The category disrupter that’s for your pleasure

How the condom industry is nixing hypermasculinity and embracing more inclusive messaging.


This story was originally published in the 2022 Summer issue of strategy magazine.

By Will Novosedlik 

There’s a thriving market at the intersection of prevention and pleasure. Sexual pleasure, that is.

In 2021, the global condom market was worth U.S. $9.9 billion. Grandview Research says its expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 8.52% from 2022 to 2030. What’s more, the adult sex toy market is three-and-a-half times the size of the condom market, having reached $37 billion in 2021, according to Statista.

While the condom category has historically been soaked in hypermasculine brands, there appears to be a wave of newer, hipper brands looking to disrupt the model by aligning with health and wellness instead. For instance, Jems – created by Toronto design shop Whitman Emorson – has made sexual wellness, safer sex and all-natural ingredients the focus of its value proposition.

One of Jems’ co-founders, Whitney Geller, tells strategy about her experience in the condom aisle, which ultimately led to the decision to create a brand that is “made for a multiplicity of sex and gender expressions.” She recalls the aisle looking like it hadn’t changed for 50 years. “There were names like Trojan and Magnum, and it was all black silk sheets and nude male torsos.” To get beyond the “all male” focus, Jems sports taglines like “Jems for all” and “Come one, come all.”

“Condoms are traditionally sold in an embarrassing aisle and an embarrassing box. You want to store it away in your drawer unseen,” adds Geller. “So we created these beautiful point-of-purchase displays for bars and coffee shops and hotels. We’re doing partnerships with college campuses, all to normalize the idea of carrying condoms and making it something that you’re proud to have out instead of hidden away.”

Then there’s Naughty Bags, very specifically aimed at the teen market in Milwaukee, U.S. Created by agency Cramer-Krasselt and non-profit Diverse & Resilient, the brand makes its products available for free in Milwaukee neighborhoods with high teen pregnancy rates – typically three times that of the national average. Like Jems, Naughty Bags is focused on sexual health and safe sexual choices, with cheeky packaging that goes against the category norm.

If the condom market is vibrant, the sex toy segment is positively exuberant. According to Statista, some 65% of female consumers own some kind of sex toy. Vibrators are the most popular. You can even pick one up in your local Indigo store.

Sex toys, like everything else, have been appified. Are you ready for “teledildonics”? That’s right. It’s a vibrator that can be activated remotely by a mobile phone. OhMiBod, a U.S. pioneer of wireless erotica, goes one step further and combines it with the ability to stream music while you vibrate. Apparently 9% of British women already have vibrators connected to their smartphones.

Replens 3Which brings us to the final frontier: Senior sex. The after-60 demographic is more beset by sexual taboos than any other group. Not that they care. In a 2010 study by AARP, 28% of older adults had sexual intercourse at least once a week; 85% of men and 61% of women agreed sex is important to their quality of life. For older women, the most common barrier to enjoyment is vaginal dryness.

Church and Dwight’s Replens brand of vaginal moisturizer recently kicked off its “Sex Never Gets Old” campaign, challenging both the taboo of senior sex, as well as the clinical functionality of most medical communications by using images of closeness between diverse older couples. (It’s important to note that normalization has been aided by shows such as the recent Netflix series Grace and Frankie, wherein the main characters designed a seniors’ sex toy called the “Ménage à Moi.”)

As the numbers and new disruptive brand entrants attest, there’s a lot of room left for growth as sexuality continues to shed its taboos to embrace a healthier, more positive role in the lives of consumers.