Of local flavours and safe sex…

Karex wants to make condom use as socially acceptable as toothpaste, and safer sex as 2nd nature as wearing a seatbelt


Karex has been making the news when it began exploring ‘uncharted territories’ in the last few years

THE television commercial is pretty twisted. A very good-looking young man is pushing the cart at a supermarket when a little boy who is with him starts to throw a tantrum in front of the candy rack.

The boy grabs his favourite candy and plonks it into the cart, and the man takes it out and throws it back on the rack.

The “fight” continues and towards the end of the ad, the little boy screams at the top of his lungs, which seems to attract all the wrong attention from the other patrons.

The little boy’s tantrum gets worse and as the young father tries to calm him down, the little brat just runs off as he messes up the supermarket, wreaking havoc as he throws products all over the place.

One would have thought that it is a confectionary ad. Well, the tagline at the end of the compelling ad is sweet and simple: “Use Condoms.”

Such an ad might not be well-accepted in a more moderate country like Malaysia, but one thing is for sure, the message and its impact is rather strong.

There are more similar ads and they can now be watched on YouTube. Just search for Zazoo Condoms commercials, and you might just have a great laugh with all the neatly packaged ads.

One has to admit though that all the anecdotal videos are amusing and effective — use condoms if you know what’s good for you.

These days, the ability to think outside the box could certainly win any marketeers the right audience and market, and condom companies all over the world are doing just that.

This time, Karex releases its special rendang-flavoured condom that certainly sets more tongues wagging, and eyebrows raised

Durian, Teh Tarik or Rendang?

Before you can make any decision or choice, answer this: Do you do it with or without a condom?

Don’t be bashful. After all, you might have discussed this openly with others over lunch or perhaps talked about it online.

And you too, might have talked about it — perhaps fight over it — with your spouse or partner in the bedroom?

Many men would unabashedly say that condoms make sex less pleasurable. Some women might also complain that it causes abrasion and soreness.

Some like it thin while quite a number prefer it ribbed.

With all these different “needs”, condom makers around the world have no choice but to be creative with their products with innovations as well as the correct marketing strategy.

For a market that is expected to cross US$11 billion (RM46 billion) by 2023 — according to industry intelligence provider ReportBuyer — manufacturers are driven to create the “best sex experience a condom can offer”.

Let’s see…We have seen the smooth, ribbed, studded condoms and even that glow in the dark variety on the shelf. But flavoured condoms?

Well, the world’s largest condom manufacturer, homegrown Karex Bhd, has been making the news when it began exploring “uncharted territories” in the last few years.

In 2016, the company introduced the durian-flavoured condoms, a gimmick that sparked conversations and of course, helped place the ONE brand on the map. “Why would you put it in your mouth?” or “It’s not chewing gum!” were some of the funnier comments.

Nevertheless, the gimmick got people to talk and more ONE condoms were sold.

The success of the durian-flavoured condom inspired Karex to do more.

Two years ago, the company pushed the imagination further with another special edition condom that was laced with everyone’s favourite local flavour — the nasi lemak!

There was a rather “exciting” uproar, followed by stronger turnover.

Last year, the group that makes over five billion condoms annually, pushed it to another level with its third Malaysian delicacy-inspired limited edition condom — the “Smooth Frothy Teh Tarik”.

Even the name is something that might just trigger a certain image that might be, err, a turn on to some.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Karex did it again. This time, it released its special rendang-flavoured condom that certainly sets more tongues wagging, and eyebrows raised.

Why rendang? In Karex own words, there is no dish that “screams Malaysia more than the legendary rendang and the mixture of exotic spices native to South-East Asia”.

Like the rendang, the company expected the product to grab the attention at “the first whiff and bite”.

“We want to make condom use as socially acceptable as toothpaste, and safer sex as second nature as wearing a seatbelt.

“Innovation is key in any business. The structure of condom does not change but the way it is made has evolved tremendously,” Karex group CEO Goh Miah Kiat told The Malaysian Reserve.

The structure of condom does not change but the way it is made has evolved tremendously, says Goh

Serious Business

As much as the company tries to inject fun and humour in its marketing strategy, one has to admit that selling condoms is a serious business.

Think about it. The use of a condom might save someone from being infected with sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) while saving one from facing other complications in life (please refer to the Zazoo ads).

According to the Malaysian AIDS Council data, from 1986 to 2016, a total of 111,916 HIV cases were reported in Malaysia.

Of the total, 89% or 99,338 were from the male population, while the remaining 11% or 12,578 were female.

Homosexuals and bisexuals were at the top of the list with the highest risk factor for HIV transmission in 2016 at 46%, followed by heterosexual (39%) and intravenous drug users (11%).

The likelihood of infection from mother to child is only at 1%.

Malaysia has also been plagued with teenage pregnancy issues in recent years. It has been reported that Malaysia recorded an average of 18,000 teenage pregnancies each year.

Some 1,500 young girls get pregnant each month on average, or 50 girls a day nationwide, and they mainly get their treatment at government clinics. There is also a rising concern about unwanted pregnancies and abandoned babies.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said from 2010 to May 2019, there were a total of 1,010 recorded cases of abandoned babies.

Of the 1,010 cases, Dr Wan Azizah said 64% of the babies were found dead.

Despite all the efforts to bring the issues to light, the real message, more often than not, is very difficult to disseminate.

The use of condoms, or even talks on sex education, is somewhat taboo in a Muslim-majority Malaysia.

There are still men who are embarrassed to get close to the condom section at the convenience stores, which could be likened to the more conservative women who find it difficult to buy their own tampons.

While there are other solutions available besides condoms to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies, perhaps the rendang-flavoured condom can break the taboo for more Malaysians to talk about safe sex.

After all, Karex has produced 72,000 pieces of the rendang-flavoured condom to be distributed in the market.

Anyone care for a taste?