Post Thumb
Click on the image to watch the Video.

In times when branded content is really starting to come onto its own and upping the quality of communication, it takes a lot more for brands to catch attention than it did half a decade ago.

Manforce Condoms has not only made effective use of the opportunities that branded content offers — to be more culturally encompassing and start progressive conversations around topics that have long demanded attention from the mainstream — but it has also done it in a way that is fresher than audiences have come to expect from the category.

The brand does resemble other category players when it comes to selling its product through tantalising ads or establishing itself on social media (particularly Instagram) as youthful and unafraid to make funny sexual references. But it has also built upon such basics with hard-hitting content that discusses what ‘safe sex’ means outside the bedroom, where the threats go beyond STDs and unwanted pregnancies to the invasion of privacy and blackmailing.

Its latest campaign from October 2020 further explores sexual vulnerability by portraying how young children can fall prey to grooming and sexual coercion online and how parents must protect them from such danger by keeping a check on their online activity.

This unusual yet bold approach to branded content seems to have proven successful for Manforce. We’re sure the brand and its agency hold engagement metrics to illustrate the same. But as Marketing Semioticians, our analysis of their content has revealed the following reasons for it; explanations that arise from a contextual understanding of their communication, drawing from both the brand’s category and the culture it inhabits. Because those serve as the primary points of reference for Manforce’s current and potential consumers as well.

Fills in for the sex education they never had

Schooled by the Indian education system, all that the brand’s audience remembers of anything close to sex education is probably the biology chapter that broke down male and female genitalia; that too if they weren’t distracted by having to study the subject next to their squirming peers. Given the taboo nature of sex, it is possible that their teacher never attempted to dissipate that atmosphere nor touch upon topics outside of study material to explain the social angles to the matter.

That is the gap Manforce is looking to fill by educating them about the drawbacks of practising personal relations in a digital world. By using branded content, it is addressing the different scenarios that people can find themselves in, either to teach them how to tackle those (‘if blackmailed with intimate pictures/videos, immediately report it under section 66E, 67, 67A and 67B’) or to avoid them altogether (‘Before getting intimate in a public place, if you think you are alone, think again’). Because Manforce understands that this is the kind of education that’s tough to come by.

Takes a balanced approach to the subject 

Manforce has been holistic in its treatment of the issues it has picked. When visualising intimacy, it has depicted both aspects of it: the pleasure and the vulnerability. Or the rosy and playful side and the dark and dangerous one.

When discussing technology and the predators it enables, it hasn’t demonised technology itself — “The internet has many positives, but there are hidden dangers lurking on it as well”. It has advised audiences to remain alert and be smart about navigating the digitised present instead of getting preachy with their message and painting the online world in an entirely negative light.

The brand understands that for the message to carry through, it needs to be realistic. To speak to consumers about the reality they exist in, all elements of it, rather than represent their world in a way that’s half-resonant.

Doesn’t positivise, instead discusses harsh realities

Unlike activist organisations, brands don’t conventionally use fear-based communication to nudge their audience in the desired direction. They focus on introducing pleasure and entertainment into their lives so they don’t risk losing buyers. Even when they highlight challenges and struggles through branded content, they make sure to wrap them up with satisfying resolutions that reflect well on the brand. Because it is tough to give it straight yet not turn into a fringe element like activists.

‘Tough but not impossible’, seems to say Manforce that has made content centred on struggle, desperation, fear, loss of control and uncertainty, that doesn’t pull its on-screen characters out of the mess they find themselves in, and yet doesn’t lose favour with its audience.

(Commented under ‘Manforce Condoms | Shut The Phone Up 3’)

(Commented under ‘There’s No Going Back | #ShutThePhoneUp | Manforce Condoms’)

Not only does this approach ensure that viewers continue to think about the issues highlighted rather than comfortably forget them, but it also frames the brand as well-grounded and capable of having mature conversations rather than a company that inhabits a social hotbed but is nervous about confidently occupying it; an ineffective part to play given that brands these days are expected to be culturally involved.

Moreover, by taking the unconventional route of not discussing sex through humour (as it finds itself required on platforms like Instagram) and taking the topic seriously and head-on, it bravely subverts the unspoken social rule to discuss taboo subjects while maintaining a comfortable distance from them. This makes the brand stand out not just from its competitors but also from other sources of influence that exist in this sphere.

And when has that never been a desirable goal?

Closing off

This isn’t the first time Manforce Condoms has stood out for doing something novel and bold. After all, it did sign on Sunny Leone as a brand ambassador when no other sexual wellness brand could imagine doing so.

But its radical approach isn’t the result of spur-of-the-moment decisions that are only intended to grab attention. It seems that the goal of turning itself into a well-rounded brand is driving the actions of Manforce, and this time around it is branded content that has brought it closer to that vision.

Is your brand taking notice?