These may have been forced attempts, but the goal was achieved: Harish Bijoor, brand strategist
Against a sensual track playing in the background, you see a regular Indian woman busying herself with an otherwise mundane task. In the distance, a handsome man is shyly throwing glances at her. Then suddenly, catching a draft of fresh air that works as an aphrodisiac, the woman — now flustered —slowly and steadily begins the quest for the source of the smell. When their eyes lock, they know what the next step is. Amidst this onscreen chemistry, marquees the brand name, and a quirky tagline.
Indian condom advertisements have always followed the philosophy of ‘say more with less,’ largely because the Indian audience doesn’t come out of their comfort zones to talk about the subject — like a taboo. However, the reserved community is emerging out of its cocoon of late and discussing the subject, albeit to mock it. Since Manforce Condom decided to spice up the bedroom of true blue desis with a rather unique offering — the achaari flavoured condom, the Internet is brimming with mixed reviews of people mocking the flavour and a large group going, “Hmm, why not?”
Keeping reviews aside, it seems like the brand has at least one achievement down — igniting a conversation around the subject. Harish Bijoor, a brand strategist, thinks that is exactly what Manforce had set out to attain. “In India, the condom category is a closeted one — people do not openly talk about this. But, it seems like the brand has tried to make a conversation around it public,” he points out. He adds that Manforce is not the only brand trying to do this. In the past, Skore and KamaSutra have also attempted to get the public to start talking about condoms. “These may have been forced attempts, but the goal was achieved,” he says.
Marketing gimmicks along these lines have been prevalent for a while now. It wasn’t long ago when internationally popular condom brand Durex came up with a gimmicky Durex Jeans, which was a compact pack that was meant to fit well in a body-hugging denim pocket. This as well got people talking about it, says Harish. “It got people talking from the minute they released a teaser about Durex jeans. Everyone thought that Durex jeans were supposed to be a proper range of a pair of jeans. I remember my Twitter timeline reading of people saying, ‘Oh, these must be fitting, tight yet comfortable jeans’. It created so much buzz!” he recalls. However, when the product came out, all that it was a compact pack. But, mission accomplished.
Actress and socialite Pooja Bedi, who starred in a KamaSutra condom advertisement with Marc Robinson in the early ’90s, believes that marketing strategies along these lines are just gimmicks that help the brand reach more people. However, she doesn’t shy away from giving the flavour a fair chance. “I don’t think the achaari flavour is just a gimmick. For all we know, it is a lot more than that — maybe the brand is catering to the Indian palate. And why not?” she questions, adding that international restaurant franchises have made their way to the country altering their menus to please the Indian palate and sustain in the market. “McDonald’s and Burger King have altered their classic burgers making them spicier and more-Indian — maybe we can have similar condoms too,” she says.
She isn’t the only one accepting of the new flavour. Ad man and director Prahlad Kakkar too finds it to be an interesting addition to the range of available flavours. “Why should we only stick to exotic flavours like the classic chocolate, bubblegum, strawberries, bananas and vanilla? Why does it always need to be sweet?” he asks, also pointing out that it is the first time an Indian condom brand is experimenting with something savoury, “So why not embrace it? Like any experiment, it might work, or it might not work — but it doesn’t harm to try,” he says.
The director quips how now that we have an achaari flavour, soon, there should be other flavours concentrating on different parts of the country. “Punjab should have a butter chicken option, Maharashtrians could relish a varan-bhaat (dal-rice) flavour — would be nice, wouldn’t it?”