China’s condom market, is it important to “Durex” without Okamoto?

Source: Tiger Sniff APP | Qian Dehu

In the NBA playoffs that start in April, most men’s eyes will be attracted by the fierce battle between teams.

But what the audience never expected was that just when the Lone Ranger and the Sun were fighting with fire to advance, another competition about “thinness” in the condom industry started secretly.

Recently, many netizens discovered that Okamoto, who was once regarded as a technical geek, ended up in the NBA and placed high-frequency advertisements on Tencent Sports. The content of the advertisement is also simple and direct enough, with only one theme – “Okamoto, the real 003” – it wants to tell these young people that 003 is Okamoto’s original.

As the online platforms with the most male hormones, Tencent Sports and Hupu both account for more than 80% of male users, which are also the main consumer groups of condoms. Because of this feature, in recent years, condom advertisements and the two major platforms have even developed a nearly “binding” relationship.

Okamoto’s appearance was somewhat unexpected. After all, in the eyes of most consumers, when it comes to Okamoto, everyone can think of not only “thin” but also a low-key image of a tech geek. Then this time, why did Okamoto change his previous style and declare to everyone that he is the “real 003”? 


“Copying” war 

In business competition, a common phenomenon is that when a certain product occupies a market advantage with an innovative breakthrough, other brands will quickly follow up in a targeted manner. 

In the condom industry, this is reflected in “copying”. Whether it is online e-commerce websites, or offline convenience stores such as 7-11 and convenience bee, there are more and more condoms printed with “003”. At first glance, it looks similar, even the conspicuousness of the numbers on the box is roughly the same.

If you look closely, you can find that there are many condom brands gathered here. Taking’s search results for “003 condoms” as an example, Okamoto firmly occupies the majority position, occupying an absolute leading position with sales of more than 2 million; Durex is the latest player to enter the market, and has just launched the 003 product for more than a month; other brands sales, ranging from thousands to tens of thousands.

If you pay more attention, you can find some more subtle differences. Most of these 003 products are polyurethane condoms, except that Okamoto is made of natural latex. This is a synthetic material. The original intention was to reduce the thickness of the condom. It is easier to achieve than natural latex in terms of technical difficulty, but it is still different from the former in terms of elasticity and user experience.


In terms of brand promotion, condom brands are also more inclined to “copy thin”. On Durex’s official website and official Weibo, the new 003 product was placed in the most conspicuous position, and its top promotional copy emphasized “redefining 003”.

Okamoto, the founder of 003 condoms, is being “encircled and suppressed” by other condom brands.

If it weren’t for the fact that Okamoto put forward “created in 1969” in the advertisement this time, few people might know that Okamoto was more than half a century ahead of other brands, and achieved a breakthrough in natural latex materials and established a 003 is the ultra-thin trend in this industry.

In 1969, in order to make condoms closer to the temperature and feeling of the human body, Okamoto began to invest in and develop latex condoms with a thickness of only 0.03 mm on the basis of the minimum thickness of 0.05mm in the entire industry at that time. A great breakthrough in technology. In 2006, Okamoto named this product directly after “003”, becoming the first brand named after a number in the condom industry, making Okamoto’s “thinness” clear at a glance. 

However, the competition for “thin copy” only ushered in explosive growth in the past two years. Since 2002, condoms have been upgraded from family planning products to Class II medical devices, the market has been further opened, and condom sales have increased, exceeding 10 billion in 2017.

From the perspective of specific categories, more than 50% of the category sales on Taobao come from ultra-thin. The most famous ultra-thin condom Okamoto 0.03 series has achieved a compound annual growth rate of 20% from 2017 to 2021, more than 3 times more than the market data in the same period. In offline convenience stores and other retail channels, Okamoto 003 also ranks among the top 1 high-end condom sales all year round, and has achieved excellent performance.


The blowout of the ultra-thin market and the success of Okamoto on the 0.03 series have made other condom brands in the industry see the trend. According to data from Tianyancha, there are more than 200,000 condom-related companies in my country, and a number of small and medium-sized brands have been born.

As the 0.03 series pioneered by Okamoto has become the mainstream of the ultra-thin market, and other companies have made breakthroughs in polyurethane technology, “thinning” has become the status quo of the industry, and the condom market has entered a more intense “close-fitting” competition stage. For a time, 003 became the most concentrated place for “thinning” ammunition. 


Encirclement and innovation

Durex’s follow-up on the 003 series pushed this “copying” to the top.

In the domestic market, Durex and Okamoto have always been the top two condom brands, with a combined market share of more than half.

The latter’s advantage lies in its ultra-thinness. The former’s flagship products, according to the sales data of the e-commerce platform, are “ultra-thin”, “AiR”, “lasting” and “classic four-in-one”. With its own longboard, the launch of Durex 003 is more like a “tactical” product after smelling market dividends.

As a result, as the founder of the 003 series, Okamoto went on to face off, not only targeting NBA advertisements during the popular season, but also placing outdoor LED screen advertisements in large business districts in key cities, officially announcing to everyone that “Okamoto is the real 003” . This has the meaning of protecting his own moat and rectifying his own name.

After sorting out, you will find that the war around 003 is like a re-enactment of the history of commercial competition in the field of condoms. After an industry innovator found and created a new market segment, countless followers poured in, and Experienced the competitive story of encirclement and suppression.

In 2018, another new consumer product named after a number, three and a half meals, became famous in the second year after innovating a small cup of freeze-dried coffee, surpassing Nestle in sales, and won the Tmall Double Eleven coffee category for three consecutive years. Top1. With the popularity of three and a half meals, new consumer products such as Yongpu, Kelin, and Shicui SECRE have launched freeze-dried coffee. Launched “Starbucks Super Premium Instant Coffee with Star Cup”, which also uses mini-jar packaging and freeze-drying technology.

There are giants in the front and chasing troops in the back, and under the pressure of being surrounded and suppressed, in 2021, Santon still won the first place in the sales list of Tmall Double Eleven Tea, with a total sales volume of over 200 million yuan through all channels. .

In different fields, the besiegers and the besieged have their own different fates and endings, and the success of tactical products depends on too many factors.

But for the market, sometimes this kind of encirclement and suppression is needed. Because it means dynamism, challenge and innovation.

For example, Tesla has accelerated the auto industry to bid farewell to traditional energy sources, which has not only triggered the rise of new car-making forces such as “Wei Xiaoli” in the Chinese auto market, but also inspired the creativity of established OEMs such as Volkswagen and BYD. Herbert Diess, CEO of Germany’s Volkswagen Group, once said, “We must admit that Tesla has set a new benchmark in electric vehicles, not only in technology, but even in terms of productivity, car speed, etc. I think this competition is OK.”

Tesla’s continuous innovation and breakthroughs in the field of smart cars have a driving impact on the new energy industry, which coincides with the impact of Okamoto’s pursuit of technological limits on the condom industry.

Going back to the field of condoms, only when a company does a good enough job can it be qualified to be the person under siege, which puts forward higher requirements for Okamoto to subvert himself.

After Okamoto launched the 0.03 series, in 2009, he achieved a breakthrough in condom material and craftsmanship and launched a 0.02mm condom; in 2014, Okamoto overturned the thin limit and launched a 0.01mm condom. The three thin condoms of 0.03, 0.02 and 0.01 have become the “Digital Thin Series” of Okamoto’s star group, and have also become the industry benchmark that other condom brands strive to achieve.


The Breakthrough Law in the Age of Productism

It’s not hard to see that from a business perspective, competition has always been there. For the siegeists, the difficulty lies in how to break through the market barriers that have been established by their predecessors; for innovators such as Okamoto who already have an advantage, the test is their ability to break through the jungle.

The biggest change in the consumer goods market last year was that marketing and traffic tactics no longer worked. With the advanced consumption concept of the younger generation, an era of productism is coming.

If any brand wants to break through, it must grasp the core needs of consumers, start from subdividing the track, and make the product deeply and thoroughly.

Lululemon, which has set off yoga fever in the world, has become the largest brand of women’s sportswear. One of the key points of its success is to start from the subdivision of yoga, to capture the growing sports needs of women.

Before the company was founded, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson spent 20 years researching ski and surf gear. In 1998, yoga became popular in North America. Wilson discovered the pain points of traditional sportswear. Using decades of experience in sports equipment, he integrated technical elements such as softness, breathability, perspiration, and comfort into yoga clothes. The tailoring process and colors are continuously improved to improve the comfort and fashion of yoga clothes, and to enhance women’s consumption experience and self-confidence.

Okamoto is a typical representative of this rule in the field of condoms. Since its establishment 88 years ago, Okamoto has been deeply cultivating natural latex condoms, choosing the ultra-thin market segment, and continuously innovating to break through the limit, continuously reducing the thickness of condoms, and increasing consumers’ intimacy in sex life.

Another law of breakthrough is that product force drives. In the era of productism, product is 1 and marketing is 0. Only when the product is good enough can marketing continue to amplify the potential energy of the product.

Okamoto can still maintain an advantage in the siege of many 003 products, which is also based on the dividends released by its product power. Research by the American Society for Sexuality shows that every 0.01mm reduction in thickness can increase the pleasure by 20%, but during use, the thickness of the condom is reduced, which also means that it has to withstand a stronger tension test.

Okamoto 003 is the current limit of natural latex material. It is not only thin enough, but also strong enough. Through the special anti-gravity condom manufacturing process, the condom is uniformly thin from the top to the bottom, so that the condom is balanced and not easy to tear; The ergonomic 3D fit technology allows the condom to self-adaptively prevent falling off during use.

With the evolution of the needs of the new generation of consumer groups in terms of health, aesthetics, quality, etc., Okamoto is also constantly iterating on product innovation.

In 2019, Okamoto found in a survey that about 70% of people would not wear condoms to have sex, and more than 1/5 of them did not wear condoms at all; on the other hand, the number of syphilis infections began to surge in 2013, The number of HIV/AIDS cases also remains high, suggesting that awareness of the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases needs to be improved.

To this end, Okamoto has introduced a condom with the addition of a special gel called “Viva Gel”, which has been shown to be up to 99.9% inactive against HIV, HPV and HSV and is effective in preventing sexually transmitted diseases. Okamoto hopes to increase the wearing rate of condoms through this move and remind consumers that the purpose of wearing condoms is not only for contraception, but also to prevent the infection of sexually transmitted diseases.

After achieving 0.03mm thinness, technological breakthroughs and achievements, Okamoto is still considering some of the problems faced by most people, paying attention to social reality, and developing condoms with anti-HIV effect. This is a real solution to real problems. , rather than superficial product innovation.

It is precisely because of the continuous innovation of products that the 0.03 series can account for about 30% of the sales of all Okamoto products.

Business competition is cruel, and it is not easy to break through the jungle. Only brands that can continue to cultivate the track and capture user needs for product iteration will have the opportunity to stand under the final spotlight and gain access to the consumer market. .


write at the end

When it comes to condoms, the public often remembers some “meat jokes”, and few people can remember the product itself. But hidden behind a piece of condom is the more important technical value and product value , otherwise there would not be so many generations of people who have spent countless efforts and time to study for the thickness of a few tenths of a millimeter.

Regardless of the results of the encirclement and suppression, purely from the results of commercial phenomena, Okamoto’s rectification of 003’s name this time is also of great significance to the industry, and at least it can set off a round of “product power”.

We can already see that some condom brands have worked hard to study polyurethane technology, and some brands have made improvements and innovations in product form and function.

When Steve Jobs passed away, Apple commented that the product innovations brought by Steve Jobs enriched and improved people’s lives and made the world a better place. For the “Okamotos”, this statement still applies.

Adhering to innovative long-termism, returning to the most basic human right to happiness, so that human beings can stay away from diseases and enjoy the beauty of life, this is the greatness of a small safety suit.

The real 003 is not just thin.