Last evening, Norton by Symantec held a media-only session with bloggers and journalists in Singapore. It was to discuss (and probably, educate) the top online shopping tips and best practices when security is at stake. Eugene Teo, manager of Symantec Security Response shared that there is still a large majority of Internet users who do not use anti-virus solutions. It is, of course, worrying that one in three consumers find it safe to conduct online transactions, and even more so when 29 percent shop through free or unsecured Wi-Fi connections.

While the meeting was useful and great for understanding how cybercrime could attack anyone, there was just one thing that bugged me throughout. The ones who are silly, gullible and careless enough to not use anti-virus softwares are not on them. And there doesn’t seem to be an effort to reach out to these people in Symantec’s target audience.

Why are people averse?

Well, I could bore you with more statistics like the total net cost of cybercrime, but I don’t think that’s of any use to consumers. Even if I were to report a record-high 99 percent of Internet users getting bombarded with malware, you wouldn’t care about anti-virus solutions if you aren’t already a customer. It’s not even about the price of the software. It’s about complacency.

It’s time to think about why people are so averse to anti-virus softwares, and Symantec, I don’t just mean you. I am referring to every single kind of paid and free online anti-virus available under the Sun. There are a few reasons, and I got these from asking people in the tech community. Some reported that since they were using an Apple product (in this case, a MacBook), they don’t think about getting some sort of protection against viruses. Others noted that it either slowed their computers or are too difficult and complex to use. While they all have their different reasons — here’s three from me. Firstly, I’m way too lazy to go download or install something which protects me from some sort of digital catastrophe. Secondly, I dread installing softwares which require me to type a whole lot of details and press many buttons. I like my things simple, period. And lastly, these anti-virus softwares always seem to stop me from visiting completely legitimate websites (which somehow do not have the padlock of safety). That being said, please do not try to hack me just because I don’t have an anti-virus software installed on my MacBook — I only have incredibly cute lolcat photos on here.

If we think of Norton as a preventive, defense measure against cybercrime, what’s similar and has done very well in educating normal folks like you and me in getting protected? Hint: It’s in the headline. Durex, the international condom maker company has made the boring, unattractive contraceptive so sexy and less of a taboo. Of course, there are people who refuse to put one on — it is almost very often the same group of people who believe they are “lucky” and will not contract, well, a virus. And of course, there are people who choose not to use a condom because of their religious or personal beliefs but that’s another matter altogether. You could comment, “That’s not fair. We all know sex sells.” Yeah, but look, many people are deterred from using such contraceptives because of the bad experience they have from it — it’s not comfortable; could be troublesome; and can’t even be used more than once. Similarly, that’s the same kind of experience a large majority of people get from using anti-virus softwares! The consequences are of a different scale, as well, but as much as Durex protects the users from a virus (or a child), so does Norton. So did Durex do right that Symantec should learn from?

Brand messaging and getting dirty

Durex, as seen from its ever-pervasive advertising and marketing, is not afraid to get out there and get its hands dirty. The most recent campaign, still ongoing actually, The Durex Experiment, gets Internet users to vote their countries as having the most adventurous lovers. A mere click on the company’s Facebook page reveals some 618,000 in likes. Symantec, on the other hand, has a pretty average 37,000 in likes.

Durex, in my opinion, has done it right using brand messaging and advertising. It portrays its brand as “fun”, “love” and “interested in its users”. Its advertising has long showed that by using such contraceptives, users will not be hindered from having a good experience and instead, get even more value out of it. By getting involved with gender equality movements, like the one it supported in Brazil, or its customization of 220,000 condoms for the international AIDS conference three years back, it got off its pedestal of just being a supplier and led people to think that Durex genuinely cares.

In contrast, Symantec’s Facebook page is shrouded with lengthy messages which include warnings about getting hit by cybercrime. There’s really no use in telling people how easy it is for them to get attacked online. Unless they have faced the virus once, they won’t even care about it. What is more effective is to show consumers how their personal information, websites and credibility could be compromised or get down to their level and let them know how much Symantec cares (which I think is what Durex is up to, instead of hopping around telling consumers how many people have been having babies because they don’t use contraceptives).

Dare to try something different

Instead of heaving an overly loud sigh about how it will take a long time to educate consumers on using anti-virus softwares, how about actually taking risks and making a difference both online and offline? If we take a look at Durex, in 1950, it produced the first lubricated condom. In early 2013, it created an SOS Condom delivery which will send these contraceptives to users discreetly (and swiftly). Just recently, it started a Funderwear campaign which Durex prided as “the future of foreplay”. What is, of course, commendable is that Durex is always thinking of new ways to reach its audience. A blogger had asked last night about how Symantec will be reaching out to their consumers and let’s just say that the lackluster response given was not encouraging.

Yet, of course, let’s give Symantec some credit: it is trying. Last year, it launched a huge malware scare on the Android platform, which Computer World reported:

“In actuality, it appears the apps cited by Symantec were guilty only of poor design and annoying advertising methods: The apps in question delivered intrusive ads and placed ad-related bookmarks into a phone’s browser, including one for an ad-based search utility that was also placed as a shortcut on the device’s home screen. All of these things, however, were well within the apps’ legitimate and clearly stated permissions; the apps could easily be uninstalled, had no access to sensitive data, and — while unquestionably obnoxious — showed no signs of being “malicious” or in any way virus-like.” — JR Raphael, writer at Computer World

It also has been upping its game with good infographics, mildly entertaining commercials, and endless warnings. But besides telling consumers that they shouldn’t be putting “password” as their password, and not going on public Wi-Fi networks, perhaps there should be a way for them to get to consumers without being such a nag.

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