Decoding desire: Durex’s quest for cultural relevance

Cultural and semiotics research helped Durex better understand ‘sexual wellbeing’ around the world, empowering the brand to tell more powerful and distinctive stories.

Two men caressing
Two men caressing


This case was originally published by our partner, Space Doctors. By bringing a unique blend of expertise in cultural and semiotic insight to Human8, they help brands connect and respond to cultural change.


How it started

Over time, conversations around sexual wellbeing have evolved, becoming more inclusive and less taboo. While Durex was once a pioneer in fostering cultural openness about sexuality, the brand found itself struggling to maintain significance beyond its association with condoms. To gain relevance in this changing landscape, Durex needed a deep understanding of the cultural shifts that shape how people talk and think about sex across intersections of sexuality, ethnicity, generation and region.


How we inspired change

We collaborated with local semiotics and cultural experts from our in-market teams across the globe to identify a set of Cultural Codes of Sexual Wellbeing. One example of such a code is ‘Playful Self-Discovery’ which revolves around using gaming for exploration in the sexual wellness space.

Next, we plotted all these cultural codes onto a Semiotic Map, illustrating the diverse expressions of sexual wellbeing across various markets. This enables Durex’s regional teams to visualize market-specific nuances and identify those visual and linguistic cues they need to use to activate these codes effectively.

Additionally, we decoded key competitors in each market by investigating core brand assets and communications. These Global Category Codes highlighted connections between dominant and emergent narratives, as well as how Durex can disrupt them to elevate and differentiate its brand in the future.


How it lives on

This research provided Durex with a wealth of insights, empowering them to tell more powerful and distinctive stories tailored to specific cultures and markets. It guided them in representing sexuality in a way that champions inclusivity, sensitivity and authenticity, while respecting a variety of cultural contexts. Our input also played a pivotal role in shaping a completely new brand world and updating packaging designs.

Since the research, Durex continued to evolve towards becoming a ‘lifestyle brand’​. It has been featured in videos by artists like Lil Nas X, Yungblud and Sam Smith and collaborated with Diesel on a collection promoting ‘Sucsexful living’.

Durex case collab

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