A bold visual identity combined with mostly organic social media has helped sexual health product startup Sense land on the shelves of Urban Outfitters just four months after the brand’s D2C launch. The launch represents the first condoms sold by the retailer, which is also carrying Sense’s other products: lubricants and wipes.
Sales by a major retailer this soon in the brand’s trajectory were hardly on Sense’s timetable, brand co-founder Jacky Zeigen tells Marketing Daily.
Noting that Urban Outfitters “actually contacted us” after seeing the brand’s social media, Zeigen says that “we were aiming on being on shelves after 12 to 18 months, but when an opportunity like Urban Outfitters comes across our desk, we couldn’t let it go.”
The retailer is carrying Sense products as part of a new sexual care line in such major market locations as New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, as well as online.
Sense’s visual identity and brand voice, developed by creative company Buck, uses bright colors and what Buck terms “sultry” messaging. The design language “mimics the bodily curves of our diverse audiences” and the tone of voice “focuses on the idea of ‘foreplay.’”
The aim, from the start, was to make the products stand out not only on store shelves but on nightstands, “not hidden away in a drawer,” Buck says.
For Zeigen, those store shelves should also include pharmacies, where he says sexual products are usually “left in the back, with very dark packaging.”
“We want to bring some light to that section,” he says, referring to what’s been done by brands in such categories as women’s health, shaving, shampoos and deodorants.
“We’ve seen big brands turn around the shelves, using lighting, glorifiers [shelf displays] and packaging. That’s really what we want to bring, not only for our brand, but for the whole category," Zeigen says.
“When going into a pharmacy, or even buying online and receiving the packaging, we want to normalize a product like this,” he adds. The aim is “an overall beautiful and incredible experience from the moment you see an ad online all the way until your dispose of the package.”
Yet, while stores may brighten up to the sexual health category, potential ad vehicles remain in the dark, according to Zeigen. “We’ve had a lot of backlash from publishers,” he says, singling out Meta platforms. “It’s very hard to do marketing for a sexual care brand, particularly for selling products like condoms.”
For now, although doing some “minimal” SEO and paid advertising on Google and Meta, the bulk of marketing is being done through earned media, Zeigen notes.
A key role is also being played through nonprofit partners Planned Parenthood and URGE (Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equality), for which Sense is making condom donations as part of a pledge to give out one free condom for every condom it sells.
While Zeigen says all demos are part of Sense’s target audience, the brand is making a particular push toward Gen Z and millennials.
On that note, special attention is being given to establishing college ambassadors, both through URGE and, now, Sense’s own recruitment via social media and campus organizations.
“We’re working with a lot of key opinion leaders, sex coaches, important figures on social media, to help us spread the word,” Zeigen says.