4 Strategies for Marketing Taboo Products


shocked-business-womanDid you see that viral tweet about the great deal on an STD test? Chances are pretty high that after reading my last sentence your first thought is “No!” followed closely by “What on earth is this guy talking about?!” When it comes to viral marketing, clever social media strategies can help products take off overnight (remember the popular Old Spice guy ads?) while other products simply don’t lend themselves to easy viral marketing success. STD testing is a classic example of an in-demand service that also carries a social stigma; the average consumer is not going to be tweeting about their latest STD test purchase, so common social media marketing strategies to build viral buzz just won’t work.

Is it possible to use social media to market taboo products like STD tests or feminine hygiene items? Absolutely! There’s certainly a strong market demand for these items; you just need a different social median and online marketing strategy. Here are four ways to build buzz around taboo, confidential products.

#1: Take away the taboo.

When there’s a product that elicits discomfort, one option is to confront this discomfort head on. A KY ad campaign featured PG-appropriate scenes of an average couple enjoying great sex, thanks in part to their use of KY products. Sure, discussions of sexual lubricants may still not be common dinner party conversation (nor am I suggesting that these conversations should be), but by showing a suburban couple discussing their sex life together, KY becomes a product line that can appeal to the average couple. The message is simple: you don’t have to be a 20-something with model good looks to have great sex; the average married suburban couple can, too. And furthermore, there’s nothing to be ashamed about when purchasing KY products.

#2: Use humor.

Deodorant is not a classically sexy product, but companies like Axe and Old Spice have created hugely popular viral campaigns playing up their products’ sex appeal. The Old Spice man, for example, gained popularity as “the Man your Man could smell like” and even had his own social media pages. This Tech Crunch article about how the Old Spice Man answered his fans questions on Twitter – and even roped in celebrities like actress Alyssa Milano – is the perfect example of a successful viral marketing generating its own media coverage.

#3: Embrace the awkwardness.

On the surface, ordering an STD test is an awkward experience, so why not embrace this awkwardness with humor? The same goes for other products like adult diapers or feminine hygiene items like maxi pads. Rather than avoiding the elephant in the room, come out and embrace the fact that purchasing these products can be awkward… and that there’s nothing to be ashamed about doing so.

#4: Be catchy.

Would you sing a song about Viagra? Probably not, but the “Viva Viagra” version of Elvis’s classic “Viva Las Vegas” is certainly catchy. Like any successful jingle, adapting a classic song or even a pop song that’s currently at the top of the charts (Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” comes to mind) has all the makings for a viral hit – even if the song is actually about Viagra or Depends.

When it comes to marketing taboo products, embrace the awkwardness, use humor and don’t be afraid to play up a catchy jingle. Have fun with your product and don’t take it too seriously. The good news is that you don’t have to create a customer base: it’s already there! All you need to do is take away the stigma associated with your product’s use. And the best way to do this is with humor.

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