“The Brand Ambassador is the face of the company.”

Marco Tortoni has been working for Fun Toys for more than half a year now. Some of you may remember him because of his appearance at eroFame 2015 when he was dressed up as a Roman legionnaire. But maybe you also know him because he already has been to your store to lend support. After all, a Brand Ambassador spends most of his time on the road. EAN asked Marco for an interview to learn more about his activities and the experiences he has made touring the adult stores.



Marco, since when have you been working as Brand Ambassador for Fun Toys?
Marco Tortoni: My adventure with FunToys as a Brand Ambassador began in November 2015

How would you define the tasks of a Brand Ambassador, and what makes you the perfect guy for the job?
The Brand Ambassador is the face of the company, he interacts with distributors and shops, and his goal is to provide and receive information, to be able to provide various kinds of support, and to be present at all big world fairs.

Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself? What did you do before, professionally, and how did you get into in the world of sex toys?
I’m Italian and I currently live in the Dolomites; previously, my life was characterised by sport and entertainment, fashion, and, travel. I was a professional athlete in winter sports, a ski, snowboard and bike coach, teacher, and guide, and I worked for several nightclubs; I also have a degree in product management in fashion, and I worked on visual merchandising and sales.

Marco Tortoni skiing
Skiing is one of Marco’s passions

I developed and practiced these skills in different countries, including Argentina, Japan, New Zealand, and Iran. I became part of this world after meeting Giovanni Santini, the designer of Dolce & Piccante; we met on the ski slopes several years ago, and the customer became a friend.

He got to know me and to assess my skills and when he decided to present his collection of butt plugs last October at eroFame, he asked me to be present as a representative of Dolce & Piccante on that occasion. At eroFame, I got to meet Jack Romanski, the inventor of Gvibe, who offered me this opportunity; and here I am.

Comparing the adult market with other markets, what are the biggest differences in your opinion? Or, put differently: What is the special appeal of this market?
Living in Italy, you can’t tell everyone about your job! I realised firsthand ‘closed-minded’ Italy can be – and how much I can be. Apart from that, the common denominator is business but here, you are allowed to be yourself and to and satisfy the ‘private’ instincts and desires everybody has.

Brand Ambassador – that title presupposes that there is a brand. What makes Fun Toys a brand, and how important are brands in today’s adult market?
The goal is to commercialise innovative products of the highest quality at the right prices, developing and executing an effective strategy for a ‘marketing mix’. All our products have innovative packaging whose peculiarity has already been proven by awards such as the ‘Cannes Lions 2012’.

The goal is to commercialise innovative products of the highest quality at the right prices, developing and executing an effective strategy for a ‘marketing mix’.”

As you can see on Gvibe.com or if you attend the various fairs where we are present, we are involved in different types of communication and promotion. For instance, we maintain a partnership with other markets, e.g. our collaboration with Missis Elena Mirosedina, a famous Siberian artist.

The brand and the way it is perceived by end customers is very important, just look at the fashion world and what had been created there over the years.

Let’s get back to your duties as Brand Ambassador: Would you mind explaining what exactly happens when you visit a store? What do you do, and what do the retailers expect when you drop by?
When I go into a shop, I look around and I see where our products are; once I’ve identified them, I wait to make sure there is no confusion (customers always come first!) and introduce myself to those who are working in the store at the time.

After a look of surprise on their part, I explain the reasons why I’m there and ask what they think of our products, among some other questions; then I show them our products, revealing anecdotes about the creation of each one, plus some ‘secret’ tips!

I also provide them with some testers and promotional materials to help boost sales. Well, and then I leave. The visits have a duration of about 15 minutes but it depends on the situation, sometimes I also remain in the store for two hours.

Most of the time, those are surprise visits and the retailers are not aware I will be coming, but I can tell you that when I leave their store again, in 99.9% of cases, it has created a wonderful chat, and I’m almost sorry to leave. I know all kinds of people who work in this world, some even for more than 25 years, and for me it is an honour to know and listen to them!

Why is it important to support the retailers this way?
I am not there to sell anything, but it is a service to make it clear to the managers and their collaborators that FunToys would be a great addition to their range.

I am not there to sell anything, but it is a service to make it clear to the managers and their collaborators that FunToys would be a great addition to their range.

They are the people dealing with end customers and therefore, they are well aware if a product is approved of or not, if we have to improve it or not, and if so, whether we are going in the right direction. In 99.9% of all cases, who I meet wonderful people who are excited to share and interact with me.

Product training, sales training, seminars, workshops, etc. – many producers use these tools to support their customers in the retail trade and their distributors as well. Is that a good thing, or is it becoming another battleground where producers fight for the attention of the trade?
When I started in this line of work, I had the chance to ask some advice from the gracious Ellen Ten Brink of We Vibe and I would like to answer this question with her words: “This is not a competition but a way to raising the awareness of this environment and to elevating it qualitatively in order to enhance and improve the perception of those who work in the adult industry and for those who buy.”

I agree with her, so that we definitely welcome other brand ambassadors in the future!

How does the trade respond to your visits? Does your support have a positive effect on the sales of Fun Toys products?

Marco Tortoni and Jack Romanski
Marco Tortoni and Jack Romanski at the Scala Show in March 2016

The people in the shops are often busy and they have many products they need to know. Even though our products are among the most popular in the market, time to discover them is limited. One goal of these visits is to present the best features and functions of FunToys products.

I think it is premature to evaluate the market after just five months, also because in the beginning, there were also the fairs and the periods spent in Italy to prepare reports and organise other activities I’m involved in. But one thing I can say, and I think it is logical.

Wouldn’t you take care of a person or a situation the same way you’d want them behave towards you? I do not want to be naive but I take pride in feeling this way, and FunToys is always very considerate!

You have already visited lots of shops throughout Europe. How would you describe the current state of the brick and mortar retail trade? What struck you as particularly interesting? Can the retailers still hold their own against the competition from the internet, are the advantages of walk-in stores still enough to draw consumers?
By now, I have visited many shops and many countries, and the situations are conflicting; there are those who are able to renew and who takes care of business in old fashion. I’m not here to judge, also because many times I talk to them without knowing the situation or the area where they operate.

Judging from these conversations, e-commerce has challenged many activities, but many of those already were already lacking for different causes.

I also meet managers and staff who are motivated and prepared, who carefully select their products to offer a proper visual merchandising, and they are holding their ground quite successfully. Sometimes, I visited outdated structures, but with great employees who sold optimally, and sometimes I stumbled into boutiques with highly unmotivated vendors.

We speak of intimacy and of people’s desires here, and each person has a preferred environment where he or she feels comfortable.

During these visits, did you notice that the retailers have some catching-up to do in terms of product presentation, customer advice, etc.? Or is the retail trade already doing everything it can in that regard?
I believe that on this field, there is still a lot to do; in 75% of all cases (of stores so far visited) the visual aspect is not in any way taken into account; 10% is subject to a fluctuating visual style; 10% can count on the inspiration of the people working there, and the remaining 5% are very specialised places.

As I mentioned before, there are very few stores where all the pieces are in the right place. As FunToys we have created a revolutionary stand called Gstand, and we have spent a lot of energy making sure that it can be placed inside the stores to create a corner or a product island to better support our products and to increase sales.

In summary, I think that there is a process in place but it will take a long time for those involved to fully realise its potential.

Marco Tortoni on a bike
Marco’s world: sports, entertainment, fashion, and travel

Did you notice big differences between stores in different countries?
There are many differences but they can be discovered only if you arrive on site. In France for example, the sex shop or love store or boutique cannot be located any closer than 250 meters in the straight line from the next school or a church.

In Holland, you could probably even open a store inside the church. Just kidding, but the situation is really much more relaxed!

There are also different regulations concerning the publication of images or what can be exhibited on display. And there is also the way the community perceives sex shops as well as their own intimacy and sex life. I can’t really make statements about the fetish scene – SM or BDSM for the simple fact that I do not really know them yet.

It is curious, however, to analyse how, within a range of 20 km, practices or sexual tastes follow one trend rather than another.

What can retailers do to get a Brand Manager to visit them? Who’d they need to turn to for you to drop by their store?
A fundamental requirement is to have our products or thinking about buying them; usually, I visit by surprise after doing some internet research or after meeting the owners of the stores at the fairs; sometimes, also I organise product training via Skype.

Anyway, I can be contacted via email at mt@funtoys.info and will do my best to meet the retailers’ needs! Allow me to thank you for this opportunity to make myself known and to greet all readers and to send a greeting to the inventor of Gvibe, Jack, and the whole FunToys crew!