Reading between the lines

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 taking aim against industry ignorance and why he won’t be writing a marketing book. At least for now…

Every now and again, I think about writing a book on erotic industry marketing. And fairly shortly afterwards, I seem to arrive at the same conclusion. Why the hell would I bother? I say this for two reasons.

Firstly, the key marketing concepts are exactly the same whatever the industry you’re in. There’s buyers, there’s sellers, and together they meet in a place called ‘the market’. The same goes for the entire marketing planning process and well known associated frameworks. A company selling sex toys and pleasure products conducts a SWOT Analysis in the same way that a company selling anti-dandruff shampoo does. Porter’s Five Forces are as relevant to this industry as it is to air travel. Ansoff’s Profit Matrix is just as important a tool for an established pleasure product manufacturer as it is for a company flogging laminate flooring. Need to create a great, distinctive brand identity? Yep, the same steps are taken (or at least should be) no matter what sector you’re in. I could go on but I’ll digress.

Secondly, the reality is that there are literally tonnes of marketing books already out there for any erotic entrepreneur perhaps like yourself to pick up and get stuck into and consequently apply it to your own business. Try the likes of Al Ries for starters. His co-authored ‘Rules’ books on branding, positioning and marketing should be the go-to tomes for any non-marketers to head to. Need to come up with a new brand identity? Check out Alina Wheeler’s book: it’s a cracker. Then there’s the ‘godfather’ of guerrilla marketing: the late, great Jay Conrad Levinson. Read him too. And again for good measure. If you have to get your head around content marketing, buy Joe Pulizzi’s books. It’s the same for communications or social media: there’s a multitude of books and online resources already out here waiting for you to pick up, learn from, and apply to your own business.

If reading marketing books isn’t your thing, then there’s a bunch of audiobooks you can download. Many of the big hitters – some of whom I’ve already mentioned – are also available on Audible. Or if that’s not your thing, then there’s YouTube and a plethora of marketing ‘gurus’ to watch. Do of course check their credentials before latching onto their every word. It truly can be the Wild West out there. Snake-oil salesmen – and women – abound.

You don’t even have to pay to get at least a basic grounding in marketing. Your local library will have some marketing books, even if just a handful. YouTube’s free. Read the articles on the Marketing Week website. Then there’s your local Business Gateway or support organisation. They’ll not only offer pamphlets and factsheets, but if it’s anything like the one in my area, they’ll also run free workshops in marketing, market research, web marketing, analytics, you name it. Take advantage where you can.

If you’ve not already gotten the gist of the preceding paragraphs, I’m basically saying there’s absolutely no excuse for you – whatever stage you’re at in your erotic entrepreneurial endeavours – to not know anything about marketing, nor its importance to your business.

Yet this is exactly what I’m experiencing, first-hand.

The amount of enquiries I receive – certainly enough to make an impression – from fledgling erotic retail or manufacturing businesses who have next to zero knowledge of marketing astounds me. Not because of the knowledge gap, per se. But because these owners in many cases have already chosen commercially dubious names, created (usually) nondescript brand identities and populated their websites with anything and everything that can be sold. All this without having any sort of compelling USP, no clue whatsoever as to who their target customer is (hello, buyer personas, anyone?) and no idea as to why someone should part with their cash on their website rather than with the hundreds of websites already slugging it out for a slice of the pie. But they certainly have their opinions on social media and the ‘sexy’ stuff like that. Oh and did I mention that they’ve not even established a marketing budget?

Sheesh. Honestly, it makes me want to bang my head off my desk.

And let me not forget the frostiness – or indeed, silence – at the other end of the phone line, or the ether of the internet when broaching such considerations to said owners. How dare I point out some serious potential stumbling blocks on their journey to erotic fortune! How dare I apparently quash their dreams! How dare I suggest their company/brand name could do more harm than good, despite them conducting no research or subjecting it to any rigorous scrutiny! Yes, to such individuals, I must appear to be the ultimate marketing meanie.

Well, if that’s the case, so be it.

While I have no wish to personally embarrass or upset anyone, if my tough love (aka common sense marketing nous accrued from around two decades on the frontline) results in someone taking a moment to take stock of what’s being said, absorbs it all, puts some effort into things and subsequently brings to market a genuinely compelling proposition for a defined target group, then I’ll keep on doing it. Without exception.

As an aside, I’ll also keep on doing it even if it means someone deciding to call it quits, but you probably guessed that anyway. And why do I say this? Because your time is precious! I’ve already explained in previous columns how important your time is, both personally and professionally. Make every moment count. Don’t bother doing anything half-assed: do it properly or don’t do it at all.

The old adage of ‘build it and they shall come’ – figuratively and arguably quite literally, in this industry – just doesn’t work. There again, from my interactions I’m convinced that a reasonable amount of erotic industry wannabes are mere ‘shruggers’: someone putting minimal time, effort, and resources into it and somehow reckoning that success is now assured. And perish the thought, if none of the desired outcomes comes to fruition, they simply shrug their shoulders and pack up, or alternatively blame everyone but themselves for its failure.

I’ve no doubt the erotic trade industry isn’t the only industry affected by this: any that have equally low entry barriers and drop-shipping facilities can create optimum conditions. That doesn’t however make it any more acceptable nor any less of a misdemeanour. And by the way, this is by no means a criticism of drop-shipping. Although I’d similarly wager that if such company owners were visibly faced with boxes and boxes of stock in a spare room or storage unit that they needed to sell, it would certainly lend perspective on things. Can’t seem to shift much inventory? Hmm…I think the introspection, painful questioning and self-analysis would commence much sooner.

So in conclusion, let me be straightforward. Rather than me writing a book, why not just take it upon yourself to read some of those already available? And rather than potentially getting offended by me for calling out any shortcomings concerning your marketing – specifically those getting all giddy about tactics without any semblance of a plan or strategy preceding it – why not take it in the spirit it’s given in: namely, trying to help you really achieve something with your erotic retail business.

Brian can be contacted at, found on Instagram @lasciviousmarketing or phoned on +44 (0)141 255 0769.