The Tale of 3 Boxes

In Pulse assignments you are always thrown curve balls.  I have been told this by the Pulse team and former volunteers.  Anticipate the unexpected. This is very true.  I have had several unexpected experiences and work experiences.  All are teaching moments and I try to embrace each and everyone.

So coming here I knew my main project was going to be “creating demand” around two specific brands of condoms that are locally made here in Viet Nam.  Those brands are Gallant and Doctor Young Lovers.  80% of my time was and is spent on Gallant while 20% of my time is to be spent on DYL.  Gallant is targeted to a MSM/TG and higher income general populations because it has quite a few features and it meets all international standards for quality and safety.  DYL does not have any real features.  But it will be the cheapest condom on the market that meets all international quality standards.  DYL is targeted to sex workers, PWID (people who inject drugs) and lower income general populations.  Both are locally made which is vital because that lowers the price point.

Both of these condom brands already have packaging that I was shown.  I created an entire PR campaign for Gallant that has included digital media, TV product placements, live events and training for the sales agents and CBO’s.  We are currently implementing many aspects of this plan.  DYL has been put on the back burner until this is all implemented.  However while I was creating the sales aid, leaflets, posters and slogan for Gallant, I also did for DYL.  Or at least mock up designs.  We have a vendor that finalizes and makes everything all pretty and stuff 🙂

The current packaging for Gallant is simple and clean.  It basically is a man’s tuxedo/suit design.  We have customized the ties to be rainbow when we are promoting to the MSM/TG populations.  If not it stays black and white.  DYL box was basically black with a green flower and some purple.  It is not the best box I have ever seen, but it was not horrible either.  My focus has been Gallant.  I also did not feel I could change the box.  That was not in my thinking at all.  No one on dyl-logo-2the team really loved the box.  The images on it seems to imply a tea or like a lotion of some sort.  But again I thought the box was a done deal.  I never really asked.

PATH does not make condoms, nor do we profit from them.  Our goal is to support locally made HIV goods and services to be made and to create demand for those local brands to keep the costs as low as possible for our key populations.  So I work with a manufacturer and a wholesale distributor.  The manufacturer is the same for both Gallant and DYL and the wholesaler is the same as well.  The wholesaler has an exclusive contract for these brands so we work directly with them when it comes to a marketing strategy.  Every step along the way they are informed and we get their sign off before we move forward.  It is their product.  We are just support.  Mind you a lot of support, but it is not our product. The team tries to meet with the distributor at least once a month to make sure we are all on the same page and to also nail down commitments, measurements and goals.  I have now learned that once a month I get a surprise.

So recently we were sitting in a meeting with the distributor.  He said he had an idea!  We were like great, let us hear it.  He said he wanted to create a male and a female box design for DYL.  He thought that they could promote one box to males and one box to females.  He felt the original box would be one.  I asked about the second box.  Oh he already created it.  Oh he also decided to print it.  Oh he also decided to package it and they were sitting in his warehouse ready to go to customers.  Hold up!  Wait a minute! Can I see the new box please?

So he handed me what I can only describe as “naughty nurse”.  It is a purple box with a really bad photo-snaughty-nurse-designhopped picture of a nurse (more like an adult entertainer’s nurse costume), telling me to be quiet and a glowing finger like E.T.  Very rarely am I left speechless.  I can honestly say I did not know what to say.  I just remembering me nodding a lot and asking how he came up with this design.  I then asked “So this is for the males?”.  Oh no!  He said it was the female design.  He said women would line up to buy this box because that is who they want to be.  I will be honest.  I do not pretend to know what women would want, but I can assure you they would not want this.  First off it is a totally cliche.  Second it is soft core erotica.  Third, if you look at all the condom boxes in the market, not a single one has a picture on it, much less a naughty nurse.

After he left I showed the box around the office and the women were aghast!  My director laughed until she cried because it really did seem like a joke.  But in the end we had a problem on our hands.  First this could hurt the branding of the products.  Second, he already produced the box and it would cost money to repackage them.  Third is that only 20% of our budget and time is on this brand.  This was suppose to be the easy one.

I am not a designer.  I do not pretend to be talented in that way.  But everyone was looking at me.  So I agreed to create a male and female box creative brief for our design team to run with.  The distributor was still insistent that they had a male and female box.  After using every sales skill I know we were able to gain agreement that we could redesign the box and he would not ship those out.  So Doctor Young Lovers was going to get some love now!

Within 24 hours there were 10 new designs.  I did 3 focused on males. There was a lot of indirect references to male prowess and stamina.  I did 3 focused on females.  There was a lot of flowers and romantic notions.  I did 4 that were basically modern art designs that were totally neutral and really fit with what was already in the market.  However I did not want what was in the market.  New brand.  We need to stand out.  I sent the briefs to the creative vendor to run with.

I got back 6 designs.  All looked professional.  Most did not look like my brief concepts, but at this point I could not argue.  This is were this blog and my last one intersect.  Our target population is FSW.  So while we were having discussion groups with them, we showed them the six designs and they voted and gave us input.  There was one box that stood out for them. It was not the box I would have picked, but this is why we did the focus groups.  99% of the people said they liked one box.  Boys and girls we have a winner!  It was professional looking and romantic.  It also fit males and females.  So we went back with the feedback and now we have a single box design for DYL.  The box is finalized and it is about to go into production.

So the tale of three boxes comes tofinal-desing-of-dyl an end.  From what looked like a beauty products, to naughty nurse to young romantic love.  Talk about about stretching my skill sets.  I can now add condom box designer to my resume. And I take great pride in that!



  1. This is hilarious; “He said women would line up to buy this box because that is who they want to be. I will be honest. I do not pretend to know what women would want, but I can assure you they would not want this.”

    Great blog!

  2. Also think the final design looks really strong, well done for listening to the consumer (FSW), something some marketeers can forget when trying to make their product stand out.

  3. What a great read!! Loved how you approached this situation and especially loved your sense of humor and writing style. I want to read more…keep writing!!

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