Relationships can be tedious. Ask anyone on a dating app how their love life is going, and watch the spark fade from their eyes. With such apps mushrooming everywhere, it’s easier than ever to connect with people, yet intimacy is now harder than ever to find. The entire process can feel so transactional, and the exhaustion and mental burnout from it is on a spike. One wonders if the search for love would yield different results if strangers spent time and explored beneath the surface with one another, without fixating on superficial factors like money and appearance.
To address this very issue Skyn—one of Japan’s best-selling condoms known for its premium non-latex condoms—delves into a captivating social experiment for its annual Christmas campaign. The campaign conceptualised by indie creative shop UltraSuperNew, explores the genuine side of intimacy.
In Japan, Christmas is seen as a precursor to the Valentine’s Day. It’s not a traditional, family holiday but a romantic day for couples. The campaign, aptly titled ‘Real Blind Date’ looks to reshape authenticity in intimacy, and how it can be redefined if visual cues are removed.
At the heart of the campaign, Hannah, 23 and You, 20 who are complete opposites in personalities are matched for a day-long date through an audition. Their preferences seem worlds apart—Hannah leans towards older men with long hair, while You, despite his young age, is drawn to introverted personalities. The twist? They enter a day-long day blind date with an actual blindfold to test the laws of attractiveness.
“The blindfold was important to the experiment. It takes away a lot of one’s ability to suss out the environment and other preconceived notions that hinder a real connection, allowing the couple to actually feel each other’s voices and emotions,” says Yousuke Ozawa, the creative director of agency UltraSuperNew.
Aligned with the brand’s positioning of speaking to the softer side of aspirational desires and the motto of ‘Soft love brings us closer’, the campaign elevates dating romance to a new climax. As the day unfolds, the blindfolded couple discovers a profound connection. Their heightened senses not only allow them to experience the world differently but also enable them to connect on a deeper emotional level. What starts as a guarded interaction gradually transforms into genuine enjoyment, with softened expressions reflecting their emotional closeness.
Annie Hou, associate director sales and marketing, MAM Lifestyles (Skyn’s parent), talks about the essence of Skyn, saying: "We believe couples attract each other not only on a superficial level but more so on a deeper level. The glue that really keeps the two closer and together are kindness and thoughtfulness they share with each other, in other words, “the softer sides.” We were excited when we witnessed the two strangers come closer when those qualities were shown from both sides through this experiment."
As the day unfolds and physical touch increases, Hannah and You discover a profound connection relying on their heightened senses to experience the world differently and connect on a deeper, emotional level. Compared to the start of the day, when they were both guarded, their facial expressions are softer, and they genuinely seemed to enjoy each other’s company. When asked what they thought of the blindfolded date, they’re shy and express mutual attraction.
Peeling back the layers in a reserved market
Condoms are big business. The world over, the condom market is valued at US $11.2 billion and is expected to grow to US $21.3 billion by the year 2030. Japan is the second largest condom market in the world after the United States.
Entering people's homes might seem like an easy stretch for a condom brand, especially in Japan, where the sex toys market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 10.11% by US $896.56 million from 2022 to 2027. Yet, for Skyn, a brand whose entire business depends on the ability to create action between the sheets, the journey into intimate spaces is nuanced. It needs to tackle the unique challenges of a saturated market and the moods of a generation that is well-versed in bailing out, leaving out, and zoning out.
Skyn's customer base, primarily millennials between 19 to 40, presents a paradox. This generation is having less sex than any other cohort in human history. This shift in consumer behaviour implies that Skyn must redefine its role from being merely a condom to becoming an integral household item, a part of the evolving narrative around intimacy.
The phenomenon of "zoning out" is prominent, with 40% of women expressing a preference for solo experiences over engaging with a partner. Further, eight out of 10 millennials have experienced "ghosting," according to a survey by PlentyOfFish, Skyn's challenge becomes apparent.
Young people in Japan often feel "relationships are like Mendoza", or troublesome. The brand must navigate a dating culture that often favours fleeting connections over time-tested enduring relationships.
Amidst these societal shifts, Yousuke Ozawa, the creative director at UltraSuperNew says the larger marketing strategy with Skyn's campaign is not just to provide a product but also contribute to reshaping perceptions around intimacy and address the multifaceted challenges posed by the modern dating landscape.
"We want to be more than a condom brand or a product; we want to be synonymous with connection. We want to be in that place where when people think of lovemaking or a relationship, they think of Skyn. The real challenge right now is to make Skyn an integral part of people's lives, not just during casual encounters but as an essential element in fostering genuine relationships."
That's quite a tall ask for a relatively conservative market like Japan. Sex and condoms are quite sensitive topics in the country that seldom openly discusses or portrays intimacy in advertisements. However, Japan has a significant condom market; close to 550 million condoms are sold every year, reflecting the cultural significance of safe intimacy. Therefore, Skyn positions itself as more than just a condom brand; it aims to be a catalyst for meaningful connections in a society where relationships are evolving.
"Sex and condoms are subjects considered taboo in Japan. We face struggles in casting, location scouting to media placements. 90% of the places we approach will reject the request and won't allow us to advertise. Navigating this conservative landscape requires innovative strategies to make Skyn a part of the conversation," remarks Ozawa.
'Real Blind Date' is a testament to redefining and prioritising connections. The KPI of this marketing effort is, of course, increased sales, but Ozawa insists, "It's really about engagement and a shift in perception."
He tells Campaign that beyond sales, the goal is the desire for genuine engagement with the community and for people to openly talk about intimacy and ultimately associate Skyn with meaningful connections. “In the long-term, the idea is to transform the perception of Skyn from a symbol of casual encounter to a gentleman's etiquette, synonymous with safety and consideration,” he adds.
The campaign is being released today and will run until 24th December.
Annie Hou, Associate Director – Sales & Marketing – MAM LifeStyles
Creative Director: Yousuke Ozawa
Producer: Daiki Shimizu
Web Producer: Mana Shigeki
Web Producer: Alexander Watanabe
Assistant Producer: Alex Schmidt
Art Director: Sayu Fujii
Art Director: Rebecca Chen
Art Director: Yusuke Suzuki
Copywriter: Kohei Okamura
UX/UI Designer: Yerai Zamorano
Creative: Yan He
Creative Intern: Luka Truhlar
Production Company: Geek Pictures
Director: Takuya Kawasaki
Producer: Satoshi Ootake
Project Manager: Hiro Kawakami
Project Manager: Minoru Senba
PR: Boo PR / Material PR