hero Condoms began in 2012 as a university project of founder and CEO Dustin Leonard, and places a large emphasis on social responsibility and sustainability.

“For every condom sold in Australia, Hero donates one to a developing country to help reduce the effect of HIV, and its packaging is made out of 100 per cent recycled materials,” Mr Leonard said.

Hero began landing on shelves nationwide in mid-2013 and is now entering the grocery industry. Metcash and a number of IGA groups have already agreed to stock the product.

“To support the launch into grocery, Hero is currently working on a large marketing campaign with celebrities and government agencies,” Mr Leonard said.

“Hero has recently brought in a retail industry heavyweight to help increase distribution and is also planning for international expansion.”

Although it is still early days for Hero, it has received a great amount of support from the media, other organisations and even celebrities. An ad released on YouTube has amassed more than 500,000 views.

Mr Leonard said recent reports have found that condom use in Australia is declining and STIs and unwanted pregnancies are significantly increasing.

“Nationally, the annual number of reported diagnoses of chlamydia almost tripled between 2002 and 2011, HIV is on the rise for the first time in five years and syphilis has hit a record high,” he said.

“Speaking with pharmacy retailers, Hero has learned that general condom sales are decreasing and the sale of the ‘morning-after’ pill is significantly increasing.”

In an effort to help combat these alarming statistics, Hero is partnering with government agencies and NGOs to help provide sexual health education and to increase condom use.


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