Julia Margo is co-founder of the Hot Octopuss, but due to her professional endeavours in other areas outside the adult market, she chose to remain in the background for the most part. That has changed now, as can be seen from the fact that EAN is presenting an interview with her. And in this interview, she explains why the strong growth and the direction of the brand made it necessary for her to support her business partner Adam Lewis in a full-time capacity.
Julia, even though you helped build Hot Octopuss from the beginning, you usually stayed in the background. So, before we talk about your brand, would you mind introducing yourself to our readers? Julia Margo: Of course… I’ve always had some involvement with Hot Octopuss since I helped Adam Lewis to launch the business six years ago and have always been hugely passionate about the brand. But until now I’ve had a totally separate and very varied career. I’ve actually been working in the UK charity sector for many years and have been CEO of two national charities (one a medical research charity that funded work on infertility and reproductive health). Prior to that I ran a UK think tank and was a journalist. I’ve also run a large consumer insight department in the corporate sector.
From now on you are completely dedicated to Hot Octopuss and assume the position of Chief Operating Officer. How led you to this decision?
We’d always thought that I would come on board at the right time. Hot Octopuss has grown very quickly in the last few years. It’s got to the point where it’s too big for Adam to run it alone. Around six months ago we were doing our annual strategic planning session, we looked at our growth trajectory and our plans for the next few years and realised that if we wanted to get to where we want to be we would need both of us to be working on this together, full time. It’s a really exciting moment for us. I’m also incredibly proud of what Adam has achieved – he’s built the business from scratch with no outside investment. That’s quite some achievement. But of course, without external investment, growth is slower. It’s time for us to speed things up, and that’s why I’m here.
What will your new tasks and responsibilities look like?
My focus at least initially will be our direct to consumer business, where there’s clear potential to grow. So I’ll be looking after our website, PR and marketing. We’ll shortly be announcing some new partnerships and there’ll be some other big developments in the next few months. Apart from that, I’ll be helping Adam to build the organisation behind Hot Octopuss and drive sustainable growth. This will free him up to focus on the other core parts of the business including our product pipeline.
Where do you see Hot Octopuss positioned in today’s sex toy marketplace?
At the moment we have a unique product proposition and are still one of the only manufacturers to succeed with an innovative penis toy. We have a fantastic balance across age and gender in our customer base. But we are a niche company with a small portfolio and we will now be looking to grow our customer base and product offering quite significantly in the next few months and years. I am very focused on us delivering a really innovative and successful vulva toy and think there is huge opportunity in the interactive and app-enabled product market. Aside from this, as a brand we seek to be far more inclusive and I have a personal interest in the trans and gay markets where I feel the product offerings are pretty poor.
Isn’t it incredibly difficult to score big in a product-flooded market, no matter how well-designed your toys are? How difficult is it not to be drowned by the mass, even if you have innovative ideas?
Some parts of the market are more challenging than others. The female market is busier and it’s more difficult to break through. We saw this ourselves with the Queen Bee. But I see huge opportunities elsewhere where consumers are crying out for new product, for example in the trans market and gay couples market. In terms of breaking through, it’s also never just about the product – you need to be able to communicate the product features in a way that is instantly clear to the end consumer and that can be tricky in this market. But I actually don’t think the market is flooded with product; I think consumer demand is growing and nowhere near its peak – particularly for some key groups – and we need to keep innovating to keep up with that demand.
Has this year marked the end of the era of classic vibration technology?
Absolutely not. Classic vibration technology has survived since the 1880s because it’s very effective. Innovation is all well and good, but we should not lose sight of what works. I believe there’ll always be a place for classic vibration tech.
“Classic vibration technology has survived since the 1880s because it’s very effective.”
The category ‘male toys’ has gained a lot of momentum in recent years. Which direction is this development taking? What drives it forward?
Consumer demand! More and more men are discovering that sex toys can give them incredible masturbation experiences and powerful orgasms and this market is growing and growing.
Some people feel that the ‘male toys’ category lacks game changers the likes of which we have seen in the product categories for women and couples. What is your opinion on this?
Well, PULSE was certainly a game changer as we introduced the first penis toy that delivered powerful oscillations rather than more superficial vibrations to the user. Products such as the Autoblow have also been game changers. I certainly think there could be more innovation in this market – creating the next game-changing product is top of our agenda!
Sex tech is another hotly debated topic that is currently. Is the fuss about this topic justified? Will sex tech remain a niche topic or is there a big breakthrough on the horizon?
I think there are many exciting innovations out there and that the more brains come to bear on this industry the more we’ll collectively push sex tech forward. The key is developing technically advanced products that are affordable to the consumer.
In terms of sex tech, it is often argued that the technical gadgets do not add value to the consumer at all. Are you sharing this criticism?
I do firmly believe that some manufacturers can become distracted by the opportunity to add on gimmicky features that don’t actually improve the user experience but do add cost. The next product offering from Hot Octopuss will be a ‘no frills’ penis toy that is inspired by our original commitment to powerful vibrations and oscillations based on thoughtful mechanics. Leaving out the additional ‘gadgetry’ means we can make very effective and powerful products available to the consumer at a much more affordable price point. Watch this space…
Hot Octopuss is exhibiting at the upcoming eroFame show. What are your expectations for the event? What will be the focus of your trade show appearance? Which trends will be dominating this year?
We’ll be introducing our buyers to our new products and it will be a chance for me to meet our key retailers and partners. We’ll certainly have some interesting pieces to show…