People will be debating the importance and impact of brands in the adult market for a long time to come, it seems. The opinions on this topic are about as diverse as the product range in the market. Jelle Plantenga, founder and mastermind of Velv’Or, feels that, yes, there are brands in the adult market, and that, yes, they are important for the industry. In our EAN interview, he explains the rationale behind this opinion.
Let’s start with the toughest questions: Are there real brands in the adult market or not? Jelle Plantenga: If I answer No, I would say that Velv’Or is not a brand and this is of course not the case. I fully believe that there are brands in the adult market. The more important question for me is if the name adult market is the correct title for the market? Personally, I believe this name only puts a taboo on the market and the brands, which makes it hard for all these brands to generate consumer interest. As we all know, there only is a very small number of consumer-orientated magazines that write about our brands. But back to why I think there are brands: The brands we have in the market nowadays are all created like regular brands, with their own unique logos, word combinations, websites, social media profiles, and specific target groups. Elements/corporate identities that brands in all types of industries have in common. Generally speaking, everything that has a logo and name attached to it and has its own identity is part of a brand.
What leads you to this conclusion?
The fact that I see Velv’Or as a real brand has to do with the fact that it has many fans from all over the globe. Nike for instance also has fans and these fans make the brand even more a brand and help it stand out from all others around it.
Maybe we should clarify what constitutes a brand. What is necessary for a collection of products to really become a brand?
Firstly, there is the identity that comes along with a collection of products. But there is also the whole lifestyle surrounding the brand, created by the company behind the brand but also by the fans. The fans really make the brand what it is. The company behind the brand can only support this and generate brand awareness. Social media is a very important platform for generating this kind of brand awareness because people nowadays love to be connected with the brands they love.
Why are we still discussing the existence or non-existence of brands in the adult industry when they seem to be ubiquitous in most other markets?
I don’t think we have to have a discussion like this. People who believe that the brands in the adult industry are not brands yet show a lack of understanding about what constitutes a brand. It shows a lack of general knowledge and a lack of real interest in the market. Building a brand, regardless to the type of industry, is not a piece of cake; it is a really tough job, especially in a market that is surrounded by a taboo atmosphere.
Some people argue that, while there are brands in the adult market, those are usually b2b brands whose recognition value is limited to a small number of market players. Do the proponents of this argument have a point?
I understand this point because there are some brands in our industry that only target the b2b market. These brands are created just for the b2b and not for the end consumer. They are still brands, just with a different philosophy. Velv’Or, LELO, Rianne S, B Swish and so on are all created to make people happy and not to make businesses happy.
A brand doesn’t captivate the consumers‘ attention all on its own. Are brands in the adult market having a harder time because things like advertising or presentation in the social media are more complicated when it comes to sex-related topics? Or is it just a matter of insufficient marketing budgets?
Well, it all depends on the budgets the brands have. Take Durex for instance, or LELO – they have huge marketing budgets and are able to get into mainstream magazines just because they can afford ads for a couple of thousands of euros. Small brands like mine use social media which works if you use the correct words. Placing ads on social media is still not easy, but that is something that will change very soon.
“People who believe that the brands in the adult industry are not brands yet show a lack of understanding about what constitutes a brand.”
Traditional producers and private labels established by distributors, wholesalers, and retailers churn out new products every day, and many of them are not that different. Does that create confusion among the consumers?
No, it doesn’t. As consumers, we know this is a common thing in the market, regardless of the which segment of the market we are talking about. As we all know, there is only a very small number of brands in the market that really make the difference and stand out from the rest.
You have been working hard to establish Velv’Or as a brand in the consumers‘ mind. What are the experiences you’ve made along the way? What are the biggest hurdles that need to be overcome?
Yes, I have and I still love every step of the road. The biggest hurdle is the fact that people rarely dare talk about their experiences. I sold thousands of products and know for 100% that the majority of the men wearing or using them love them, but there are only a few of them who will share a review. Luckily, this is changing. Right now, I have fans who send weekly texts for me to post on the World of Velv’Or. Just because they love the brand and feel happy being in contact with me. There are also many who send drawings of products they would like to see on the market. Products they have created in their minds after wearing Velv’Or’s products.
“I sold thousands of products and know for 100% that the majority of the men wearing or using them love them, but there are only a few of them who will share a review.”
Why are brands even important for the trade?
Brands make the trade into something special.
Seeing as the prices of brand products can easily be compared on the internet, many brick and mortar retailers feel that brands are a tricky subject because there will always be someone online who sells them at a lower price. Which would be an argument for focussing more on no-name products or private labels. Is there a flaw in this way of thinking?
I think this is bullshit. We all buy a branded phone, computer, car, etc. and all go for the bargain, so it is logical this is also happening in the adult industry. Consumers just sometimes like to pay less. But the majority still prefer good quality and will turn to people ho understand the products and are able to sell them for the RRPs.
How will the brand situation develop in the adult market throughout the next few years?
It will only become stronger. Brands always remain strong on the market due to the amazing and devoted people who stand behind the brands.