New Year’s Res…Revolution?

In his monthly column, Brian Gray from Glasgow-based erotic marketing agency Lascivious Marketing offers his thoughts on all things marketing. This month he’s outlining his hopes for what the erotic trade industry can achieve in the year ahead.

Did Santa come down your chimney and suitably fill up your stockings with devilish delights? And did you see the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 in an equally jubilant mood?

New Year is the time for all sorts of lofty goals to be set and Resolutions to be scribbled into journals, posted and tweeted online and so forth. Did you make any concerning your erotic retailing business?

As for me, well, for this month’s column I thought I’d move the goalposts. Not so much talking about resolutions, but revolutions: what I’d like to see from the industry over the next twelve months. I doubt whether these things are revolutionary per se. But you know me: anything for a catchy title.

So, I might as well begin by aiming high. First of all, I want to see a more holistic – and realistic – appreciation of the sexual consumer. I’ve written elsewhere on the problems associated with conducting good market research in the adult retailing sector. For a few reasons, mostly methodological, it’s an absolute crapshoot. And anyone trying to peddle so-called reports claiming to accurately quantify the market size and worth is in my opinion, residing in cloud-cuckoo land.

Of far more interest, insight, and quite frankly, utility, is good solid research conducted at the individual consumer level. How much money are people spending on their love and sex lives? What’s the category split: what percentage do sex toys or pleasure products have in comparison with other products and services? How does this compare with the previous twelve months? What brands are the most recalled, the most engaged, and the most trusted?

While some individual companies – Pjur, for instance – have commissioned professional research and consequently published key findings, this has been (understandably) examining specific category usage, in their case, lubricants. But we need a better understanding of the sexual consumer at a more holistic level and – this is key – from buyers’ perspectives. This way we’ll get a better comprehension on how much is being spent in a given period of time, in what sectors, and among which brands.

Given my professional consumer tracking and panel experience, I’ve been salivating at the opportunity to see this come to fruition, whether as a subscription-based initiative or otherwise. I might as well make a call to arms among you now: if you’re interested in discussing this more, get in touch. With a properly conceived, designed, and executed programme, meaningful data that actually helps companies can be produced. What’s the alternative? The status quo, whereby companies are voluntarily blindfolded (but without any of the fun) and with no sense of competitive or industry illumination anywhere in sight.

Next on my list of potential New Year’s Revolutions I’d like to see is the establishment of a recognised sex toy charter mark employed by manufacturers and retailers that consumers can look for when considering which products to purchase, and thus be reassured by. We’ve got a pretty good idea now as to what’s good and not good concerning coatings, components and design. Now’s the time – long overdue, it must be said – for manufacturers and retailers to embrace this.

Furthermore, doesn’t it always feels nicer to do something off your own back than be forced to do it by someone else? Well, here’s your chance, because before too long you may have little choice. Sweden is considering introducing safety standards for sex toys (primarily as a result of the number of people seeking medical help due to rectal mishaps – ouch).

The more forward thinking within the industry will be asking: can our industry be trusted to self-regulate and act without the need for legislation? Can the industry voluntarily promote and regulate and therefore offer new and existing entrants the opportunity to innovate and introduce new body-safe products without being hampered by regulations – and the associated legal and compliance costs – which would otherwise threaten such development?

For companies still trying to get around this by relying on the old ‘adult novelty’ packaging labelling, unless you’re happy being a low-price, volume-based business appealing to novice product purchasers, I don’t see too rosy a future as consumer awareness and knowledge improves.

I’m sure you’ll believe me when I say there’s a few more items on my list, but I’ll bring things to a conclusion with just two more.

I’m calling out for a better appreciation of marketing within the industry. And by this I specifically mean a change from the prevalent sales- and promotion-orientations to seeing companies with genuine customer-centric orientations. No more ‘build it and they shall come’. No more relentless social media spamming. No more oxymoronic one-way ‘conversations’ devoid of real engagement.

Whether it’s by observing companies on social media or in conversation with company representatives and owners who have reached out to me, it’s obvious there’s a big knowledge gap. And this has to stop. There’s really no excuse (especially ignorance) for not having a better understanding of what marketing really is – and what it isn’t. There’s a plethora of content available on YouTube, books in your local library or Amazon. There’s got to be time set aside to learn the basics and implement them accordingly. Because much as though I’m shouting from the rooftop espousing the benefits of marketing, whatever is being cooked, has to cut the mustard. Bad marketing is worse than no marketing.

And finally, as someone who loves a good blether (a fine Scots word for chat) and the opportunity to meet people in person rather than via an internet connection, it would be great to see more industry meet-ups. Nearly a decade ago in London I was doing this and they were greatly received within the industry. Some attendees were even flying in from different countries, all for a few hours together in a bar. That’s the appeal of meeting with other executives, face-to-face.

Remember: the erotic trade isn’t concentrated in our respective national capitals. Retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers alike are spread across the regions, offering ample opportunity to organise local meetups to socialise, talk shop and cement good relations among local industry members. The category as a whole has everything to gain, as well as the individuals participating. So, are you the person to start something within your own area? I wish you every success!

So without further ado, have a great 2019 and I hope you’ll keep me company throughout the year as I mull over the amusing, bemusing, positives and negatives from within the industry. And maybe pass on a marketing tidbit or two. Until next month, bon chance!