The funny thing about condoms is, while most sexually active people know they should be using them, they don’t bother. Unlike selling other things people should use—like toothpaste or car insurance—condoms carry a stigma. Some see them as dirty while others are affected physically as using a condom interrupts “the act.” James Daniels, vp of marketing at Church & Dwight, took this dilemma to the Kaplan Thaler Group. After months of studies, Trojan’s “Evolve” campaign was born in mere minutes. Playing off the idea that men are pigs was a natural solution. Still, despite the fact the campaign was designed to help people stave off sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy, CBS and Fox banned it. This led to a firestorm that pushed the campaign over the top into consumer consciousness. Last month, a new online component was added to allow artists to express their feelings about condom usage. Daniels discussed the controversial campaign as well as what it has achieved during the past year.
Brandweek: What was the origin of the “Evolve” campaign?
James Daniels: The origin is our new chairman and CEO, James Craigie, came in and I shared with him statistics showing him that America is an unhealthy nation when it comes to their sexual health. Specifically, 65 million Americans have an incurable sexually transmitted disease. Nineteen million Americans a year get an STD. Three million Americans a year have an unintended pregnancy; about half of those end in abortion. And about 750,000 teens get pregnant every year. We showed him that data. It blew him away. He had no idea, as most people have no idea that those are the statistical realities for sexual health in America. Then we showed him some research we had done with a very large sample size that indicated condom usage rates are quite low among single Americans ages 18-54 that are sexually active. Only about one in four of their sex acts use a condom. That means among single Americans that are sexually active, there are more than 1 billion sex acts that are unprotected and, with that, he said, “Holy cow. America is not a sexually healthy nation, those facts are clear. We’ve got a product that can actually do an incredible amount of good for the health of America and in doing so we can also positively impact our shareholders. We can all benefit by us marketing condoms and selling more.” The bottom line is there are plenty of sex acts out there. Trojan doesn’t need to encourage sexual activity. It’s already taking place. What we do need to do is crack the code of condom usage so people are responsible and use condoms more regularly. He basically demanded that this become a top corporate priority for us to crack this condom code.
BW: What was the first step?
JD: We did a deep dive into our research for the last 20-plus years and it all said the same thing, that people understood what condoms did. They understood what our product did. They understood that they should use our product regularly yet their behavior didn’t follow suit. We said, “OK, what’s going wrong here?” It led us to a rather unorthodox approach for doing research. We went out and hired cultural anthropologists and clinical psychologists to help us understand what is going on in the mindset of Americans. We found that despite what they told us in their surveys, what they really felt in their subconscious thinking was that the condom was a symbol of bad behavior, of dirty behavior, of sinful behavior. They are embarrassed to be seen with it. The second thing we learned from the cultural anthropologists was that when males put the condoms on it disrupted the biological brain. He called it the reptilian brain. It got in the way of biology’s desire to reproduce itself. Our product was emasculating them. We needed to make sure our product was not only a positive symbol of responsibility but also masculinity.
BW: What did you do?
JD: We got down to a basic brief that basically the condom is a symbol of worthiness. That if a male or a female has a condom with them, you can trust them . . . The TV spot takes place in a lounge [full of pigs which symbolize men without a Trojan on their person]. One pig gets off of the stool, goes into the bathroom and buys a condom. When it comes out the pig morphs into an attractive male. He clearly has evolved from a selfish, self-centered person into a more evolved and attractive person, and the condom is that symbol. Two of the networks [Fox and CBS] refused to air it any time. That was ridiculous. You can go on TV and see hundreds of millions of dollars spent on erectile dysfunction drugs or herpes, yet it is forbidden to see condom advertising in prime time? It seems incredibly hypocritical that there would be so much sexual content on prime time TV and the very product that [can help people act] responsibly is not allowed to be advertised. It created an uproar in the media and among consumers. The Evolve campaign has really gone from a classic traditional marketing campaign to really more of a movement.
BW: What has changed?
JD: Market share increased. [Trojan owned 73.4% of the category prior to the effort, per Nielsen FDMx. As of last month it grew to 75.5%.] Plus the category has grown. We are seeing a conversion of attitude that’s creating a behavior change. We want to see it go faster. EvolveOneEvolveAll.com launched online encouraging consumers to come be informed about sexual health and promote condom usage. It also allows artists and consumers to express themselves and show their support for this message with their own creativity. We expect to continue to grow our business. In doing so we are increasing our marketing spending.
7 months ago