On April 1st, 2022, Durex Hong Kong released its April Fools campaign on Instagram – savoring a series of new flavored condoms that ventured away from the typical fruit scents, instead, opting for traditional Cantonese dishes. The four flavors depicted are braised eggplant in garlic sauce (鱼香茄子), braised pork belly with preserved vegetables (梅菜扣肉), creamed corn with pork (玉米肉粒), and the street-food favorite curry fish balls (咖喱魚蛋).
Not only does each slide show the dish itself with a similarly designed pack of condoms, but it also features witty and sexual innuendos in Cantonese. For example, the creamed corn with pork dish has a caption of “咁粟米肉肠係咪 Show me your ______”, which translates to asking if the name of the Chinese dish refers to “Show me your meat sausage”. Durex uses wordplay to change the original character for “meat” into “sausage.”
While Durex dominates Hong Kong’s condom market, its Instagram posts still reflect extremely low consumer engagement (averaging less than a hundred likes each post and almost zero comments). However, this food-themed campaign attracted over 900 likes and 27 comments, with overwhelmingly positive reactions.
Netizens reacted enthusiastically, with two comments acknowledging the creativity and welcome humor of Durex’s marketing. Other comments even responded with their own Chinese cuisine suggestions, jokingly asking for flavors like roasted goose (a Hong Kong delicacy), crab and peach, as well as pineapple and cheese sausage.
Does sex sell?
It seems that Durex’s ability to appeal to the Hong Kong niche through food pays off, even if these flavors are just an April Fool’s joke. The link in the caption leads customers back to an actual Durex product – the latest 001 release. The 001 condom is unflavored and promises to be ultra-thin for the best sensual experience. Its premium black and gold packaging also sets itself apart from competitors.
However, the regular 001 campaign has not gained nearly as much attention as this April Fool’s campaign. Although Durex HK has been promoting the 001 lines on Instagram since March 7th, 2022, most posts have little engagement, with zero comments and hardly any likes. The most recent 001 video release was on April 6th, 2022, which only accumulated 26 likes and zero comments, a steep drop in numbers in comparison to the April Fool’s campaign.
Durex has long been an industry leader in China’s condom market, equipped with domestic production and manufacturing bases. Despite a relatively conservative culture around sex, the Chinese condom market in both Hong Kong and mainland China is only projected to grow. What once started at an annual production of 1 billion condoms in 1995 has grown to over 10 billion in 2022, and market trends are still heading upwards.
Success in the Chinese sex industry requires a more subtle and humorous approach in order to bypass social norms and the awkwardness of publicly talking about sex. Despite being viewed as a more liberal and Western-valued city, Hong Kong is no exception to this rule.