Published on: November 20, 2014
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Hi, Kevin Coupe here. This is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
Doing what I do for a living, you have a lot of interesting conversations, some of which can lead you into unexpected directions.
Like, for example, the series of conversations I recently had about condoms.
That's right. Condoms. Not exactly a subject that I thought I'd be spending a lot of time addressing at my age, but go figure.
It all started with a friend of mine, who was telling me about some work he was doing with a company that makes Sustain Condoms (which, parenthetically, I have to say is one of the better names one could come up with for this type of product …. kudos to the marketing folks). When he was describing the condom, he used words like "environmental," "responsible," and "ethical." I have to be honest … it piqued my curiosity, because when I think about condoms, while words like "sustainable" and "ethical" do come to mind, it is in a somewhat different context.
So I did a little research. The company that makes Sustain Condoms was started by Jeffrey Hollender, who created the Seventh Generation brand, and his daughter Meika. His background certainly gave the environmental pitch some credibility, and I learned as I did the research that Sustain gets the latex rubber for its products from "one of the most sustainable rubber tree plantations on the planet, located in southern India," a plantation that bans child labor, pays reasonable wages, and is committed to providing education and healthcare to the local community.
In addition, I learned that Sustain, concerned about the fact that many condoms sold in the US contain a carcinogen called nitrosamine, decided to insure that its condoms would have no detectable nitrosamines. All good, and all sounding like a differential advantage.
But let's go back to something else about the company - that it was started by Hollender and his daughter, Meika. Really? I can imagine being in business was a daughter, but I'm not sure that this is the one I'd choose.
Well, it ends up that Meika's role is invaluable, because in fact Sustain condoms are largely being marketed to women. That's because Sustain is focusing not just on the birth control aspect of condoms, but also on the women's health aspect - there has been an enormous increase in sexually transmitted diseases, especially among young women who are sexually active. If one is work from the premise that people are responsible for their own health, the Hollenders reason, then women are a natural market for condoms, which if used more often could have a significant impact on reducing disease rates.
All differential advantages … and I also thought it was noteworthy that the company is donating 10 percent of its profits to its nonprofit arm, which will fund women's reproductive and family planning initiatives.
Now, my goal here is not to do a free commercial for Sustain. I wanted to bring all this up because of what happened after I did all my research, and even talked to Jeffrey Hollender, who was nice enough to send me a sample.
First of all, my kids were sort of amused to see their father getting a box of condoms in the mail. (Amused, and maybe a little horrified.) But after the condoms arrived, it led to a pretty interesting conversation about women's issues, about being responsible for your own health and well-being. I'm not sure, to be honest, that I would've had that specific conversation if we were just talking about condoms within the context of just sex. It was a broader conversation, and more open.
Now, that's what I call a differential advantage. Sometimes, products and services can go beyond the mundane, and lead to more meaningful connections and exchanges. It is how retailing and manufacturing companies create sustainable and relevant brands. Sometimes, a thing is what it is, and nothing more. But not always.
Those are the moments we all have to seek. The "something more" moments.
That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: