Breaking taboos: Marketing socially awkward products

Marketing and agency leaders from Kimberly-Clark, BBE and Tribe share the campaign strategies and authentic brand thinking behind creating awareness of socially awkward products


Socially awkward

While many campaigns for socially awkward topics have involved mostly one-way communication through above-the-line advertising, the advent of social media has given marketers many more options through which to draw consumers into conversations, and some have risen to the challenge.

Social influencer platform, Tribe, has been engaged to drive influencer campaigns around numerous socially awkward topics, including the VIPoo campaign for a toilet odour minimisation product from Airwick, and the Viva la Vulva campaign for UK feminine hygiene product maker, Bodyform, which used euphemistic images to represent women’s genitalia.

Tribe founder, Jules Lund, says when using social influencers for socially awkward conversations it is important to know the influencers as well as you know your target audience.

“Humour always works, as well as giving them the creative freedom to express the message in their own tone,” he advises. “Taking it one step further and giving them artistic freedom to interpret the themes with illustration, typography or stop motion takes it to another level. Everyone seems to win when it’s playful.”

The idea of humour and playfulness was certainly top of mind for marketing agency, BBE, when it created a campaign for the Prolong Climax Control Training Program. BBE director,  Adam Beaupeurt, says his agency’s goal was to connect with men who experienced premature ejaculation in a way that did not demean or embarrass them.

“If you were to search premature ejaculation right now on Google Images, what you will see is a whole bunch of women sitting at the end of their bed in despair that their lover has ejaculated too early,” he says. “Stigmatising this category further exacerbates this problem that exists within the psyche of men. So bringing fresh thinking, fresh language, fresh design, and a product solution certainly goes a long way from the outset.”

bringing fresh thinking, fresh language, fresh design, and a product solution certainly goes a long way from the outset

BBE's Adam Beaupeurt


The campaign involved significant research to get into the mindset of sufferers of premature ejaculation, as well as lengthy discussions with clinicians. The result was the character Smiling Dick, a well-groomed man who provided an educational platform from which to talk about the product from the penis’s point of view.

“We needed a way to cut through and talk to people,” Beaupeurt says. “Smiling Dick was something unexpected and ultimately something that could lead to a bit of a chuckle. That opens a gateway to people to seek more information. And then it is really brings to life a whole range of language, shifting it from being a clinical problem into a perception issue, and that there is lots you can do about it.”

BBE also ran out-of-home advertising, as well as an extensive PR campaign, which Beaupeurt describes as wildly successful. Not all channels were so easy to work through, however.

“One of the big challenges with sexual health products that are stigmatised is that they can be classified as a sexual toy or an adult product, when ultimately it is servicing a group of people who have some clinical condition,” Beaupeurt says.

“Facebook and Google have extremely stringent policies for advertising about adult products. Because of the power of their systems and the automation of reviewing, they determined even though we were pushing people to an educational platform, ultimately there were links to a climax control training program product. Subsequently, many ads were restricted without human intervention of consultation about the topic or anything in relation to the clinical nature of these products and services.”

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