One of the best-known brands in the adult industry is turning forty: Doc Johnson. In 1976, Ron Braverman bought a company that sold gag products and rubber fishing items, but also produced sex toys. And the rest is history, as they say. In our interview, Doc Johnson COO Chad Braverman, the son of company-founder Ron, talks about the company’s history and about the position Doc Johnson holds in today’s market.
Doc Johnson is turning 40 this year. How will you celebrate this anniversary?
Chad Braverman: To celebrate our 40th anniversary, we’re going to be releasing some exciting new products that expand upon some of our top selling brands of the past 40 years. We also look forward to celebrating this anniversary with our partners, vendors, and customers who have played an integral role in getting us here. We have a few other tricks up our sleeves, but don’t want to give them away just yet.
Let’s take a look back at 1976. Was there even a market for erotic products back then and how did Doc Johnson get started?
Doc Johnson was born in 1976 when our founder, Ron Braverman, purchased a very small company that sold adult toys along with gag novelties and rubber fishing items. The adult items were selling so well that he quickly made the decision to focus exclusively on creating a sex toy company, with all manufacturing to be kept in America.
At the time, there really wasn’t an erotic market, in the traditional sense. Sex toys were being lumped in with other types of novelty products, and sex shops were still fairly unregulated. Doc Johnson was the natural response to a void in the market.
Ron Braverman and his then one-year old son Chad, 1983
One could say that Doc Johnson helped develop the erotic industry into what it is today. Are there any achievements the company is especially proud of when you look back at the past 40 years?
In 1976, the Doc Johnson factory in North Hollywood was just 1,500 square feet and had nine employees. Now, 40 years later, Doc Johnson is the largest pleasure products manufacturer in America, with a family of over 500 team members, multiple buildings on a campus of more than 250,000 square feet, and a catalogue of over 2,000 products.
We’re especially proud of the extraordinary results we have achieved while keeping the great majority of our products manufactured in the United States. Today, not only do we over 75% of our products in America, but we also strive to create the most innovative and highest quality, body safe products on the market.
As far as all-time bestsellers go, our Original Pocket Rocket™ and iVibe Rabbit vibrators have both become household names. Some more recent milestones include being certified cruelty-free by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the largest animal rights organisation in the world, through PETA’s Beauty without Bunnies program in 2015, and the great success of our Ask The Doc radio show on Playboy Radio. The show launched in 2014, and we’ve seen unprecedented growth since then, with record-breaking viewership, and a recent Marketing Campaign of the Year Award from XBiz to honour the show’s success.
Ken Dorfman (Sales Manager), Jerry Cohn (Production Manager), and Harry Krigsman (Packaging Supplier) in the early 80s
Fashion moves in circles and popular designs always come back after some time. Do you see a similar phenomenon in the erotic industry? If so, what will come back next?
Staying ahead of market trends has always been a priority at Doc Johnson, but it’s much more important for us to follow our own instincts rather than try to blindly cater to all the latest trends. Integrity is everything.
People see Doc Johnson as being synonymous with innovative and top-quality pleasure products, because that’s where we choose to focus most of our energy.
Having a great product is often not enough: If the customer doesn’t know about it, he still can’t buy it. How has your advertising and marketing changed throughout the decades?
In the past few years, we have increased our focus on outreach and branding. It is the job of our marketing department to determine what drives our consumers, and how we can make our products more accessible to the public. The marketing team also spends a considerable amount of time interacting directly with customers through channels like Twitter and Facebook. The fruits of their teamwork have been recognised with frequent prestigious industry awards and press for their accomplishments.
Ron and Chad Braverman at the company’s 30th anniversary party
The erotic market is moving faster today than it did in the past. How does a rather big company like Doc Johnson stay flexible enough to adapt to changes? Which measures have you taken to make sure you are always ahead of the curve?
Originality and innovation have always been at the core of our business strategy and our vision. We’ve developed and released some of the most ground-breaking products on the market and we have always shied away from any concepts that seemed too similar to another company’s concept. Sometimes it is a challenge to work with concepts that don’t necessarily come pre-approved with an established track record for success, but our innovation has certainly paid off.
The Doc Johnson team in 2016
What do you think sex toys will look like in 40 years?
Society is becoming more and more open-minded and liberal when it comes to sexual health and wellness. I imagine that sex toys will become more and more accessible to the mainstream, as far as social norms go. Packaging and design will also move towards the mainstream, with industry growth facilitating greater diversity and room to target more specialised demographics.