There are many obstacles to be overcome on the way to launching a new product. Even the best ideas can be slowed down by problems with the technical realisation or by bureaucratic hurdles. In the case of DO ME – a functional drink that is intended to heighten the consumer’s sense of touch – these hurdles are even greater than they are for sex toys or other adult products. As a result, the launch of DO ME had to be delayed, but CEO Vasil Tuchev is confident that it won’t be much longer until the consumers can test the quality of DO ME themselves. EAN wanted to know how the company overcame the obstacles along the way, and what the trade can expect from DO ME, so we asked Vasil for an interview.
Last time we spoke, DO ME was almost ready to be released on the market, but then you opted to postpone the launch. Would you mind telling us why you decided to wait for a bit longer before the release? Vasil Tuchev:Of course, but first, let me thank you for inviting us for an interview with EAN magazine again, and let me apologise to all our potential clients for the delay with the DO ME launch. We can ensure you that we are doing all in our capacities to successfully empower the lifestyle of end consumers and bring DO ME to your distribution channels as soon as possible!
We all realise that the development of new products is a very complex process. It includes the conceptualisation of the idea, product design with regard to its strategic positioning, and finally, the product development for the market. These procedures are even more challenging when there is an innovation factor. Especially, if the company is new to the given market; the additional challenge of learning the ins and outs of the industry takes its time. So, we are faced with many challenges concerning this process, and one of the main reasons for postponing the release of DO ME is related to the soft-touch coating packaging and the caps. The EU producer of the metal caps used for our bottles encountered difficulties which made it a necessity for us to find another business partner. Finding a reliable supplier that could manufacture this specific cap in a way suitable for DO ME’s innovative soft touch coating bottle was not easy. We have our own PET caps production however, they are not suitable for the DO ME bottles.
But we are happy to announce that this problem has been solved successfully! Another reason why the DO ME market launch was delayed has to do with how innovative this product is: The legal authorities didn’t know how to categorise this unfamiliar product. As we mentioned in the previous interview in December, we have serval business units under our umbrella. The completely modernised high-tech soft drink production plant is regarded as part of the Food and Beverage (F&B) market and has more than 20 years of experience, with more than 500 SKUs of their own and private labels. Therefore, we have a high knowledge level in this industry.
One soft drink category that is very trendy and is developing rapidly right now is functional drinks (such as e.g. vitamin waters). The EU commission has developed policies regarding this category and our other products have been categorised as functional drinks without there being a problem. Yet, we are still waiting for DO ME to receive this status. The formula is based on herbs, that creates disputes about its functionality.
Is it a soft drink or a supplement? Our priority is to legally keep DO ME as a functional drink which will be important when we deal with another challenge further down the road, the product registration in individual regions and countries, where the difference between supplements or medical products plays a big role. This process is extremely time-consuming, having a negative impact on the market embedding process for the product. At the moment, we are doing our best to make sure the customers are not burdened by these registration processes – therefore, we want to ensure DO ME’s soft drink status. We are still waiting for an official answer form the EU authority and the incorporated Dutch advisory firm that has specialised in product registration services. The Netherlands would be our point of entry for the EU.
We would like to express our deep appreciation to Cobeco Pharma for their great advice, constant support, and exchange of market knowledge! We have been impressed by how professional and dedicated their team is, and we are thankful to be supported by such a company with more than 20 years of experience in the adult industry.
“Our priority is to legally keep DO ME as a functional drink which will be important when we deal with another challenge further down the road, the product registration in individual regions and countries, where the difference between supplements or medical products plays a big role.”
For those who have never heard of it, could you sum up what kind of product DO ME is? DO ME stands for Different Orgasm Meets Expectations. It’s a unique experience that enhances sexual desire based on a Swiss formula. It is a liquid UNISEX love elixir in the form of a shot that stimulates sexual erection among men and intensifies women’s orgasm up to nine times. Its erotic power comes from a unique blend of herbs making the DO ME FORMULA the first functional drink that has an arousal effect and subsequently helps to maintain a healthy lifestyle and fulfilling relationship. DO ME is all about sensuality initiated by the human sense of touch as a catalyst that triggers the brain to activate the formula.
The drink takes effect after 30-45 min., creating sexual stimulation. We recommend using one bottle dosage per night. Yet, since DO ME is a purely natural product, it can be consumed in larger quantities as well as it is safe to use with e.g. alcohol. DO ME taps into couples’ intimacy for more satisfying and more pleasurable erotic moments. I would say, DO ME is a night of indulgence in a single bottle!
In your experience, what is the biggest challenges a product has to overcome in order to enter the adult market?
We can’t speak for other products that significantly differ from DO ME, e.g. sex toys. And I think depending on the product type, different regulations and rules apply. So, for us, there were several key challenges we faced as a newcomer to the segment of sexual stimulants. Firstly, since we are new to this business category, we were facing a market that was unfamiliar with our offering. This was mainly visible during eroFame in Hanover last year and can still be seen in our daily business routines. DO ME is a functional drink that has an arousal effect coming purely from its unique herbal mixture and natural ingredients.
However, since it’s an innovative product, the legal authorities – mentioned in the previous question – and also the B2B network couldn’t exactly place it or displayed the kind of hesitancy that is typical when you deal with innovative products in the initial stage of creating market awareness. Usually, we heard this question: Is it a medical product or a food supplement or a herbal medicine? Yet, once the client sees our product demo, we get a great response!
Secondly, as we mentioned before, the DO ME experience is based on, and initiated by the sense of touch. We use the soft touch coating technology for our bottles simply to subconsciously engage the sense of touch from the very first moment. Also, the boxes feel soft. Since the soft touch coating technology is new, mechanical errors as well as human mistakes were common at first since we were still looking for the optimal working procedures, so the innovative high-quality packaging was the second challenge. Thirdly, as most businesses in any industry can imagine, the level of bureaucracy demanded by local governments in the EU, Middle East, and Asia had an impact on DO ME’s delay as well. We also expect to face this same issue in South American countries where there is a lot of red tape.
“Yet, once the client sees our product demo, we get a great response!”
How did you handle these challenges and how did you finally overcome them?
I would say through commitment, dedication to DO ME’s vision and quality, and market insights into the internal regulations for such products. These things helped us face the main challenges mentioned above, including unfamiliarity with our offering, the soft coating bottle, and bureaucracy.
Every single day, our job is to learn about the adult industry as well as continuously educate potential B2B clients about the functional drink category and DO ME in the F&B sector. Till now, we have focused on creating awareness for DO ME in the B2B market. The education of the end consumers will start with the sampling campaign. We are already working on educational items such as short B2C demos, visual point of sales materials, and marketing items adjusted to address different consumers’ needs, preferences, and expectations in different regions.
For instance, our standard bottle design gets a great response in the EU, but it is not suitable for the Middle East region. Any pictures indicating sexual activities are strictly forbidden there. So, we needed to develop an entire new line that can be used in this operational area. And the DO ME heart design can be used for Valentine’s Day in the EU too. Moreover, as we work towards launching in Asia, we conduct a lot of research, for instance checking if the colours used on our packing are in line with cultural beliefs, because we want to respect local traditions.
So, as you see, from one challenge we jump right to the next in this chain of challenges. The goal is to make sure DO ME’s brand has a positive impact and favourable association in each and every country and respects the local commercial regulations, cultures, religions and/or political conventions.
With regard to the soft touch coating bottle, we have installed a completely new line in our new warehouse. It is a new technology which requires staff training to guarantee smooth technical operations and maintenance. Learning, testing, optimising, monitoring, and risk assessment are the best words to describe this process. And again, each of these stages can create its own challenges. One common challenge would be a communication barrier between the coaching engineer and the staff. Another challenge has to do with software errors.
However, we realise that it takes time to fully adjust each machine in order to meet our high standards, and we feel it is better to postpone the launch to secure the highest quality possible and our return on investment (ROI). Of course, the machines will not be used exclusively for DO ME in the early stages; the production capacity is 10,000 bottles per hour! We are highly committed to position DO ME worldwide, so we expect a great ROI, but at the moment, it is key to ensure the machines function smoothly and faultlessly.
And I think the bureaucratic challenge requires no explanation. That is a constant for any product or service entering the market in countries worldwide.
Since DO ME is a consumable, are there especially strict regulations for such products? The F&B sector is one of the most heavily regulated industries. Logically, bringing a new product that could harm a large number of people requires the highest protective measures. But since the production plant that is responsible for DO ME uses the most advanced high-end technology, ensuring the highest manufacturing quality, with the IFS as high as 98,53% (since 2018; a constant increase of 1%!), we do not consider these strict regulations to be an obstacle but rather a necessary requirement to protect the end consumer from less committed fabricants in the F&B segment.
At DO ME, quality is key. That’s why we postponed the launch. Our product is not going to be cheap, but we created a unique experience with the highest quality possible and, as all producers know – as well as the consumers, for that matter – quality does not come easy or cheap.
The development of a high-value product means meeting strict governmental norms and policies. There is no place for half measures! DO ME is an innovative offering, not only in the context of the adult market, but also in F&B and as a result, many officials don’t know yet how to place or categorise it. And then, we also face delays due to the authorities’ decision-making process. But all in all, we are understanding and patient, after all, our key objective and priority is to develop a drink that has an arousal effect without being categorised as some kind of pharmaceutical product. At this moment, we are close to the launch point.
The process hasn’t been easy and definitely created losses, however, those are within the predicted margins, so the DO ME team is ready for the sampling campaign! We stay focused on the future while appreciating all the things we learned on this journey!
“DO ME is an innovative offering, not only in the context of the adult market, but also in F&B and as a result, many officials don’t know yet how to place or categorise it.”
The first months after the launch of a new product are often critical for its success. What can you tell us about your plans regarding marketing and increasing brand awareness, to make DO ME a success?
We have an amazing rollout plan to support the members of the adult trade. We are already partnering with several influential businesses and their investors to ensure high awareness, brand exposure, and consumer recognition. These steps are necessary to stimulate the mere-exposure effect of DO ME, also called the familiarity principle in psychology. In general, the theory states that, if you become more familiar with a product, you tend to develop a preference towards the given brand.
Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Heineken, and many other old brands are examples of this principle. Following the footsteps of the leaders who set the market trends in many operational processes, we secured a large budget in order to continuously stimulate this brand awareness. The various target groups have different requirements that need to be taken into account in this process. Online and offline campaigns are being created in our on-site creative agencies. Our distributors will receive ready-to-use materials to educate and attract consumers.
We have a customer relationship team that will be ready to assist all our partners. Moreover, once the sampling campaign is over and we have feedback from all operational regions and countries, we are prepared to adjust our offering in order to meet the requirements of even the most demanding distribution channels. We want to learn about and help our clients as best as we can! But let me keep some secrets, so maybe you invite us again to talk about it.
Although DO ME is not on the market yet, we are meeting many interested parties worldwide that see a business and profit opportunity in the distribution of DO ME. We believe that having more channels helps position our brand worldwide and subsequently supports all our distributors due to the expected sales increase. Our extensive research has shown that it is not optimal to focus on the adult retail market only to create as much awareness as possible and facilitate a solid brand positioning.
Adult selling points and their structures are not well developed enough in many countries, depending mainly on the impact of religion, for instance in Muslim, Islam or highly Catholic countries. Moreover, we also want to help spark romance between end consumers who may not go to adult shops. This target group requires less education and is more open for erotic experiences. With DO ME, we want to tap into couples’ lifestyles and erotic pleasures worldwide and bring more satisfying intimate moments, especially to those who have a persistence towards sensual experiences. We believe that this is the best way to support all our distributors. The sampling is planned for April, right after the Easter. If you need any additional information regarding DO ME and its distribution, simply contact Marta Kusiak: firstname.lastname@example.org
Assuming that everything goes smoothly, what does the long-term strategy look like for DO ME?
We will soon see new innovations regarding ingredients in the F&B sector. Having three high-tech research and development (R&D) laboratories in each of the production plants, we will definitely consider a brand extension and/or develop new formulas for other arousal drinks for the adult retail market. Just recently, we came across great research that gave us an idea for a DO ME brand extension! The formula would be very sophisticated, but our R&D says that it isn’t impossible; that’s all we need to know!
So, firstly, we must position DO ME on the market, and if all goes according to our plan, we will introduce a new innovation in time for Valentine’s Day 2019!
Can you give us a concrete date, when the first DO ME bottles will be on the shelves?
Unfortunately, no. Simply because we have little power to influence government work or speed up the decision-making process of authorities. But the sampling campaign is closer than ever, so let me conclude with my favourite motto: THE BEST IS YET TO COME!