Marketing has become one of the key elements of any kind of entrepreneurial activity. Libraries worth of literature, countless seminars, and hordes of experts are dedicated to the art of making products and services palatable to the consumers. Brian Gray feels that the adult industry is sadly lagging behind the rest of the field in this respect. Which is one of the reasons why he started a marketing agency called Lascivious Marketing, geared specifically to the needs and requirements of the adult industry. In our interview, the marketing expert outlines modern strategies and talks about ways to create effective marketing for adult-oriented products.
Lascivious Marketing is a new marketing agency that focuses in the erotic market. Why does the erotic market need such a specialised agency?
Brian Gray: Hello, everyone. To begin with, every company needs effective marketing to not only thrive but just survive. And while other marketing agencies may be reluctant to seek or serve clients in the adult retailing sector, we’re here to help with plenty of enthusiasm and none of the reticence. It’s really important for the adult retailing sector to be perceived as a customer-driven sector: not only among customers but other audiences such as banks, regulators, suppliers and peers alike. It’s our mission, even crusade, to highlight the value of good, solid marketing among adult retailers and to see them embrace it and profit from it. I guess we’re trying to make marketing sexy, for sexy companies!
Could you tell us a bit about your team? Did you work in this field previously, did you gather experiences in other areas as well?
At present, it’s myself and my wife, Deborah. I’m the lead for research, planning, strategy, branding and content marketing, while Deborah is the marketing communications and events queen. Between us we’ve got more than thirty-five years marketing experience, across different sectors.
After I’d graduated with my MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde Business School I’d worked in marketing consultancies then marketing research for several years, before starting my own businesses. I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of industry sectors: from FMCG and food & drink through to technology and aerospace. Deborah has an impressive international tech marketing and events background with Fortune 100 companies. Anyone who knows the tech sector knows that if you can perform with aplomb there, you’re prepared for anything!
My involvement in the dating / adult industries originally harks back to 2003, flirting with the idea of a PhD in the marketing of the internet dating industry. But I was lured by London’s bright lights and working with major brands through marketing research agencies.
I’d attended the 2005 and 2006 iDate internet dating conferences and in 2007 while at YouGov I created, managed and analysed the LoveTrack internet dating research project. This provided a wealth of insight about net daters’ attitudes, behaviour, satisfaction levels, and preferences. The study also investigated commercial and branding opportunities for dating websites: something not previously thought to have been undertaken.
In 2009, I founded Love Bytes Research, a research consultancy for the adult sector. In retrospect, it was too ahead of its time for the UK adult sector. Not because it was ground-breaking, just that the UK industry was still production-led rather than customer-led.
I’d also become an active member of the XBIZ.net community and was the founder of the XBIZ.net London Gatherings, a series of informal evening networking events in the capital throughout 2010 and into 2011. The events were well attended and I know that they were also beneficial for many of those who came along to them. People were flying in from continental Europe just to attend.
For a short while I was also a member of the UK’s Adult Industry Trade Association (AITA) and was appointed to conduct quantitative research among its current and lapsed membership to assess attitudes towards the organisation and other wider industry issues. My analysis of the data brought clarity to AITA’s leadership that had been previously unavailable, and was instrumental in the subsequent changes that followed.
How is marketing for sex toys, lubes etc. different from what you’d do for other products? Which aspects have to be taken into account to be successful here?
The big difference between sex toys and let’s say, shampoo, is that the latter is socially accepted without exception. There are still sections of society who don’t want anything to do with sex toys. A case in point: Ann Summers had to close its store in the Scottish city I grew up in, after complaints from locals. Granted, the city is culturally conservative, and locating the store in the middle of the High Street was, in my opinion, asking for trouble. But it illustrates the point.
While less mainstream promotional opportunities exist for adult products, this actually provides a great opportunity for customer-led adult retailers to exploit content marketing to great effect. Interruption marketing is on the decline anyway, so it’s the perfect time to create awareness and engagement with target consumers by providing informative, valuable content that helps solve their information needs and deepens the customer relationship. Remember: consumers aren’t sold products anymore, they choose to buy them. Big difference.
“Remember: consumers aren’t sold products anymore, they choose to buy them. Big difference.”
It’s easier to sell a brand than a no-name product. Are there enough strong brands in the adult market in your opinion? And how could you help your clients in that regard?
Unfortunately, many online adult retailers have chosen very generic identities. Choosing a brand name like “sex toys blah blah” just doesn’t cut it. When there’s sometimes only the slimmest of moments to make an impression, there needs to be a distinctive and impactful brand name that means something to someone.
There are adult brands with great names and visual identities. But a logo or a name is just one aspect. Consider the number of different brand touchpoints a customer has with a retailer. There has to be consistency across all of these while delivering a positive experience that meets – and preferably, exceeds – customer expectations.
Lascivious Marketing helps lingerie designers and sellers, adult retailers, fetish wear and equipment companies forge strong band identities that not only stand out from the crowd, but mean something to target audiences. We can get involved at the very beginning with brand workshops, to help management identify their brand’s essence (or ‘DNA’), its personality and from this work on its subsequent identity and roll-out across the company. We can work with them to produce engaging content marketing collateral that reinforces the brand values while also delivering beneficial and meaningful content to target audiences. Later on, we can measure brand perception among target groups. In short, brands are like children: they’re conceived, created, brought to life, and then need nurturing with lots of TLC! We’ll help at each stage.
Lascivious Marketing offers a wide scope of different services, like customer research, competitor analysis, and content marketing to just name a few. Could you give us an overview of your services, so our readers get a better idea of what you are offering?
Absolutely. We’re keen to work with adult retailers who are just opening their doors or if they’ve been operating for years. For some, it may be a case of marketing planning: establishing where they are now, where they want to be, how they get there, and checking if they reached their destination. So we’d perform a marketing audit to then be able to provide a marketing plan for them that will formulate their objectives, the strategy and subsequent tactics to be employed.
Then there’s more specific areas such as branding, insight, content marketing, marketing communications, and events that we can assist with.
One of the key things I’d definitely like to see more companies using is customer research. It can be a real game-changer for companies. It’s an obvious requirement for a marketing audit – companies need to understand how their products and services are perceived and the different customer segments that exist. But it’s also vital in other ways. While measuring customer satisfaction is really valuable, even more important is being able to calculate share of wallet. Well-designed customer research surveys accompanied by the subsequent analysis can calculate this and deliver so much insight to drive companies forward. And we’re more than capable of providing this expertise.
Summing up, Lascivious Marketing offers clients clarity, direction, and focus. Clarity in the sense that they’ll have the insight to help them move forward – and in the right direction – in their sales and marketing efforts, to bring about improved marketing and financial performance. Another key output is focus: being able to hone in on key aspects of the product or service mix that can be improved or to help increase market share.
Finally, with regard to the customer research services, there’s a reality check: getting the perspective that really counts – from customers.
“One of the key things I’d definitely like to see more companies using is customer research.”
The erotic industry has changed a lot in the last decade. Did the marketing keep up with those changes and with general marketing trends as well? How professional is marketing in the adult industry today?
From my own observations over the years, it’s my opinion that the industry is somewhat lagging behind others. Let me elaborate a bit more. On the one hand, I think that the major legacy manufacturers who have the marketing budget plus some new players are marketing led and have built their brands accordingly, and have successfully established their positioning in the minds of consumers. On the retailing side, Lovehoney is a prime example of a customer-led company establishing a really strong position through its customer service, ability to maximise engagement with their huge online community (which also offers superb customer research and insight opportunities, perhaps even more than they realise!) and through good PR activity.
What I haven’t seen however is a widespread adoption of content marketing across the industry, which is a shame. That said, while other industries are collectively churning out informative and engaging content, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about metrics, planning, and consistency. So there’s no reason why adult retailers who make a content marketing commitment now, and most importantly have a clearly defined content marketing mission, and a consistent output, can’t overtake retailers in other sectors in terms of effectiveness. I’d thoroughly recommend visiting the Content Marketing Institute website – it’s got everything needed to get started.