Is reach more important than innovative ideas?

One side effect accompanying the increasing acceptance of adult products is that more and more big, wide-reaching brands get involved in the sex toy market. For an example, look no further than the recent collaboration of Pornhub and Ann Summers. Obviously, this is still a very new phenomenon, but one question it will ultimately raise is whether quality and innovation are left by the wayside. Often, it is small companies that develop never-before-seen ideas through experimentation and unconventional approaches. So far, the structures of the market have enabled these companies to secure a spot in the assortment of wholesalers and retailers. But could that change? Could the reach of a big name become more important than innovation?

matze_pc_webMatthias Poehl

No question, reach and brand awareness will only become more important in the market for adult products. Brands have a big effect on the consumers’ purchasing decision when they set out to buy, say, a vibrator. Much more so than was the case a few years ago. That said, our market still offers lots of opportunities for smaller companies and innovative product ideas to carve out a niche of their own. If you look back at the history of the adult market, you will find numerous examples of this; small companies that had a bright idea and really managed to establish it in the marketplace – and many of them would be lauded as brands today. Will this “permeability”, the upward mobility in the market – the opportunity to rise to the top with the right idea – change anytime soon? Not likely. The market needs innovations because that is what the consumers demand, and whether they get it from tiny two-man enterprises or a mega corporation doesn’t really matter in that context. Many companies that started out small and stunned the market with an innovative idea, have grown into big players. Just think of We-Vibe. And Hot Octopuss, while not being the biggest company when it comes to its actual size, has also risen to the top of the industry. The reason for their success is easy enough to discern: innovation. What these companies managed to do is expand their reach by making a name for themselves as a brand or as inventors in a new product category. Applying that strategy, small companies can be just as successful as big ones. Size doesn’t always play a role, but know-how certainly does. However,g one element we mustn’t forget when opening this can of worms is distribution. And when it comes to distribution, size kind of does matter. The aforementioned collaboration of Pornhub and Ann Summers makes sense because the British retail chain has extensive knowledge when it comes to distribution in b2c markets and in the b2b realm. And Lovehoney have a wide, effective, and successful distribution network to fall back on with their big licensing deals, resulting in collections for brands such as Motörhead, tokidoki, and, obviously, Fifty Shades of Grey. If you look back, you will probably also find many examples of great innovations and ideas that withered on the vine because they did not reach the necessary level of market penetration. Reversely, even the biggest brands can fail, in spite of having the widest reach, the most extensive distribution network, the greatest marketing campaigns – heck, even if they have a convincing product on their hands. Does anybody remember the Philips vibrator from 200? Yeah, thought so.