Lascivious Marketing interview with Rachael Purnell, Innocent Sex Toys

INTERVIEW: Rachael Purnell, (not so) Innocent Sex Toys

An ‘Innocent’ erotic retailer selling luxury items that at first glance seem anything but? Meet the Founder of Innocent Sex Toys, Rachael Purnell.

We briefly talk about marketing, strategy, and highlight the importance of their events and fusion marketing activities to help get their products in front of their target audiences.

BRIAN GRAY: Okay, Rachael, let’s start from the top. What was your background before Innocent Sex Toys, and what was the motivation to launch the company?

RACHAEL PURNELL: We’ve come from a retailer background, mainly high end. The motivation behind Innocent was purely down initially to a lack of body-safe, well designed products being readily available. We got started as nothing decent was available without some serious searching.

Why and how did you decide on the name Innocent Sex Toys and the accompanying logo?
We chose Innocent as a bit of a play on words. Obviously most people don’t think of sex toys as innocent, but ours really are. The products we sell are body-safe so no phthalates etc., and the wings are simple yet effective like our website. We don’t stock hundreds of products. Our logo is black and white to reflect how simple our website is to shop. Simple, easy to shop and effective. It’s black and white!

Who is your typical buyer persona?
There is no such thing for us as a typical buyer. The only thing that is typical is our customers want quality. We would like to be perceived as straightforward and honest. The whole ethos behind Innocent is to offer products that can be enjoyed safely.

Business guru Michael Porter advocates three generic strategies for competing in a market: cost, focus, or differentiation. And no more than two of these to be adopted. Which of these have you plumped for and why?
For us it’s about differentiation. Our made-to-order option ensures we can offer something a little more unique to our customers, and allows them to not just shop off the peg. It adds to the luxury shopping experience having something made just for you.

Your launch event in Manchester was highlighted by trade publications and bloggers alike. What were your objectives behind the event and how did you measure its effectiveness?
The launch was great fun. It allowed us to bring together some of people that we had already worked with and build new relationships with people in the industry. Sometimes the industry can be perceived as faceless and coming from a retail background we fully understand the importance of business relationships, so wherever possible we like to meet the people we work with face to face.

We also wanted to launch our made-to-order options on the website, so the launch was a great chance to show some of the collections in the flesh and have some of the designers at the launch to give a fuller idea of what it is we are offering and our point of difference from some of our competitors.

And what – if any – useful learning points for future adult retailing events were there from the experience?
People enjoyed the fact that we had gone ‘black tie’. As we are a luxury brand we wanted that reflected in the feel of the event. I think with any event keeping people’s attention is challenging.

There seems to be a trend for adult lifestyle events and sex toy retailers / manufacturers joining forces (Killing Kittens and LELO, for instance) in what Jay Conrad Levinson (author of ‘Guerrilla Marketing’) called ‘fusion marketing’. You’re doing something similar next month. Tell us more about it and what you think the key benefits are from this?
The fusion marketing that we do is of huge benefit to us, as we are currently an online store and due to the nature of what we sell marketing can sometimes be a little challenging using the normal online channels. Because our products are also so tactile working with other brands that use an event-based format for what they offer allows us to get our products in front of the right potential customers and allows them to touch and feel and to meet the faces behind Innocent. In the market we are in this has a huge impact on awareness of our brand.

You’re active on Twitter and there’s a blog on your website. What’s your overall approach to content marketing and social media, and how does this fit into your overall marketing activity?
We have tried to take more of a lifestyle approach with our marketing, as we want our brand to be marketed in a way where people think of us a luxury intimate accessories brand first, allowing our followers to be more  comfortable sharing us on social media platforms.

Good marketing is important for any company, not only to thrive but just to survive. What have been your key marketing learning points and observations so far?
We tried to focus our marketing as equally offline as online, Our key learnings have been that for us offline is proving invaluable to people’s understanding and perception of what we offer. Having come from a retail background we understand the effectiveness of selling  and marketing face to face.

What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
The biggest challenge is creating or finding marketing opportunities offline. Often people’s perception of sex toys can still be way behind where the market currently is. We focus on luxury shopping events which to allow us to market our brand face to face and hopefully remove people’s inhibitions about what we do.

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Innocent Sex Toys?
The next year will be focusing on growing our made-to-order options, and a focus on finding new and exciting designers and brands to work with. It’s a focus this year to keep what we do fresh and exciting.

Finally, as any entrepreneur knows, it can be really challenging knowing when to down tools (or laptops) and step away from the business each day. The notion of work/life balance can be a laughable one. But how do you at least try to achieve this? What keeps you sane away from the business?!
I think any entrepreneur will tell you that its hard. Even when I’m not working on the business the ideas and opportunities keep popping up, and actually doing what I love means that I don’t see it as work most of the time, which is great.

Thanks Rachael! 

If you fancy giving Innocent Sex Toys a visit – especially if you’re planning on being, how should I put this, not so innocent! – you can find them at  Don’t forget to say hello on Twitter too, at @innocentsextoys

If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrpreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

Until next time!