Today I picked up a condom at the student-run co-op on campus. Now, let’s be fair, picking up a condom is not exactly groundbreaking news. It’s not the sort of thing that usually inspires a blog post. I mean, a condom’s a condom, right?
Well, no. Not this one. This is a piece of genius from a company that I think has hit the nail on the head.
The condom brand is ONE (www.onecondoms.com) and they’re based in Boston, MA. The thing that really sets them apart is some awesome design which ties into an ethos of making condoms fun, interesting and, well, attractive. So the packaging is another level of cool – round rather than square, it feels a little like an oversized coin that you can flip through your fingers. I actually felt myself become cooler doing a little finger-flip move and slipping the thing into my bag. I may have winked. I probably looked like a madwoman, but I felt really cool. And then we get to the myriad of ways one can play on the word ONE and the punny imagination goes into overdrive. They’ve got something like a hundred designs, each a pun with a matching graphic. Some are meaningful, some crude, some nerdy, some cute and all look great. I actually want to get the whole bloody lot of them. Rather than the surreptitious slip-it-in-your-pocket-and-sidle-off, I can imagine anyone rooting around magpie-like in a bowl of the things looking for the coolest one for tonight. That’s saying a lot, in my book.
So the design is great, contemporary and certainly seems to be doing the trick on me; after all, I’m basically giving them a bunch of free and unsolicited advertising here. What the hell, they deserve it. They pair the slick design with a great ethos, a fun facebook page and a website that you actually want to visit. They have a yearly design competition for new packaging (canny marketing right there), a bunch of local musos who promote the brand, non-preachy info on HIV and sexual health, local sexual health and education programmes, and they donate part of their profits to HIV/ AIDS programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa.
It really is a win-win situation in every way. They make condoms cool which makes me want to buy and promote their product. Win for them, they get more profit; win for me and mine, I don’t get pregnant or HIV. Even the donating-to-Africa thing, for once, doesn’t make me roll my eyes. First win is that if it makes some kid in Boston more likely to glove up and feel good about it, it’s done a good thing. Second win is that condom companies are exactly the organisations we want to have a finger in the AIDS-prevention pie in Africa. No unfortunately ineffective “abstinence is the only way” malarkey for them but the far more pragmatic aim of trying to make condoms something people actually want to use. No avoiding this or that population group for ideological reasons – after all, you make more money if you sell to everybody. You make more condom-users too and that’s exactly what we need.
Of course there’s stigma and all of that, but here’s a company with a particular mission to make it cool to use condoms. Because it’s good for business, and if there’s one thing I can say with certainty it’s that if there’s a profit in it a company will find a way to do it. I know there’s still going to be some silly little git who bleats that it just doesn’t feel the same, but what if he wants to pick up the packet just because he likes the design? And then, well, it’s in his wallet. One step closer to where it’s supposed to be.
And yeah, it would be even better if they were free, except that it wouldn't. If they were free, there’d be no incentive to keep the design fresh, to keep the punters interested, to get me to want to use a condom. And yes, they should have dental dams and femidoms in awesome packages too. They really should, but I’m willing to forgive them.
I’ve been utterly pulled in by advertising and clever design. I’ve had the wool pulled over my eyes. Tomorrow, I’m going to go buy a bunch of these beautiful banana bonnets and for once be pretty excited about what’s usually a mundane chore of the “honey pick up some bog-roll on your way home” variety. I may even buy a few as gifts for my friends, some silly sexy souvenirs.
I’m okay with the wool being pulled over my eyes - or the latex over my little bishop - just this ONE time.