Words by Domminique Karetsos, co-founder and CEO, Healthy Pleasure Group, I was raised believing and living a powerful truth; Your health is your wealth
By the time this ink dries I am hesitant to say ‘post coronavirus, we are living in a world where…’ What I can say is how a global threat to humanity blew up the sexual health and technology industry, iron-clad ancient taboos and exposed its vice for a positive impact on our social and economic systems.
Covid-living has meant all of us have been totally immersed in what are digital life-chamber bubbles. One for work, one for social connections, one for fitness, one for pleasure and so on. It has meant embracing a two-dimensional connectivity with the complete absence of non-verbal communication, relinquishing our most innate, human behaviours.
For those brands targeting and innovating to ensure sustainability and scalability in these digital life-chambers, COVID-19 has spotlighted that consumers must recognise that they are living in the age of the participatory economy. Then, act accordingly.
“The Participatory economy can be understood as filling empowerment gaps and evolving our thinking from consumers as users to customers as people.” ...nothing fuels the desire to feel human again, like a global, life-threatening pandemic.
The new normal is feeling human, not a transaction, a user or just a consumer. We will see a demand in human-centric technology not technology that markets to humans.
While COVID-19 shook us to our core, it also reshuffled our priorities, causing tectonic shifts in our behaviour and attitude to the status of our health. How we protect it, track it, verify it and poignantly - share it.
Historically, sexual health is categorically excluded from most of our list of health priorities. For the first time, we are proactively seeking preventable healthcare instead of reactive solutions.
Take STI testing for instance. Usually a reactive process, in the COVID-19 era, we proactively test to see if we have been in contact or contracted it - there is more to testing for something undesirable now. It is permission to hold a loved one’s hand, make love, kiss and even to mobilise ourselves across economies.
No matter the test, preventable sexual healthcare, like an STI Kit (that now will include COVID-19 test too) needs to go beyond a reactive approach. To be preventable it requires you to track and test yourself, verify and most of all share.
COVID-19 has spotlighted that consumers must recognise that they are living in the age of the participatory economy.
A major social outcome from COVID-19 will be the birth of the digital health sharing revolution.
Six months ago if I said “safe” and “sex” in one sentence, in any business setting, I could clear a room in 30 seconds. Histoircally, sexual health propositions have lexicons that are entwined with centuries of shame and discrimination, facing a daunting challenge to shift from a patient proposition to a private (consumer) proposition.
Nothing echoes taboo like seeking a test for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI). Figuring out where to go is like weeding through a barbed wire of shame. From sexual health clinics, the government’s free home-delivered kits to online discreet shipping of comprehensive tests, most of these speak to the patient but after the results have been sent, the person is often left solo for the next steps. User transaction completed.
It’s not the testing process I struggle with (not in this article), it is the absence of shame-free language and lack of empowering education to encourage the behavioural change that society needs around testing. Otherwise, how do we track, verify and share an STI health status, guilt free? We can see that an STI brand, especially in the age of COVID-19, has the opportunity to pave the road to behavioural change. What still holds them back?
I spend an enormous amount of time helping companies understand that although they are a sexual health or technology product first, they must act like a lifestyle brand. Communicating to people that they care, want to educate them and support people holistically is vital.
To fast track this change means being accessible.
Whether it’s Boots duty-free travel, filling their digital beauty bag on cultbeauty.com, feelunique.com or a vending machine in the shower rooms at the gym, meeting contemporary people's lifestyle needs means placement in mainstream channels. This translates to normalising narratives around sexual health and reshaping behaviours towards healthy sexualities. They need that lifestyle sparkle.
Women make up 65% of global purchase decisions, own 41% of wallet spend between North America and Europe and drive global demand for sexual health solutions that meet their lifestyle needs. Sexual health propositions would be remiss not to listen, learn and launch, helping (him or) her beyond her digital medical-chamber bubble.
So we know that when patient propositions align for a particparty community, they become the engines of change, boldly redefining the lexicon that consentualises that sex is to be explored, not hidden. Self-care is sex care and preventable healthcare is sexy healthcare. Harnessing the roadmap from lab to consumer lifestyle is that lifestyle sparkle and it’s possible. This is the key. And it really is a matter of life and (sex) tech.
Following the UK’s December 2020 release of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, SiGMA Group will move its February event to April. SiGMA Europe, which will be based in Malta, will now run from 13-15 April, 2021