eroFame is always a platform for new developments and trends in the adult market. The trade convention is essentially an entire year of products condensed into three days. And of course, that also includes the latest innovations. But some people felt that this year, there weren’t all that many innovative products. Sure, assessments like that are always subjective, but seeing that quite a few eroFame visitors shared this sentiment, one can’t dismiss it out of hand. But at the same time, one might wonder: Does the industry really need big game changers every year?
Three days, almost 200 exhibitors, countless visitors and tons of new and popular products. eroFame 2016 did not disappoint. But for many visitors, there seems to have been a small drawback about this year’s show: There was no truly eye-popping product, no major innovation, no unique concept that changes everything. Which is not to say that the exhibitors had rested on their laurels this year, just that 2016 has been about evolution rather than revolution.
Of course, there were new products. However, I couldn’t help but feel that, in some shape or form, I’ve already seen most of what was presented at eroFame. And in a world that seems to be turning faster and faster every year, that can be a problem. It certainly raises questions. For instance: Why does the adult industry have to hit a creative dry spell when it’s on the threshold of real social acceptance (or maybe even has one foot in the door)?
After all, new and unique products can create interest and excitement. However, if a company’s new toy is just another vibrator, it won’t get that reaction. Not from a trade show crowd. And certainly not from the consumers. Of course, there are still many potential customers out there who haven’t bought a vibrator yet, but the number of people who own a sex toy is bigger than ever, and there is a risk that these people may lose interest if there aren’t big innovations – a scenario that can’t be in the trade’s interest.
I know that you can’t churn out revolutionary new products at the touch of a button. These products require time, creativity, not to mention the necessary resources for research and development. Companies are constantly working on new ideas, and the next big thing could be just around the corner, in which case the current lack of innovation might end up being nothing more than a footnote. And just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with optimising a successful product and adding new features to tried and tested toys: near-silent motors, app connectivity, teledildonics, or simply a more modern design. But the adult industry is unique in many ways, and it if all we do is incorporate technologies from other segments, we don’t live up to the full potential of this market.
It might also be that the current lack of innovation is a symptom of a bigger, more far-reaching problem. It may be an indicator that the industry lacks vision at this point, that we don’t know where the market is going. We are looking at a future of electronic cars that can drive by themselves, of houses that know what the temperature in each room should be to maximise our comfort, of digital assistants that calculate what we want before we’ve even said a word. What is expected of adult products in such a world? At the moment, I don’t think we’ve really figured that out. But of course, I’m hoping that very soon, we’ll see something that proves me wrong.
Apart from the fact that I feel 2016 has actually seen several innovations in the sex toy segment if you take a closer look, I wonder: How often does this market need a revolution in the form of utterly and completely innovative products? We all remember when We-Vibe hit the shelves, basically creating a new product category – couples’ toys – thus pushing wide open the door to new consumer groups who had not been interested in such products before. Then there’ s the womanizer, clearly a major innovation that will continue to influence the market for a long time. And we also have to mention Fun Factory and Jimmyjane with their design-oriented toys, and Fleshlight in the masturbator segment – I know that’s a little different, but let’s be honest, had it not been for Fleshlight, we’d never have gotten to this point where people are calling 2016 the year of male toys.
Of course, there have been other innovations these past years, and I make no claim that my list is complete, but I hope it shows that the market can also grow and evolve without a ground-breaking product shaking things up every single year. The impact of the aforementioned products can still be felt in today’s market, and will be felt for years to come. But in the wake of these game changers, we have seen other, minor innovations such as new features, new design ideas, new or different materials – all these things that flesh out product categories, attract new customer groups, create media interest and so on.
The market as a whole benefits from these smaller developments as new avenues are fully explored, and that ultimately also benefits the consumers. Changes and revolutions require time. Seeing how the market has changed over the course of the past years, one might be inclined to think that several revolutions took place at the same time and that the market has evolved at breakneck pace. And if you look at the way the market was before all that – basically a male-dominated domain – and compare it to how we talk about couples’ toys and sexual wellness and women-friendly products now, the changes are unbelievable. The adult industry has basically been transformed, and game-changing products like the ones mentioned above played a major part. But no matter how rapid the succession of changes seems in hindsight, this evolution happens one step at a time. So even if there is no big game changer, the evolution continues.
The market has to be careful not to get ahead of itself. Therefore, I don’t think we need to be overly critical here. Yes, 2016 may not have brought us a ground-breaking innovation, but we got new ideas nonetheless. And I am sure that somewhere, somebody’s already working on the next idea that is going to catapult the adult industry forward, the same way it’s happened in the past.