Sexual-health products secure place in mainstream dialogue

Reckitt Benckiser recently jumped into the sexual health category with the acquisition of Durex from SSL International and a goal to reenergize the brand.

Reckitt Benckiser recently jumped into the sexual health category with the acquisition of Durex from SSL International and a goal to reenergize the brand and category in the US. Trojan is also expanding beyond the traditional condom category with mainstream distribution of its new Triphoria vibrator. The New York Times bluntly covered the Trojan launch, and associated trends, in its recent story, "Vibrators carry the conversation."

A sexual revolution akin to the '60s or not, consumer demand for new products from sexual health brands is skyrocketing. In response, brands are launching and promoting once taboo sex-toy and condom products on traditional retail shelves, online platforms, and on a national level.

Following the acquisition, Reckitt Benckiser named Euro RSCG Worldwide PR AOR as part of its effort to grow and position Durex as a "sexual intimacy brand," as opposed to a typical condom brand, in the US. It's looking to go beyond the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

For example, distribution of its Performax condom, which touts Viagra-like benefits, has been low in the US, but the brand is looking to boost its share in "added-benefit condoms" through a message about experience. The brand, which is one of the strongest globally, but cedes share to Trojan in the US, has already seen a 60% rise in sales for personal massagers between December and May, notes Alan Cheung, Durex's senior brand manager.

Comfortable discussion
"People are just becoming more comfortable talking about sex," he says, attributing a "willing- ness to be more open" to online conversations, sex-related apps, and social media interaction.

The Internet, with its behavioral influence, not only fuels a new comfort level with overt discussion about sexuality, but it also exists as a promotional tool for mainstream marketing of the once-taboo products.

Cheung adds that digital and PR promotion are the primary vehicles for buzz.

"That's where the consumer lives and it's where we need to be," he says. "For this category, word of mouth and social are key for strategy in the coming months."

Trojan joined a number of non-traditional electronics brands at CES to launch its Triphoria vibrator. These days, it doesn't get more mainstream or social than CES - that is until the brand, working with AOR Edelman, launches a Trojan Vibrations Facebook page. In July, consumers will be able to purchase all of the Trojan Vibrations products from the site.

"There's a lot more that can be done to mainstream that conversation," says Bruce Weiss, VP of marketing at Trojan manufac-turer Church & Dwight. He adds that references in pop culture, such as those in Sex and the City, and a rise in popularity of sex-toy parties also contribute to consumer demand and comfort.

Aside from spreading the word online, the company is advertising the vibrator in its traditional condom packaging.

"This has had a positive effect," says Weiss. "We want to promote a more partner-friendly, female-friendly experience, so we're get- ting out there. Even our TV ads further compound the mainstreaming category. People see the items advertised in a good light."

Broader audiences
The trend is occurring across the US, multiple sources explain. It enables brands to reach out to audiences not only on drug-store shelves, but also without regional or demographic boundaries.

"We want a consistent message and voice to communicate to our consumer base," says Cheung.

Weiss adds that in the national approach, PR is helping the brand grow its own portfolio as it bolsters the overall category.

"It's bringing a name to the category and lets people know Trojan is participating," he says. "We discovered, when it comes to vibrators, people are very open to saying this is something that's good for sexual health. That's one key reason we need to have a mainstream conversation."

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