Check this out. Two cartoon figures a man and a woman sit on two ends of a couch in a link to a website. The man has three speech bubbles above him. One says Hi! Didnt we meet at Shenazs party? Another says, Hi, you have such a nice smile, and the last one goes, Can I buy you a drink or do you just want the money? You click on what you think is the right answer. If you are bang on, the couple inch a little closer. If you pick the wrong answer, the girl replies, Havent you used that before? before she jumps out of a window. Sorry mate, says the website cutely, Try again.
The way to make a sexual hit with Gen X seems to be through some aids not the whip or the vibrator kind, but interactive websites and manuals. Indian condom companies have revamped their websites and made them more user friendly, fun and freaky with message boards, blogs and games in an effort to build a community link while teaching you the right way to get between the sheets.
The right pick-up line at a party (the correct answer, incidentally, is Hi, you have such a nice smile) figures in the Mood4Play link in the website of Indian condom maker Moods. In its Lets ForePlay link, a vamp-like character gives you a come-hither look. Its an invitation for you to find her erogenous zone. The cursor transforms into a feather and is your weapon. You have three tries to make a hit with the girl. You stroke her neck with the feather. The screen tells you to try again. After a couple of futile strokes, the computer snarls back Sorry, it aint happenin. Too bad, youre a bad seducer.
Clearly, Indian condom makers are looking at different ways of pulling eyeballs. After print and television, companies are going online. Moods has even brought out a manual on love and lovemaking an extract from the Kama Sutra which you can get along with Moods special variety condom pack for Rs 100.
The purpose of updating the website or bringing out the book was to build a community around the brand, says Moods marketing head Keraleeyan Nair. So we introduced the idea of different types of our condoms in one pack with a book. The pack is also a good gifting option while promoting safe sex. The Moods variety pack was introduced in 2006. Moods website moodsplanet.com was revamped around a year ago and has message boards where people put in their sex-related queries.
Other companies appear to have taken the same route as well. Kohinoor jazzed up its web site last year with kohinoorpassion.com and KamaSutras ksontheweb.com got a face lift since coming online in 2004.
But at a time when information on sex is a dime a dozen, whod want to look up condom sites? And how do the sites remain appealing in a decent way?
Its precisely because there is so much information available on sex and you cant differentiate between good and bad advice that people refer to the site, says Vishal Vyas, a senior marketing executive at TTK-LIG, which makes Kohinoor condoms. A particular attraction is Kohinoors agony aunt where users bring in their personal troubles, only to get wisecracking advice. Similarly, for Moods, Frejya, a luscious fortune teller with a pulsating hemline, doubles as an agony aunt. In their own ways, both personify playfulness but aim at giving information on sexual health practices.
Nair insists its a defining trait motivating Moods initiative. We thought if you have to make people aware, being light and interactive was the right thing to do, he says. Satish Chulpar, assistant brand manager, KamaSutra, seconds that. The tone of the message was imperative. Because it is something so personal and private to our customers and online community, one has to be careful. So we choose to keep the site fun and serious at the same time.
The fun factor, says Yatin Naik of Design Garage, which handles moodsplanet.com, helps retain the balanced look of the site and ensures that it doesnt slide into pornography. The site does have figures of men and women in intimate positions, but there is no nudity and nothing lurid, stresses Naik. In Kohinoors case, though, you do get graphic sex advice in the form of some illustrations and text.
If these reasons were the primary motivators to develop an online relationship with condom users, they seem to have made some impact. Moodsplanet.com has around 24,000 registered users, ksontheweb.com around 4,000 and kohinoorpassion.com roughly 7,000. Moods clocks around 2,500 hits a day, KamaSutra around 740 and Kohinoor around 650. All three sites allow only people above 18 to get registered. Well, our agony aunt is inundated with around 40-50 questions per week, chuckles Vyas of Kohinoor. Moods isnt far behind with 25-30. However, not all the advice given out is expert opinion. If they had sexual problems which arent related to condom usage per se, we encourage our consumers to visit their private doctor, says a senior KamaSutra executive.
Overwhelmingly, most of the questioners across the message boards of the condom sites appear to be men. Though a lot of questions relate to sex, relationships get a fair amount of coverage. The larger message is that a strong relationship with a single partner can lead to a healthy sexual life and sexual compatibility. A lot of studies have shown that maintaining a single partner in the long run is sexually and psychologically healthy, stresses Nayna Banerjee, a communications officer at AC-Nielsen, which brings out sex surveys. So its not surprising if sexual problems are linked to relationship issues.
Foreplay how to arouse passions is a popular query. But an official at Kohinoor says after-play how to behave after the act seems to be an equally important issue with those asking questions on sex. The Moods website recommends the use of candles, fragrances, and decorating the bedroom. The Kohinoor website focuses on maintaining a sense of humour between partners, techniques for flirting and other ways to arouse a partner. The KamaSutra site talks about the thrill of building sexual anticipation.
Clearly, condoms are trying to break old moulds. Sexologist Prakash Kothari recalls that the campaign for Nirodh in the 1980s was almost prudish. The newer companies have only now woken up to the fact that spreading safe sexual health practices in an appealing way is an important function too, he says.
Nothing sells like success. And a bit of sex graphic or even sanitised can only help.