Anything can be considered offensive to someone, even more so in the age of the keyboard warrior. So we watch our words and try to understand delicate social contexts so as not to cause conflict.
But there is a Malaysian startup that makes products that are purposely meant to rub someone the wrong way.
Insult for a good reason
Your pockets can be rubbed the wrong way by some people / Photo credit: Kantoi
Kantoi is a retail brand that prints bold statements on tote bags and pouches and then sends any profits to the charity they work with.
According to Instagram, their products are meant to insult people for a good cause.
“Our sense of humor is quite sarcastic, and at a time when literally anything can be interpreted as offensive, we knew that somebody had to be offended somewhere. So we just wanted to put that first, ”said Min, co-founder of the brand.
Since humor can be subjective, Kantoi simply finds another way to do something good. Whether it's making people laugh or creating money and awareness for a good cause.
This marketing strategy is an effective way to connect customers with a brand. We often share things that touch, baffle, or laugh, and ignore the boring ones.
That's what Jonah Berger says in his book "Contagious: Why Things Catch On". "The key is using emotions to connect with your customers, so that they can make them feel strong about your brand and share it," he wrote.
High feelings of excitement such as anger can be very effective in stimulating people to act, and Kantoi took advantage of this in his collaboration with the Women's Aid Organization (WAO).
In the Post, they set out the statistics on sexual assault and domestic violence that Malaysian women and girls face.
After the layout of the statistics should annoy the audience, the post ended with a call to action to support the WAO's struggle in this area by purchasing a shopping bag.
However, your pockets aren't always that negative. Min told Vulcan Post that the statements are grouped around a topic of the cause they are campaigning for.
WAO carried the anger theme while their collaboration with the Cancer Center at Tung Shin Hospital (TSH) for Pink October focused on breasts.
During the holidays they worked with the Pit Stop Community Cafe under the motto “Naughty”.
- For Pink October, her bags revolved around the topic of breasts / Photo credit: Kantoi
- At Christmas, their bags followed the cheeky theme / Image Credit: Kantoi
The team also ensures that customers know exactly where their money is going. Each package contains a flyer explaining the campaign.
Bags to the grocery store with
As a daytime TV producer, Min had just shipped the second season of The Bridge when the film industry stalled during the MCO.
With plenty of time in her hands, she honed her skills as a home cook. After making many trips to the grocery store, she found that she needed more reusable bags.
At the same time, the business in their regular print shop was hit hard by the pandemic. This inspired her to design and print some grocery bags for fun.
"Not only would it vent my somewhat inadequate sense of humor and give me a new project – the baking really ruined my waistline – but hopefully it would help the store a bit," Min mused.
The carrier bags are great for reusable shopping bags / Photo credit: Kantoi
She made a small amount and distributed it to close friends and family. Before long, people were begging to buy them, even though she insisted they weren't for sale.
Starting another company alongside her production was the last thing she thought about, but the demands kept coming.
So she hired two friends, decided to sell them to charity without taking any money, and started the business in August 2020.
From there it went uphill. Their first batch for WAO sold out within 10 days, and requests from TSH and Pit Stop Cafe followed shortly afterwards for their respective Pink October and Christmas collections to feed the homeless.
Connections can take you far
Kantoi never really had a problem finding retailers to sell their products, contrary to the assumption that many Malaysian companies still avoid "taboo subjects".
The collaboration with Journey Indoor Cycling Studio and Kitsch's online shop is managed by the team's school friends. Regarding sales on Instagram, Min Vulcan announced that Ninja Van is also handling their shipments for free.
Aside from the friendship, Min said it would be easy to get them on board too, as they, too, were being aligned with Kantoi's mission to do good.
"And really, we are the ones who owe them our thanks because they do not receive any commission from the sale of any of our products and we throw back 100% of the proceeds so that as much as possible is used for the purposes we support," She said.
The packages come with a flyer explaining the causes. Image credit: Kantoi
As for the social issues and their campaigns? Min joked, "We just show up and say," We want to give you money! "
Jokes aside, the team always makes sure those low-paid organizations understand that Kantoi is not using their efforts for personal gain, but for the benefit of making a difference.
Selfishly, the brand is an outlet for our somewhat inappropriate humor, and if it makes people laugh, so much the better! But more importantly, if it can allow us to continue to make positive changes in people's lives, that's all that matters.
Min, co-founder of Kantoi.
- You can find out more about Kantoi here.
- You can find more startups we've written about here.
Selected image source: Min, co-founder of Kantoi