Category Archives: Blog

INTERVIEW: Victoria Jane, Crowned Jewels

Meet the Norfolk sex toy company working hard for your pleasure, and your royal approval: Crowned Jewels.

Co-Founder Victoria Jane talks marketing, quality, and saucy London inspiration!

BRIAN GRAY: Who’s behind Crowned Jewels, and what’s the brief history behind it all?

VICTORIA JANE: Crowned Jewels is owned and run by James and Victoria. Founded in 2008, Crowned Jewels started out making sex toys in Sterling Silver and has since evolved and added to its catalogue with new products and accessories, all handcrafted in Titanium and Aluminium and Precious metals.

Hard at work for your pleasure, in Norfolk. [credit: Crowned Jewels]
We are passionate about designing and making, beautiful, body-safe sex toys and accessories. To explore and enjoy your own and your partner’s body, to enhance its potential and improve your sex life, with style and confidence. It has been our ethos from day one to make exciting adult toys that are crafted from only completely body safe and high-grade materials. They are hand-made in our workshops, based in a 300 year-old barn, on a sprawling country estate, in the heart of the beautiful Norfolk countryside. Our high standards ensure quality and purity throughout, resulting in our stunning range of products available, for you to purchase and enjoy.

There’s a plethora of sex toy manufacturers and sellers competing for market share. Why should people buy from Crowned Jewels?
Crowned Jewels are the only metal sex toy company, that we are aware of, that have their finished products and materials independently verified to ensure compliance with current safety legislation.  When customers buy from us, they are assured to receive quality, safe, products. That’s why we don’t need a 365 day returns policy.

We are the only manufacturer to manufacture 100% of our products solely in the UK and it is for this reason that we can keep close control of our high quality production processes.

“Getting off at Earl’s Court, Sir?” [credit: Crowned Jewels]
Many of your products are named after London locales. Please tell us there’s a saucy story behind each one! Or if not, at least tell us the rationale behind it all.
The rationale behind our product names stems from the Crowned Jewels being associated with London. We then chose the London based names because the choice available was too good to miss. The cheeky relevance to what the products are and where/what they are used for was irresistible – just pure, saucy innuendo! Names like ‘Highbury’ and ‘Upminster’ for butt plugs and ‘Marylebone’ and ‘Shaftsbury’ for dildos , is almost descriptive. ‘Court’ is a circle, so Hampton, Earl’s and Baron’s Court as names for the cock rings was also a natural choice. Needless to say, we have a lot of fun naming our products. Watch out for our new strap-on dildo, which will be available very soon, called ‘Cockfosters’.

Talking of London, as well as directly selling from your website and through other stockists, you also exhibit at the London Alternative Market. Tell us more about your involvement in this, and how vital a component is it in your marketing activities?
We are new to the London Alternative Market and have found it to be a great relaxed, warm and welcoming marketplace to sell and promote our products and what we do. Customers get a chance to view and handle the products and ask any questions they have in a safe and likeminded environment. The sort of questions you may not feel comfortable asking friends or family but would help you enjoy a better sex life and make good, informed choices for products and lifestyle.

Who is the typical Crowned Jewels customer? And what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
A typical Crowned Jewels customer is a conscientious adult. If you’re conscious of what you put in your body then you wouldn’t choose anything other than a Crowned Jewels product for tickling your most intimate of desires.
Quality, Pleasure and Functionality

 A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?
‘Perfection’ after all, this is our daily strive! Our independent reviews give credence to this being our consistent achievement.

What has been the highlight so far in your entrepreneurial journey, and why?
Wow, so many highlights and experiences, it’s hard to choose! We’ve been lucky enough to meet so many fabulous people, made products that have literally changed people’s lives and have saved relationships. It’s been an honour to meet and work with such a diverse range of customers.

Ornate. And orgasmic? Find out for yourself! [credit: Crowned Jewels]
We’ve made diamond set vibrators for celebrities and a solid silver Upminster Butt Plug set with a 30ct Pink Sapphire (Retail value in excess $100,000). We’ve met wonderful people from every walk of life, gender and sexual preference and we’ve sold products to customers all around the world.

I guess this can all be summed up as ‘Knowledge’. Knowledge we have acquired understanding consumer trends and the hunger of consumers for knowledge to develop their own sexual prowess.

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?
It’s very hard to market sex toys. Sex sells everything but when you try to use sex to sell sex, it can be considered sleazy.

“Shaftsbury Avenue ?” [credit: Crowned Jewels]
Choosing fun and interesting names for the products has been something our customers love and being a British company, our foreign customers like the direct connection. Our key marketing points are:

  • The safety of our products
  • The beautiful anodised colours of the Titanium – and we are the only company to produce a range of Medical Grade Titanium Sex Toys,
  • Handmade in Great Britain
  • The fact that they’re ‘eco-friendly’ i.e. we ‘grow’ them on a farm, in Norfolk, using wind and solar power (we consider this ‘Normal for Norfolk’!)
  • Being made of metal our products are recyclable, unlike the mass market of silicone products.
  • Even our packaging is luxurious, yet 95% recyclable, with not a blister pack in sight.
  • We use traditional wax and a seal to finish all our product packaging, another personal touch that our customers love.

What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
Getting ‘out there’ and getting our products and strong company ethos known has not been easy. We use social media to get our message across but because of the type of industry we are in, we are not allowed to advertise on Facebook or Twitter, unlike other business sectors. Some companies now advertise on television, but it is very expensive and for a small company like us, that is not feasible.

We continue to grow our company organically, along with our creation of branded products such as jewellery, to create greater brand awareness in the public eye.

What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far both about competing in the adult retailing industry, and as an entrepreneur?
We’ve learned that like most small businesses, it is certainly not a level playing field. Resistance in the industry to newcomers, especially with quality products, is particularly strong and I know several companies that have given up as it’s too hard to compete in a world of cheap, low quality products, mass produced in foreign countries, with no regulations, let alone standards.

Definitely something to be proud of. [credit: Crowned Jewels]
Through British excellence in engineering, we, against all odds, have managed to create products that compete commercially on price with Chinese manufactured products, yet put the quality of imported goods, (be they from China or Pakistan, the two major manufacturers of adult goods), to shame!

We are proud of our products, how beautiful they are and the pleasure they can bring. We celebrate the fact that they are different and the feedback from our customers reinforces how great they are to use. Happy customers equals happy company!

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Crowned Jewels?
We are busy in the workshop making and testing new products and will have some fabulous new releases to tempt and excite you later this year. We are working with Ann Summers, which is very exciting, and have current products online and in select stores with them, including Norwich, our local store and their Red Room in the Marble Arch store.

With tightening regulation coming to the market place we are intent upon becoming the dominant source for safe, high quality, desirable yet affordable products to the sexually liberated people of the world.


Thanks, Victoria! While awaiting the royal seal of approval from Buckingham Palace there’s no doubt you’ve already got it from your customer base!

If you never want to think of London locations – or tube stations – in the same light again (or at least want to do so with a huge grin on your face) head over to the Crowned Jewels website  and tweet to Crowned Jewels on Twitter for good measure.


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

Until next time!


NEWS: What’s Going On

‘Time for a Lascivious Marketing update?  Our thinking too.

Website content, interviews, magazine and book writing, newsletters: there’s a lot to cover!

I hope you’re enjoying the mix of industry interviews and pearls of marketing wisdom from Yours Truly. There’s a gamut of talent out there and it’s refreshing to feel – albeit through reading – the ambition pouring from interviewees when talking about their respective journeys, the marketing issues being faced and how they manage things. It’s always been my hope that these interviews will be thought-provoking and act as a catalyst for your own ‘light bulb’ marketing moments.

Here’s the current selection for you to click on and read:

Jessie Maeday – Elysian Latex
Liam McKenzie  – Couples Playthings
Nataliya Vakhovskaya – LoveBox
Pierre & Hannah – Slap Stick Club
Rachael Purnell – Innocent Sex Toys
Martin King – Sinsins Boutique
Jo – Velvet Fleurs
Sophie Thorne – Twisted Lingerie
Eva Cincar – Persian Palm

And for future use just type ‘interview’ in the search function on the top right of the website (magnifying glass icon) and each one will be listed.  Or use this weblink to find Lascivious Marketing interviews.

Do keep coming back here as the interviews are an integral part of the website plus there’s some great sexySMEs lined up to appear. And as for further down the line, maybe it could be YOUR #sexySME company being highlighted.

Some of you will have already seen my original Lascivious Marketing interview for European erotic trade journal, EAN, a few months ago, whereby I explained the raison d’etre of Lascivious Marketing, and the type of help we provide to adult retailers and associated companies.

Since then, involvement with EAN has deepened. Starting this month, I’m writing a monthly marketing column for the European erotic trade magazine, EAN. You can find my first offering, titled “It’s Good to Talk,” on page 60 of the July edition, which you can either download or view online. I hope you find this – and all my subsequent words there – enjoyable, but more importantly, thought provoking, and stirring enough to make you act on them to drive your own #sexySME onwards and upwards.

Last month, Lascivious Marketing and EAN jointly announced an adult retailing research programme designed to provide the industry with some robust data that would provide insight into the state of the industry in the summer of 2017. The findings will be instrumental in driving discussion and debate among industry professionals and ideally serve as an excellent foundation on which to base subsequent survey waves at regular intervals.

To this end, an opt-in adult retailing industry research panel has been created, which will be managed by Lascivious Marketing. Industry professionals who sign up can look forward to giving their opinions throughout the year on key issues.

Have YOU signed up to join the panel? Seriously, if you’re involved in adult retailing, your views are important and they do matter. You belong in the research panel: it’s as simple as that.  And while it was hoped that the inaugural survey fieldwork would have already been completed by this time and I’d be neck deep in tabulations and key driver analysis, the reality is somewhat different. In a nutshell, we still don’t have enough panel members to make the survey a worthwhile exercise. Even if there was a 100% response rate from those already signed up, the subsequent dataset could not be considered robust enough to stand up to scrutiny, nor would it allow for any sub-group drill-downs.

As there hasn’t been any industry research survey like this conducted before, there’s no benchmark established for likely response rate. Therefore, it’s really important that there are sufficient numbers of panel sign-ups. And the sooner those materialise, the sooner the survey can be launched – it’s that simple.

So, if you’ve not signed up yet and you want to participate, don’t put it off. Sign up now!

It’s tough when you’re building a #sexySME business. More often than not there’s a constant battle between time and money to contend with. If you had the money but little time, there could be a number of things you’d outsource to skilled contractors or agencies to fulfil. Alternatively, perhaps your cash flow just won’t allow you to outsource marketing work, and you either have to do the work in-house, regardless of how time-starved you already are. Or….even worse, the marketing work slips further and further down on your to-do list. And as you should know by now, marketing your business is a constant activity: ignore it and you’ll suffer.

So what’s a #sexySME marketer (or entrusted with it) to do? Lascivious Marketing may just be able to help out. If you have the time, the motivation, and the desire to get stuck in yourself, there’s a forthcoming book dedicated just for you.

Yes, you read right. There be a book being written just for you sexy adult sellers!

And the name of this mighty future tome?  There’s currently a working title….all will be revealed later!

Writing has already begun so watch out for more info as the project progresses. We’re really excited by this as we can now provide marketing assistance that’s affordable for every #sexySME owner and marketer. Remember, we’re on a crusade – making marketing sexy – and actionable – for all adult retailers, regardless of budget. We’ve got your back!

When the Lascivious Marketing website first appeared, adult retailing professionals were invited to sign up to receive ‘Six of the Best’ – literally six of the best adult retailing news stories or marketing articles for your reading delectation.

In the busy past few months, I decided that at least initially people would probably prefer to read about other people, especially within the industry. Hence the growing number of interviews featured on the website.

Now that there’s a healthy number of people signed up, together with a decent amount of interviews the time is right to launch the newsletter. Now….. this presents a bemusing issue. Months ago with a plentiful supply of lofty intentions, the plan was to provide a Six of the Best for each sector (dating, lingerie, sex toys, fetish wear and events). Then I read a great article about email marketing, written by a chap who’d sent millions of them. One of his key learning points is that there’s absolutely no point in segmenting email content. Much better is to include various segments in one email.

So….is one weblink per sector sufficient? Probably not. That’s the end of ‘Six of the Best’ then (a shame as I really enjoyed the saucy double entendre!). Perhaps ‘Decadent Dozen’ will be the new moniker….wait and see.

If you’ve read the first EAN Article or my interview with the Ukrainian Media Marketing Review you’ll have got a good flavour for what Lascivious Marketing is about. But it’s also the kind of information that should be on the website as well. Don’t worry, this hasn’t been forgotten about. In fact the webpages have been created months ago, it’s just a matter of getting a consistent look and feel for them. It’s also a delicate balancing act regarding content. How much is too much, especially when for many #sexySME owners, this might be the first time to be exposed to marketing concepts and frameworks and so forth?

So bear with me while we strive to get the balance right. Of course if you’re champing at the bit to discuss any marketing projects, you know what to do!

So, that’s it for now. Remember and say hello on Twitter or sneak a peak on Instagram, and above all: stay sexy, competitive, and marketing-led!


INTERVIEW: Jessie Maeday, Elysian Latex

Take one recent De Montfort Contour Fashion graduate, a love of latex and a new brand born just a few months ago. And mix thoroughly. The result? Elysian Latex.

Founder / Designer Jessie Maeday talks candidly about her latex creations, marketing and her first entrepreneurial steps.


Jessie Maeday, Designer / Founder, Elysian Latex [credit: Elysian Latex]
BRIAN GRAY: So let’s get started. Has Elysian Latex been around while you were studying or is this a brand new enterprise launched recently?

JESSIE MAEDAY: Since I started my degree I knew that I wanted to end up being my own boss, and I have always had that in the back of my mind throughout the last three years. It hasn’t really been until the last six months or so that I started to build the brand into something that was ready to go once I graduated.

[credit: Elysian Latex]
What other possible names did you consider and why did you settle on Elysian Latex?
Oh so many! I’ve lost count of how many hours have been spent with friends and a glass of wine scrolling through the internet trying to come up with something. I started to play around with names on Instagram to test-drive them, seeing how the name worked with the content I was posting.

Elysian Latex came about once I started on my final collection, as I wanted something that reflected the brand aesthetic. The definition of Elysian is ‘characteristics of heaven or paradise’, and this feminine undertone is certainly reflected in the work I produce.

[credit: Elysian Latex]
And what do you see as the brand vision and brand essence of Elysian Latex?
The brand vision is simple; Elysian Latex challenges what people think they know about latex as a fashion fabric. The idea that latex is a fetish only material has become a bit boring, and I want to fight that by bringing it into 2017. I see latex as any other luxury material, and by incorporating fabric manipulation as well as my exclusive lace laser cutting, I can create garments that are fashion forward, but also have that ever-so- flattering effect of latex when worn.

[credit: Elysian Latex]
What defines your typical Elysian Latex customer, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
I’d like to think that the average customer is… well anyone! I’ve been approached by customers who are literally the definition of English rose, pale skin, red hair with breath-taking beauty, all the way to heavily tattooed, fetish models and sex workers. If I were to break the brand down into three words, it would be: Flirty, Feminine, and Fearless. I want my customers to feel like they can take on the world, and look damn good while doing it!

[credit: Elysian Latex]
The UK is home to more than a few highly renowned latex fetish / lingerie designers. What do you think differentiates yourself from them?
I think the fact that my garments come from a mostly fashion background helps to separate myself from the competition, as well as all the technical skills I have learnt studying Contour Fashion. I work super hard creating garments that are not just pretty but designed with proper knowledge of bra construction and how to get the perfect fit.

A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?
I work so passionately on every glued seam, fabric piece cut and eyelet pressed so that every item is made with love and care.

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?
Oh gosh, I am truly terrible at marketing! I have a little piece of the internet via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter which I try to keep updated regularly with current work, events and inspiration and they are all growing at what I’d consider to be a respectable pace. Branching out to different parts of the work is difficult and most of my followers are UK based, which is good for now as the brand is still in its early stages. I also have an Etsy page where I sell my work, but this desperately needs to be moved onto my own website so I can really show off what Elysian Latex is all about!

If you could get another adult brand (whether lingerie, sex toys, fetishwear, pleasure products, BDSM equipment or other) involved in a joint marketing campaign or event with yourself, who would it be and why?
I would absolutely LOVE to work with fetish/ burlesque club night! Those events look like so much fun and having a catwalk show, as well as people just having a great evening in my garments is a personal dream.

[credit: Elysian Latex]
The Contour Fashion degree at De Montfort University is long established and renowned within the lingerie and fashion industries alike. How well do you think it’s prepared you for the next stage in your career, both as a designer and as a businesswoman?
The course has given me so much more than I could have ever imagined. Studying Contour was the best, most stressful and most rewarding decision I ever made (even though it sometimes didn’t feel like it at 5am when I was frantically sewing/ drawing or crying into a bottle of wine before deadlines)

The tutors are so incredible at noticing what makes you an individual and how to bring that into your design work. Without really realising it I have grown into a designer, seamstress, pattern drafter and technical designer, and those skills are essential to having a successful fashion career. I do still have so much to learn when it comes to running my business but Contour was definitely successful in getting me on the right path.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given or read somewhere, and from who?
It’s a bit ironic as the company has recently closed, but reading Girl Boss (the creator of vintage brand Nasty Gal) has taught me so many simple things that I never would have considered. One that has stuck with me is how to approach garments not selling. I am guilty of taking items not selling personally so I can either feel defeated or that the item is rubbish as no-body wants to buy it. Or I can treat selling this item as a work in progress and re-evaluate how I am advertising, photographing, describing it and try again.
And sort out your finances. Obviously.

Time is our most precious commodity, especially for entrepreneurs. How do you maximise yours, and what tips have you picked up along the way?
I work pretty much full time as well as working on my own brand so my time is very scattered at the moment. I try to spend at least an hour a day networking and replying to emails, and I try to make items that aren’t being sold on my Etsy page that could be available to hire for models etc as a form of promotion.

The biggest tip I’ve got would be to definitely have a cut off point in the day where work stops so you don’t damage your life outside of work. There is nothing more irritating that being out at dinner and having the company you are with ‘just need to quickly reply to this email’.

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Elysian Latex?
Exciting things hopefully! I am currently in talks/ setting up meetings with a few brands and entertainment events to collaborate with in the near future, which is both the most terrifying and exhilarating experience. Elysian Latex has only officially been around for less than two months now and it’s already been a pretty crazy ride, I’m so excited for the future and whatever opportunities it brings!


Thanks, Jessie! And the very best of luck in your entrepreneurial endeavours!

If you fancy getting in a latex lather over Jessie’s well designed delights head over to the Elysian Latex Etsy store  and tweet to Elysian Latex or see Elysian Latex on Instagram and nod most approvingly!


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

Until next time!

PS. And don’t forget to sign up to receive SIX OF THE BEST – our free weekly email containing key weblinks covering the sex toy and adult retailing world AND hot marketing tips for your business.

INTERVIEW: Liam McKenzie, Couples Playthings

Meet the sex toy retailer where the idea for its existence “just happened”: Couples Playthings from the USA. Co-Founder Liam McKenzie answers the questions.

Catering to a purely US clientele, Liam talks candidly about melted sex toys, patience, personal and corporate ethos, and sex toy marketing.


Couples Playthings…pleased to meet you! [credit: Couples Playthings]
BRIAN GRAY: Do introduce yourselves, and tell us a little more about the history behind Couples Playthings.

LIAM McKENZIE: We are a happily married couple that are passionate about all things sex related. Better yet, we’re passionate about all things that lead to a healthy relationship.

Couples Playthings didn’t start out as a specific idea, it just sort of happened. One thing that lead to forming the business was finding some old sex toys from Robin’s days as an independent sex toy consultant all melted together. We did some research as to why they would melt. Our findings indicated that the toys were made from harmful, and unstable materials. After that, we started purchasing new body-safe toys and started having some fun with them together.

The second thing that led to our business was taking part in conversations about sex, and sex toys, with our friends. Many of our friends didn’t think too highly about using sex toys nor doing things that were considered “kinky.” After partaking in so many kinky activities ourselves, we honestly felt sorry for our friends as they were missing out on so much fun and enjoyment. From a personal standpoint, we found that sex toy play and sexual exploration resulted in a stronger and more meaningful relationship. And, our communication improved as well as our trust in each other.

One day we were out to dinner, just the two of us, reflecting on one of the many negative conversations we had with our friends. It was at that moment we decided to start a blog to educate couples about sexual exploration and sex toys. The idea morphed into Couples Playthings as we decided it would be fun to provide body-safe products in addition to educating the general public about sexual exploration.

What other possible names did you consider and why did you settle on Couples Playthings?
We actually didn’t consider any other names. We knew almost immediately that we wanted to tailor our services to couples. Additionally, we often refer to our own sex toy collection as our “playthings.” With that said, the proverbial “light bulb” went off in our heads and Couples Playthings sounded simple and appropriate. Before finalizing our name, we reached out to several of our friends and it was a unanimous “I love the name” response.

There’s no shortage of sex toy retailers competing for a slice of the market. Why should people buy from Couples Playthings and not the others?
First and foremost, we want to give “kudos” to our competitors. Now that we’ve been in business for nearly one year, we truly understand the hard work involved to become successful. “Great job” to all of you out there trying to make the world more sex positive!

We set ourselves apart from many competitors through quality content on our site. Many competitors that we’ve researched simply sell sex toys without including product reviews or providing other valuable information. We’ve spent hundreds of hours writing product reviews and informative articles. And, we do it from a personal standpoint sharing our own experiences and perspectives. We want customers and visitors to our site to understand we’re not just some corporate entity. Instead, we’re “real people” trying to make a difference by helping others.

We’ve also partnered up with Dr. Chelsea Holland with the sole purpose of giving visitors a way to connect with a certified/licensed sex therapist. Additionally, we’re not selling 50,000 products…we constantly focus on providing high quality body-safe products only.

Lastly, we work extremely hard and take pride in providing excellent customer service before, during, and after each sale. Our business is not just “a job”, it’s our passion.

Couples Playthings interview Lascivious Marketing sex toy shape made up of sex toys
Any shape for any occasion? [credit: Couples Playthings]
Your ethos is “Live together. Play together. Love together. Explore together.” How did you arrive at that?
We’ve both been in prior relationships and many of those relationships lacked a true connection. Our ethos are true “tenets” of our own relationship and have helped us in forming a very unique and strong bond to each other. We wanted to share our ethos with the world hoping that we’re able help other couples form a deeper connection. When we say “live together”, we’re not simply living under the same roof. We’re doing things together and forming new hobbies together…and without losing who we are as individuals.

“Play together”, at least for us, includes lots of laughing and playfulness which has helped reduce much stress in our lives. When it comes to “Love together”, it’s not just about awesome sex. It’s about putting each other’s needs before our own. In doing so, we’ve found our love for each other to be much stronger. “Explore together” is one of our favorite tenets. To us, it covers a lot of new ground. Whether it be traveling to new places, or sharing a fantasy or desire (and acting it out), we find fulfilment in exploring new possibilities together.

Plenty of Playthings…for Couples. [credit: Couples Playthings]
Who is the typical Couples Playthings customer, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
We get lots of emails on a daily basis from potential customers. A vast majority of the questions sound similar to this: “My partner and I are looking for a new sex toy, do you have any recommendations as well as tips on use?” Or, we see lots of comments like this: “Thanks for writing this article! My husband and I read it and it’s helped us out.” After receiving these types of questions and comments time after time, we believe our typical customers are curious, explorative, open, and intelligent.

The three adjectives we’d like our customers to associate with us are: luxurious, trustworthy, and provocative.

A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?
The design of our website was built around this exact word and we’d love it if this word jumped into the minds of our visitors.

Couples Playthings interview with Lascivious Marketing. Sex toys on bed arranged in heart shape
How much bedroom fun potential is this for you? One night, weekend or month?! [credit: Couples Playthings]
What has been the highlight so far in your entrepreneurial journey, and why?
The greatest highlight so far is meeting so many wonderful, and like-minded, people. Whether we’re speaking with customers, industry bloggers, or manufacturing reps…people have made our journey both positive and enjoyable. Living in a world where so many people find sexuality to be “taboo”, it’s nice to have people we can reach out to and discuss any sexual topic without being judged or ridiculed.

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?
So far, we’ve learned that marketing is so much more than just pay-per-click advertising or posting your logo on a third party’s website. We’ve spoken with (and watched) several competitors go out of business for this very reason. We’ve learned through our own experience that networking and connecting with industry influencers in various ways works a lot better. We’re also finding out first-hand that word-of-mouth marketing is still possible.

What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
Our largest marketing challenge thus far has been the ability to expand to an international market. In many situations, we’ve found that international shipping costs can be higher than the actual product itself. In addition to high shipping costs, many countries have strict import regulations. Due to these circumstances, we’ve decided to cater to the U.S. market only. Although we’ve limited our sales and marketing to the U.S., we’ve found amazing online shops on every continent and have redirected international buyers to those respective websites. Our goal isn’t always about “making the sale.” Instead, we want all consumers to find happiness in their purchase and enjoy the product.

What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far both about competing in the adult retailing industry, and as an entrepreneur?
We’ve learned lots of things. Here’s some of our most prominent things we’ve learned:

  1. Have patience. As a new business, sales don’t just fly in. You have to work hard for them.
  2. Follow through on your promises and policies.
  3. Embrace criticism and build a better business from it.
  4. Don’t get discouraged over rejection.

If you had to think of just one thing you’d like to see change in the adult retailing industry, what would it be and why?
We would like to see more regulation regarding sex toy materials. With so many body-safe material options now available, we cringe every time we see manufacturers still making new products from unsafe materials.

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Couples Playthings?
We’re really excited about the next twelve months! We’ve been seeing exponential growth in both sales and site visits month after month which is going to allow us to expand our sales channels. Very soon we will be starting in-home sex toy sales consultation and hoping to recruit independent consultants.  Assuming our growth continues, we also plan on making donations and sponsoring events that promote sexual freedom and anything of a sex-positive nature.


Thanks, Liam!

If you fancy seeing for yourself what all the hubbub is about, head over to the Couples Playthings website and tweet to them or see them on Instagram for good measure.


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

Until next time!

PS. And don’t forget to sign up to receive SIX OF THE BEST – our free weekly email containing key weblinks covering the sex toy and adult retailing world AND hot marketing tips for your business.

INTERVIEW: Ukrainian Marketing Review, Brian Gray

The tables have been turned – temporarily! Lascivious Marketing Founder (and Chief Interviewer!) Brian Gray is in the hot seat, as Kiev-based marketer (and Co-Founder of Lovebox) Nataliya Vakhovskaya asks the questions for the Ukrainian online publication, Media Marketing Review.

Here is the full English version of the answers emailed back to Nataliya. Covering everything from marketing sex toys, noble crusades, industry associations, social media, and even heavy metal, there’s lots to read and ponder!


Nataliya- Vakhovskaya-interview-Lascivious-Marketing
Nataliya Vakhovskaya is asking the questions! [credit: Nataliya Vakhovskaya]
NATALIYA VAKHOVSKAYA: Tell your story please – how you decided to start a specialized agency?  How many agencies are on the market with the similar specialization as yours? For Ukraine it’s like nonsense to have a sex shop or an erotic accessories producer as a client for PR or marketing agency, nobody ready to invest in proper marketing and agency support.  What is the situation in UK?

BRIAN GRAY: Hello everyone. To begin with, every company needs effective marketing to not only thrive but just survive. And while other marketing agencies may be reluctant to seek or serve clients in the adult retailing sector, we’re here to help with plenty of enthusiasm and none of the reticence.

Before founding Lascivious Marketing I have had marketing research experience in the internet dating sector, and the UK’s Adult Industry Trade Association. Several years ago I also organised the London Gatherings that brought together industry professionals and attracted attendees from several European countries as well as from here in the UK.

To my knowledge there is no other agency in the UK offering a similar range of services (including marketing research and customer insight) to the adult retailing sector and with the amount of commercial marketing experience accrued in other industries to call upon.

In the UK, adult retailers and lingerie companies do use marketing agencies for a variety of services, but it is not widespread. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the sheer number of micro enterprises competing in this sector, who very often lack the money to spend on such expertise. There’s also a general lack of appreciation for marketing itself, I feel. So, it will not be an easy sell, but we’re really keen to see the sector as a whole do well, and see customer-focused, marketing-led companies flourish.

We realise that in all businesses there is the constant ‘time versus money’ dilemma when considering marketing services. We empathise with companies in this predicament, and are committed to providing as much tips and guidance as we can on the Lascivious Marketing website  If they are not time-starved they can see about doing the work in-house.

Alternatively, if their time is invaluable, they’ll look to appoint an outside agency. Through our visibility in the industry and content marketing efforts we sincerely hope this will stand us in good stead when that moment arrives. We aim to be the ‘go-to’ marketing consultancy for companies competing in the business of love, lust, and everything in between!

Today in Ukraine there are many mental restrictions from sex toys and frank discussions of sex relations between each other. People are ashamed to visit sex shops and tell about sex. Opinion leaders and bloggers refuse to cooperate with adult product brands. Sex needs to become a brand with a positive image. Where to start from? Can you recommend any first steps for promotion for sex toys market players? What is the situation in UK?
Very good question!  Within the UK alone there are a number of people proclaiming themselves to be ‘sex bloggers’, although the quality and consistency can vary hugely. There are also sex toy bloggers, reviewing sex toys and other adult pleasure products and posting these online. One erotic author even designed her own sex toy! Some of the more established ones – with the highest profile and largest social media following – will be sent sex toys and other products in return for a featured review. The more reputable ones will either be totally unbiased or they will have purchased the products themselves.

The UK itself is interesting regarding the marketing and selling of adult products. Retail outlets must apply to their local council for a license if they intend selling hard-core R18 pornography. Other conditions apply too. Window displays must adhere to certain criteria, and the proportion of sex toys on sale in comparison with other products also impacts upon whether a license is needed. Licenses varied in price across the UK and a few years ago Westminster City Council – which covers London’s SoHo district (known for its sex shops and prostitution) was ordered to repay more than £1 million for overcharging licensees.

There are still many ‘old school’ sex shops operating behind closed doors and are unappealing to visitors, especially women. But other retailers exist who are far more customer-focused and committed to delivering great customer service in an unintimidating shopping environment. There is still this traditional, conservative ‘British’ approach to sexuality that exists in parallel with a more open-minded and suggestive sexual culture. The media of course loves this dichotomy. They win either way, either criticising the blatant sexual nature of something while also revelling in the attention sex-related features create. There have been television shows featuring well known retailers such as Lovehoney and Ann Summers. In short, this long-held cliché of British people being ‘repressed’ is rather exhausted now.

There is also an established UK trade magazine for the erotic industry, who also run an industry awards competition.

The situation you describe in Ukraine is a sad one. Sex is a normal – and hopefully very enjoyable! –  part of everyday life. Surely an acceptable balance can be achieved whereby people who wish to learn more about sexuality and buy adult products can do so without shame or embarrassment. At the same time, this can be done respectfully so it does not offend other sections of society.

The situation you describe is almost like starting with a blank canvas. Change will not occur overnight; I suspect it will be more a case of incremental change, led by companies who have a long term commitment to the industry and a deep-seated personal desire to bring about change. It’s as much – if not more – to view this as a noble crusade, rather than merely operating a business. And generally, if overall category demand increases, then the opportunities for increasing individual profitability are better. But this comes with a big loud warning: this cannot be a crusade for just one company or individual – it has to be a group effort.

It’s important to find other like-minded people in the industry who share common aims. Start meeting regularly to discuss trends and initiatives you can work together or to increase awareness and understanding among consumers. Form a trade association that will work to advance the interests of customer-focused, forward thinking, and professional erotic retailers. Meet with journalists, give face-to-face interviews to establish personal connections and maximise ‘face time’ so that you will have created a bigger impression than if you had just been emailing with them.

For individual companies, as well as seeking out others in the sector to work with on joint initiatives that will help advance the sector as a whole, there are other things to consider. See if there are any business spaces available where different erotic retailers can come together and sell their products and meet customers in person to establish that personal connection. In the UK, the London Alternative Market (LAM) has been doing just that among the alternative and fetish community.

Commit yourself to content marketing, by having a clearly defined mission, choosing your methods wisely and ensuring they play to your strengths. Advertising and promotion in this type of market where the mainstream hasn’t accepted erotic products is probably going to be wasteful. If there has been some good PR achieved through industry initiatives or a monthly ‘erotic market’ event (like the LAM), then one has to assume that consumers most curious or keen to learn more will take it upon themselves to do so. And this is where great online content can really help out. Be there – and with an abundance of trustworthy, impactful content – when consumers reach that crucial stage of wanting to find out more and check out options.

Be so active with your content marketing that the media cannot ignore you any longer. Make them realise that there’s a professional industry committed to making people’s personal lives more fulfilling.

Ukrainian sex shop exterior display [credit: unknown, sourced by Nataliya Vakhovskaya]
Today all sex shops in Ukraine look like these pictures. Nothing similar with pleasure, actually. Do you know success stories of retailers whose profit increase after rebranding or new layout of stores?

Typical Ukrainian sex shop [credit: unknown, sourced by Nataliya Vakhovskaya]
There’s a great adult retailer I recently interviewed, called SinSins Boutique of Love, based in South East England. The owner visited an ‘old school’ sex shop (probably quite similar to the images you’ve shown) years ago and was aghast at what he saw. He subsequently set out to be something completely different, while still selling erotic products.

Sinsins Boutique of Love, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutque]
From the outside it looks like a lovely gift shop – and it is! It’s just that the gifts are rather ‘spicier’ than in other shops. It looks so welcoming to anyone, regardless of age or gender.  They forged effective relations with the local council and have had a great ongoing relationship. Plus there is a thriving small business community there and they get involved in all manner of ways.

There are many young producers of sex toys and erotic lingerie appear on the international market (Dame, Rianne S, Bijoux Indiscrets, Crave etc). What are the main reasons of such changes and market growth?
Several factors play their part. The impact of technology – especially the internet – cannot be underestimated. With the advent of online marketplaces, anyone can create their own online store and start a company. Visit the Etsy website and you’ll see a plethora of small companies – often just a single person – making and selling everything from ornate wooden dildos to exquisite leather and latex fetish wear (and everything in between!). New designers and craftspeople now have a direct route to market using their own website or online marketplaces; very often both.

A further direct consequence of the internet is a bigger appreciation of the global nature of business now. A consumer in New Zealand and can see something she wants from an online seller based in a village in rural Spain and subsequently purchase an item. That cannot be underestimated, especially when it comes to adult products.

There’s also the entrepreneurial culture of a county to consider. Britain has historically been called ‘a nation of shopkeepers’ so perhaps it is unsurprising that television shows such as ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘Dragons Den‘ (I know two people who appeared on the show last year) are hits year after year. I’m sure there are some people who watch these types of shows and think, “Hey I’ve got a great idea, I’m going into business and I’ll be a millionaire by lunchtime!” I personally think these shows are just that: entertainment for the masses, and do not show the real blood, sweat and tears shed when running a business. That said, they must take some credit for making entrepreneurship ‘sexy’ in the first place.

What I have found amazing is the exposure young people are getting to entrepreneurship. A couple of years ago I got involved in an enterprise network run by the business school I attended for my Masters Degree in Marketing two decades earlier. I met twenty year olds still studying for their degree but already forming private limited companies and seeking funding and support for their fledgling enterprises. Furthermore, there’s a major Centre for Entrepreneurship there and many degrees either wholly or partly dedicated to entrepreneurship. It’s a brave new entrepreneurial world out there!

Lastly, I think there’s another potential factor accounting for the number of solopreneurs creating new websites or offering adult products. In the UK, there has been what economists are calling a ‘lost decade’ where wages have stagnated. Indeed the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that by 2022 average wages will be the same as they were back in 2007. Another think tank calculates the UK is facing its worst decade of real wage growth since the Napoleonic Wars. This is sobering reading! I would not be surprised in the least if a significant amount of new entrants to adult retailing were people already working one full-time job and still need additional money coming in to help pay for essentials like rent, food, or utility bills. But just to clarify, I have no evidence of this – it’s purely my opinion.

Please name some great campaigns on the market that successfully promote adult brands or adult stores.
One of the most successful adult retailers is a British company called Lovehoney. They have generated a lot of PR over the years and the catalyst for that on many an occasion has been their very shrewd – and hugely successful – licensing deals. They were awarded the exclusive worldwide licensing deal for the Fifty Shades of Grey (FSOG) range of pleasure products. Before that they struck up a deal with UK relationship counsellor and ‘sexpert’ Tracey Cox (yes that IS her real surname!) and had her face and name on some of their products.

But while no one can deny the huge commercial impact of the FSOG deal, what has made me smile are their most recent licensing deals with heavy rock bands Motley Crue and Motorhead. I’ve been a heavy metal lover for decades (I used to present a rock radio show back in the 1990s) and when I saw that they were releasing a range of sex toys named after several of their most well-known songs I laughed and shouted ‘Yeah!’.

Lovehoney won an award from the Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association for their Motorhead collaboration, and I’m absolutely sure there will be more future licensing deals agreed, provided there is the right brand ‘fit’. This also has helped with their international expansion, and have been duly awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade.

What are the main mistakes of adult market players?
I do not think adult market companies make mistakes that are unique to this industry. Rather they are probably guilty of the same types of mistakes other companies in other sectors make that lack a marketing mindset. Perhaps the most visible mistake – at least to me – is the ‘one way traffic’ approach to social media. I see numerous sex toy and lingerie sellers relentlessly tweeting their wares….but nobody is engaging with them. Tweet after tweet after tweet. Either I mute them or I unfollow, and I can’t imagine I’m the only person doing that. Social media is about being ‘social’!

The second thing I tend to notice is that there are a lot of sex toy retailer websites that are devoid of any meaningful brand identity that really differentiates itself from the next one. When the industry barriers to entry are now so low, it’s a waste of time to be competing if you’re not fully prepared to give it 100% effort. Shape up or ship out! Differentiate or die!

There’s also a lack of content marketing. Some of the bigger, more established companies are ahead in this regard: some have their own communities, review panels, and all sorts of means of engaging with their customers. And they’re to be rightfully applauded. But for a lot of sellers, content marketing just flies over their heads. As does a lot of practical marketing wisdom, it seems.

As there’s a risk this could become a very long answer, I’ll conclude with one more potential failing, which is my long-held perception that social media and web analytics are replacing marketing analytics and insight which is not only wrong, but could have serious consequences. There’s a tendency for companies to replace properly designed and conducted customer surveys with simply asking people on social media for their thoughts. They don’t seem to understand that this cannot in any way be considered representative. There are no checks on the authenticity and identity of those who post. There is no way of even knowing if they are actual customers! On a more practical note, there is no option for real analysis if solely relying on open comments.

Then there is the danger of relying on web statistics. While they can reveal a lot, they cannot tell site owners and marketers whether page view durations are active (purchase consideration) or passive (laptop left running while the user is lying in the bath or asleep on the bed or walking the dog). Neither can they reveal anything about whether the website is the first choice or simply the least bad out of a mediocre selection.

Web stats don’t indicate how frequently customers visit rival websites, let alone identify which ones. Nor do they reveal how much money customers spend elsewhere on comparable products. They offer no clues as to the company’s performance next to its rivals, nor how well it is perceived by web visitors or customers. And of course, there is absolutely no information gleaned on how satisfied customers are and whether they will return, and/or recommend the website to others.

Hopefully I’ve made my point now! Of course, web statistics in their own right can be immensely valuable to a company, especially one that sells online. But it cannot and will not replace solid marketing research.

There are many law restrictions on the market. Even Facebook do not allow the promotions of adult goods pages. What marketing instruments could you recommend? Please name some examples.
Facebook is not a social media channel for adult retailers, in my opinion. A big reason for online adult retailing is the anonymity it provides: it’s a secret between you and the retailer what the postman delivers to your door. Why would a retailer spend time, effort, and perhaps money posting on Facebook, knowing that the number of ‘likes’ they receive is limited to those who are so open-minded they don’t care who knows that they like an adult retailing page. Furthermore, ‘likes’ are no valid predictor of subsequent purchase. I could go onto Facebook right now and ‘like’ 200 brands, and have absolutely no intention of ever buying anything from those companies. It’s meaningless. And more importantly, a distraction for time-poor adult retailers. So, don’t worry about Facebook.

For adult retailers whose products are either visually impactful or take the time to produce good visual content, Instagram is worth considering, as is Pinterest. But by far the best option is developing great content that target buyers will happily share their email address with you for. Building your own subscriber database means you own the contact details of the people you’ve worked hard to impress. A large Facebook following or mass of YouTube subscribers can disappear overnight if the powers that be suddenly pull the plug on you. Offer something worthwhile: a newsletter full of curated and/or original content, or a podcast. There’s a good few options available.

How do you build customer dialogue to receive feedback? How to be polite and get the information needed from the customer? I mean, is it okay to call customers and ask about their experience? Or to ask to participate in a survey? Besides social media, what channels are best suited for customer dialogue?
Anonymous – and well designed – customer surveys are excellent opportunities in which to not only obtain the data you need for key marketing decision-making, but also to convey the fact you care about what your customers think. Management guru Peter Drucker famously said: “If it can be measured, it can be managed.” So satisfaction levels can be measured quantitatively along with a whole host of other things, depending on the overall research objectives. Towards the end of the survey, it’s absolutely fine to ask an open question or two regarding satisfaction or potential improvements to the service experience. Research findings also make for great content marketing material, and the open comments provided by respondents (unattributed of course!) can be highlighted.

What are the main obstacles for sex toys producers and retailers nowadays?
A few immediately spring to mind. Firstly, the barriers of entry into this sector have all but disappeared. Given the advent of not only online marketplaces such as Etsy, the attractiveness of drop-shipping, and various research reports claiming the sex toy market over the next few years to be increasing and you have one very competitive industry. Everybody wants a piece of the action. What does that mean? A lot of micro businesses competing against one another, and often with very little to differentiate themselves because they have not thought through their brand identity or devised a solid marketing plan.

Secondly, there is the nature of the products themselves. There’s a big difference between trying to sell sex toys rather than shampoo. You know this yourself in Ukraine, Nataliya! Nobody is going to stand in your way if you want to advertise shampoo on television, in the newspapers, or other ambient media. Try to do the same with sex toys and you may have broadcasting authorities, regulators, moralists and religious groups breathing down your neck before you know it either prohibiting it, or placing restrictions on it. Some of this I agree with: for instance, I don’t think there should be sex toy advertising on terrestrial tv channels until after 9pm.

Finally, another difference between sex toys and let’s say shampoo again: financing and payment. Many major banks will reject any applications for financing, even opening an account with adult-related companies. They often cite ‘reputational risk’. This I find highly ironic given the activities of several western banks when it comes to money laundering or mis-selling financial products to customers! Furthermore, some payment processors or credit card companies may be difficult to deal with when applying for a merchant account. This in itself has created a new sector of adult-friendly payment processors, but it is another hurdle that adult retailers often face. Nobody said adult retailing was easy – even if many people think it is!


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

Until next time!

PS. And don’t forget to sign up to receive SIX OF THE BEST – our free weekly email containing key weblinks covering the sex toy and adult retailing world AND hot marketing tips for your business.

INTERVIEW: Nataliya Vakhovskaya, LoveBox, carnal in Kiev

How difficult is it to compete in a country where attitudes to sex toys and sex education are behind the times? And how do you overcome such challenges? Meet the Ukrainian company who’ve done just that. We talk to Nataliya Vakhovskaya, co-Founder of LoveBox.

Based in Kiev, Nataliya provides a great insight into not only the marketing of their great products but also the challenges faced, showing their marketing nous, recognition of the marketing environment around them and how to compete accordingly.


 Nataliya Vakhovskaya, co-Founder of LoveBox, with Freeda gift box. Interview with Lascivious Marketing.
Nataliya Vakhovskaya, co-Founder of LoveBox, with Freeda! [credit: LoveBox]
BRIAN GRAY: What is LoveBox and what is the history behind the business?

NATALIYA VAKHOVSKAYA: LoveBox is a range of adult gift sets for special moments. And special moments are daily!

LoveBox is a young brand, launched just a year ago by myself, my husband and our friend.  The idea of LoveBox is to give people another perception of sex toys and sexual pleasure in relationships.

There is a strong stigma in Ukraine surrounding sex, and sex toys especially. All brick and mortar sex shops in Ukraine were mostly opened at the end of the 90s, with old-school goods, poor marketing, without any aesthetic and understanding of retail branding.

According to our estimations, there are also more than one thousand online sex shops in Ukraine of different size and turnover, but their design and communications are nothing common with the word ‘sexy’.

Because of a lack of proper marketing communications in adult goods retail, people in Ukraine mostly consider sex toys as something dirty and shameful. Many people do not know about brand new toys of high quality and modern design, with hi-tech features. So we decided to fill this gap and change the way people think about sex toys and sexual pleasure.

To achieve this goal we made a new ‘package’ for sex –both literally and figuratively. We invited a well-known illustrator to develop brand identity and packaging design.

In our blog we do not write ‘women’s magazine style’ articles about ’10 best sex positions’ or so on. We do everything to sexually educate people: tell about good sex literature, make review for new toys and brands, interviews with experts and so on.

What defines your typical LoveBox customer, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
Our target audience are newcomers in pleasure goods or people who are looking for an unusual gift to their friends or beloved ones. People who decide to try for the first time sex toys and erotic lingerie, accessories, who need professional guidance in the wide range of adult pleasure products.

Our three adjectives would be: Customer-oriented, aesthetic and surprising.

'Romantic' gift box from Lovebox.
‘Romantic’ gift box, from Lovebox. [credit: LoveBox]
You have a range of different boxes available for purchase. Are they all equally popular or do there appear to be one or two clear favourites? Are there plans to introduce more, and if so what can you tell us about them?

'Dominant' gift box from LoveBox.
‘Dominant’ gift box. [credit: LoveBox]
Now we have three boxes: Romantic (basic set for couple), Dominant (light BDSM for beginners) and Freeda (woman’s version for better understanding of her sexuality).

'Romantic' gift box from Lovebox.
‘Freeda’ gift box. [credit: LoveBox]
On Christmas and St. Valentine’s Day we also have seasonal sets – Winter and Valentine accordingly. At the end of June we introduce two new sets: Wedding and Aqua.

The popularity of boxes depends on season and forthcoming holidays. Now the most popular is Freeda, bought both by men for their girlfriends/wives and by girls themselves. We expect great interest in Wedding as a gift for hen parties, weddings and wedding anniversaries because of peak wedding season approaching.

The images of the LoveBox – particularly the ‘Dominant’ box – are very evocative. What has been the reaction to them in your country?

Ukrainian singer Nana Domination with 'Dominant' gift box from LoveBox
Ukrainian singer Nana Domination, with ‘Dominant’ companion! [credit: LoveBox]
At the end of November 2016 while we were working on our second gift box Dominant, we invited the famous Ukrainian singer Nana Domination to participate in Dominant development. Nana’s stage image and attitude to sex meets our Dominant mood, so we produced a really appealing campaign.

Nan Domination cuffed, 'Dominant' gift box from LoveBox.
Cuffed, ‘Dominant’ style! Nana Domination with contents of the ‘Dominant’ gift box. [credit: LoveBox]
By the way, we use some pictures as hints for Dominant users; Nana shows how each item in Dominant can be used. We insert these cards in the box.

But actually we try not to exploit the images of sexy women in our visual communication. Each package of LoveBox conveys a different mood and creates the atmosphere of sex. For example, Freeda is a firework of woman’s orgasm, Dominant is undiscovered sexual wishes. Sex is great with its great variety, sex is a beauty of intimate relations, so we are trying to depict it through our different packages.

I am happy to tell, that everybody loves our images. People miss another “voice of sex’.

A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?
LoveBox is gifted from people in love to people in love, from close friends, from people you trust,  who celebrate love and their sexual relations.

We are against the message that sex toys are substitution of the partner or sex toys are the saving fire for fading relationships. It’s not true, of course. Sex toys are additional pleasure to obtain more from love.

We want LoveBox to be like a cake for family holidays and favourite dessert in everyday life:  always desired to celebrate joy. Joy of relationships, joy of everyday life.

In Western Europe adult retailing is commonplace, whether on the high street or online. How does Ukraine compare?
In Ukraine unfortunately sex shops are like underground secret organizations: mostly all stores are with covered windows without any hint about goods sold there. Even if you meet a shop display, the visual merchandising is terrible. Just imagine plastic mannequins dressed in provocative costumes like those worn by Julia Roberts’ character in ‘Pretty Woman’.

What are the main marketing challenges facing LoveBox, and how are you overcoming them?
Before the official launch we were strongly counting on Facebook communication as were sure Facebook would not regard our innocent sets as adult goods (we even didn’t show the contents of the boxes for the first time). But to our great disappointment Facebook forbade page promotion. The first week we were stressed as Facebook is a strong communication channel for Ukrainian retailers and producers, but then we understood that this restriction helped us to save money and to be more creative in promotion.

Also, our customers prefer not to share their customer experience in social media (and we understand them). They are sending positive feedback to us privately, which of course we cannot publish. So we cannot rely much on word of mouth unfortunately.

LoveBox colouring book page
“Colour me, LoveBox!” [credit: LoveBox]
To support our customer relations and to obtain buzz we developed and sent erotic colouring books to all our customers as a Christmas gift.

We do not invest much in promotion, trying to be creative, using viral marketing and to get buzz. At the beginning we worked with lifestyle bloggers but only some of them were ready to cooperate with adult goods. It was hard to find people without restrictions in mind to cooperate with. As I already said we lauched our second gift set Dominant with popular Ukrainian singer Nana Domination. It helps us to attract media interest. We got good PR coverage in press media and even on TV.

From time to time we get some PR coverage in magazines, and radio, but once again, the media in Ukraine are not ready to review sex toys as beauty products or electronics.

We also hold some brand events: women-only parties with educational lectures.  I have to say sex education is of high interest among young Ukrainians today. I am writing educational columns on national online media to give people more information for discussion.

Our main distribution channel is our online store We do not have many retail partners as sex stores view us as competitors, and gift stores perceive us as an ‘improper’ category. Nevertheless there are some sex stores and gift shops who sell our boxes. I believe the number of partners will grow.

What has been the highlight so far in your journey, and why?
Initial customer feedback was like a prize for our hard-work. And receiving our first offers of cooperation from other brands:  it was like endorsement and confirmation that we are doing well in the market. At the beginning of our journey it was hard to persuade partners even to look in our direction – we were new and small. But some months later LoveBox got its first email with offers from partners regarding co-branded projects.

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?
Always keep in mind the classical 4Ps. The first P (product) is crucial. Without a quality product you cannot win. You cannot even be noticed by customers.

Retail is becoming more and more mobile. We should keep this in mind while developing campaigns as well as purchase methods.

What are your own personal strengths that you bring to the LoveBox business?
I with my partners have experience in electronics retail, what is more we have specializations in PR and marketing. And some experience in sex 😉

What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far in your erotic industry career?
Our cultural feature – to hide and suppress sexual desire. And sex toys help to uncover it. So people actually need sex toys to learn about themselves. I never looked at sex toys in this way before. And now I understand that this is the key role of adult goods.

And I’m continuing to learn.  This year I began studying Sexology at the Kiev Institute of Modern Psychology and Psychiatry.

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for LoveBox?
Today we are working on new gift sets and developing our small online shop. Our plan is to invest in good user-friendly online store with bigger goods range. We are planning to visit EroFame in October to get acquainted with key market players. And we have much work planned regarding sexual education.


Thanks, Nataliya!

If you fancy seeing for yourself what’s inside all those delightful boxes of naughtiness, visit  And for even more yummy LoveBox images head over to Instagram 

This certainly ranks as not only one of the best interviews so far with a #sexySME company, but also is one of the most encouraging to anyone competing in the sector, or thinking about doing so. LoveBox are selling their products in a country whose conservative culture and attitudes to sex and sex education make it a real challenge to be merely acknowledged, nevermind supported.

But they have adapted accordingly: their involvement with a high-profile national figure like Nana Domination is arguably a masterstroke and through the joys of ‘balance theory’ should serve them really well, using Nana’s already established profile and the existing positive attitudes towards her.

And let’s not forget: the products themselves. From the photos, what LoveBox are selling looks every bit as good as anything found in Western Europe and further afield.

In short, Nataliya and her colleagues have the marketing nous and the ambition to hopefully build LoveBox into a well-known – and well-respected – brand not only in Ukraine but further afield too. We wish them the best of luck!

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

Until next time!

PS. And don’t forget to sign up to receive SIX OF THE BEST – our free weekly email containing key weblinks covering the sex toy and adult retailing world AND hot marketing tips for your business.

INTERVIEW: Pierre & Hannah, Slap Stick Club

A London fetish club without the metal, mood, or pretensions, but with lots of fun instead? Meet the happiest of ‘Slappers’, Pierre and Hannah, Founders of the Slap Stick Club.

The fun loving fetishists offer their thoughts on the club ethos, competition, customer engagement (despite social media restrictions and customer discretion) and other marketing topics.


Slap Stick Club Founders, Pierre and Hannah. Interview with Lascivious Marketing
The black and white stripes of London’s fetish scene! Pierre and Hannah from the Slap Stick Club. [credit: Slap Stick Club]
BRIAN GRAY: So in a nutshell and in your own words, what is Slap Stick Club, and what’s the brief history behind it all?

Pierre: The Slap Stick Club is a social, fun and friendly fetish party with a focus on play. We started on this little adventure mainly to fill what we think was a gap in the London fetish scene and to create the type of event we craved for ourselves. I also clearly remember a hot tub and way too much prosecco… That helped a lot to kick-start the creative part.

Hannah: We also wanted to create a party that crushed the grimy underground reputation of fetish. Why can’t it be acceptable in everyday life?! Of course we are all too aware of why it is stigmatised so but this is our own little way of helping normalise kink and sexual liberation.

Given your name, many people would be forgiven for initially thinking you were a comedy club rather than a fetish club. What made you settle on this moniker? Were there any other contenders?
Very early on, we knew we wanted to have a much more relaxed approach and environment than other clubs. Sometimes everything feels so horribly serious! (“Why SO serious?!”) So frivolity and humour were a given from the start. Hannah came up with the “Slap Stick Club” very quickly; it immediately felt like the perfect match for us. It’s an identity and an attitude, it’s a cute pun, infinitely reusable (I love being able to call our patrons “Slappers”!), and instantly recognisable once you’ve heard about it. It was also miles away from the “hardcore” naming we’d seen floating around.

I remember thinking about “DIY KINK” when we were still at the project stage but in retrospect… Just no.

H: People are still very nervous about admitting they are part of this kind of ‘scene’ and by giving it a name that is not directly linked with sexual escapades allows us to market more freely and our adored Slappers to share without worry of people making assumptions (even if they are true!). Also, I just love a good spanking! Seemed fitting 😉

There’s obviously a very well renowned and long established London fetish club that’s successfully spread its wings near and far. And there are other fetish clubs competing as well. Where do you fit into this? How do you differentiate yourselves?
And we do visit all of them more than often! We are in no way aiming to eclipse any of those, but we bring a needed (we think) alternative to the giant, everything-for-everyone clubs, the “kinky” sex-parties, swingers clubs and the specialised, niche events. We want to bring another flavour, a night where you don’t have to worry about the make or cost of your outfit, where you know you won’t have to wait hours for “your turn” on the furniture, with space to meet people and try out new things. In summary, a place to actually play in a safe and friendly environment!

H: We are very active hosts as well. We are there to facilitate people’s exploration of the scene and a chance to actually talk and converse as well as play and join in. We welcome everyone that comes in. We have a defined ‘uniform’ so we are easily identifiable and this helps make people feel special and included. I mean, this is a fabulous community! We want you to feel that way too!

What can attendees expect on a visit to the Slap Stick Club?
Firstly, Hannah and I endeavour to personally meet all of our attendees to welcome them, take them through the house rules and introduce them to the club. Then, once inside, a friendly and open-minded crowd, lots of furniture pieces and our fan-favourite “cuddle-puddle” corner. We also aim to organise one or two performances or demonstrations at each party. We also have a Polaroid camera available for use by our patrons; that way, no risk of digital traces AND you get to keep a souvenir! Oh, and stripes. Loads of black and white stripes!

H: And don’t forget the welcome glass of bubbles! We also chose to pass up the heavy metal and house music and have opted for a more electroswing/jazz or rockabilly theme. I have always loved the idea of being spanked to Duke Ellington.

Slap Stick Club logo, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing.
Fun fetishism!     [credit: Slap Stick Club]
What defines your typical Slap Stick Club attendee, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
Hmm, Awesome? Our core audience is quite eclectic in taste and experience. Some are avid players and other are new but ready to explore.

For our brand, that’s easy: friendly, fun, sexy !

H: Our attendees started as our friends and I think because of that, we have continued to spread that vibe. People are open and intrigued, nervous but enticed. And I have to admit, they are a goddamn sexy bunch!

A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?
H: hahaha – agreed.

What has been the highlight so far in your journey, and why?
I had a very meaningful and heartfelt exchange with one of our attendees following a minor incident and them telling me they’ve rarely felt that looked after and safe in any other club was really an intense feeling. More generally, any returning customers are proofs of a job well done!

H: The highlight for me is most definitely with the people I have met through our parties. I have met some fabulously interesting people all doing wonderful and ambitious things with their lives and these parties have brought us together. I am so excited to see where these happy collisions may lead us!

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?
There have been a few things:

Regularity in communication. Every day, every other day, talk to your audience. Not every post needs to be a masterpiece in social media marketing, but tell your story, even if it’s just your mood.

Diversity. There’s nothing worse than being predictable. If you do the same thing or use the same pattern repeatedly, you’re going to bore people.

Meet face-to-face. This has been one of the funniest part of this “job” so far; meeting the latex maker, furniture builder, club owner, performers. Word of mouth is not dead and no amount of retweet is going to top befriending your colleagues on the scene! (And I’d say ESPECIALLY on the fetish scene).

Slap Stick Club Event flyer
Join the band of happy ‘Slappers’!
[credit: Slap Stick Club]
H: Marketing for events like this is tricky. Facebook refuse to advertise or boost posts for anyone with an adult content. Many people (including a segment of our target audience) are new to the scene and so don’t want to engage in anything that may link them to that activity. PR is great. Personal connections with established people in the scene always helps.

We do still do flyers. They are good in shops and stores. We also flyer other major clubs on the London scene. But it is a tricky product to market for when you are still relatively new. We are constantly learning and reviewing what we do. I have also been thinking about setting up a fetish marketing symposium of some kind…. fostering discussion and sharing ideas.

What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
Let’s say a widely popular online social network’s views on what constitutes “suggestive” and adult content…

We had to re-orient paid advertisement towards specialist sites, sadly with widely less reach (if much, much more relevant!). We’re slowly building our SEO profile as well, but that more of a long-term game.

H: Yes, I agree. There is a growing level of competition out there and we are constantly reminding ourselves not to feel threatened by this but challenged and excited by these new events and clubs – possible collaborators! We have our own, I believe, strong, brand and we should continue to push that and not panic!

If you could get another adult brand – whether lingerie, sex toys, fetishwear, pleasure products or BDSM equipment – involved with your events, what would it be and why?
Latex /fetishwear designers, in a heartbeat. Party for purely selfish reasons, but also because we know our core audience love them as well and it would provide a real win-win scenario for everyone involved.

H: I agree. Latex fashion is what got me into the scene. I think there is a lot of scope and diversity in that area. It photographs well, there are a lot of designers out there that we can easily collaborate and cross promote with and it is diverse; like our audience. We are aware some of the bigger clubs also have these connections however for us we see it as even more immersive. And who doesn’t like getting dressed up?! This is the perfect escapism (I’m a real exhibitionist so that helps!).

Keep calm and start slapping - Slap Stick Club interview with Lascivious Marketing
What are you waiting for?!
[credit: Slap Stick Club]
What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far in your fetish event careers?
Triple, quadruple-check dates, times, costs, etc. with ALL your providers or third parties!! There’s a pervasive tendency for forgetfulness that you have to contend with constantly…

And when you do find consistently reliable partners, cherish the hell out of them!

H: For me it is the duty of care. What we are doing in terms of play pushes the boundaries of sexual exploration and with that comes a great responsibility for the event managers to ensure that people feel safe and are safe. If we look at some of the activities that people partake in, it can be tricky to ensure that people really are having fun and are not put in compromising positions. Therefore we have our house rules. Everyone is taken through them on arrival even if they are a seasoned Slapper! And myself and Pierre are constantly on the lookout. We encourage play but if we think it is going too far, we will intervene. We do break brand here and take this VERY seriously.

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for the Slap Stick Club?
More slaps! Obviously larger parties but also more community-orientated events in between (talks, meet-ups, sexy Sunday lunches). We also have a few fun collaborations in mind…

H: Watch this space! xx

If you fancy giving the Slap Stick Club a visit – and after reading this, it’s mightily tempting! – visit their website at  Don’t forget to say hello on Twitter too, at @slap_stick_club
Instagram too? Yep….


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

Until next time!

PS. And don’t forget to sign up to receive SIX OF THE BEST – our free weekly email containing key weblinks covering the sex toy and adult retailing world AND hot marketing tips for your business.

NEWS: Lascivious Marketing wants your mind not your body!

Major adult retailing industry survey from Lascivious Marketing and European erotic trade magazine EAN aims to highlight key issues and increase visibility of the sector.

Creation of new adult retailing industry research panel to facilitate current and future industry insight through effective engagement with adult retailers across Europe and beyond.

Lascivious Marketing and European erotic trade publication EAN are joining forces to provide the international adult retailing industry with an unprecedented degree of insight through the launching of a new research programme, commencing this month.

Adult retailers across Europe and beyond will be given the opportunity to provide feedback on a range of key business and industry issues like never before. Whether selling their own products or those of other companies, the survey will not only enable retailers to offer their completely confidential opinions on industry-wide issues but also let them evaluate other key areas, including supplier relations and marketing.

The lack of research conducted in the industry was noted by Lascivious Marketing Founder and project director Brian Gray, who highlighted this in an interview with EAN last month.

“Whether it’s the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ factor, the increasing mainstream acceptance of adult pleasure products or the array of exciting new lingerie designers entering the market and selling directly to consumers online, there’s no denying the importance – and interest – in the adult retailing industry today,” noted Gray.

“But from an external perspective, adult retailing needs to further improve its overall visibility. Not only as an area of economic activity in its own right but also one that is attractive and welcoming to future employees and new companies. It also needs to be viewed positively in the eyes of other industries as well as governments, regulatory authorities and the like.”

“Industry-wide data and subsequent insight is one way in which the industry can work to achieve this,” Gray continued. “But despite all sorts of figures proclaiming the sex toy and lingerie sectors to be in rude health, it’s bizarre there have been no established opportunities for firms within the sector to give their opinions in a structured fashion. This upcoming survey directly redresses that, and will generate an insight-rich snapshot for the industry that will drive discussion and debate not only among retailers themselves but other adult industry marketers.”

The first state of the industry survey is scheduled to take place in late June / early July. To take part in the survey, respondents will voluntarily opt-in to a special adult retailing industry research panel maintained by Lascivious Marketing. When the survey is launched, panel members will receive an email with a weblink to a secure online survey.

As with all professional research surveys, all details are confidential, and run in accordance with the UK Market Research Society Code of Conduct. Personal contact and survey data will not be passed onto third parties for marketing purposes, and no data provided in the survey will be personally attributable unless respondents give their full consent.

“For EAN, the partnership with Lascivious Marketing is both logical and timely,” says editor Randolph Heil. “As an editor covering the adult retailing industry it’s often hard gathering facts about this industry. Add to this a lot of assumptions floating around without any supporting evidence. Having someone of Brian’s calibre leading this initiative, with his many years of national and international marketing research experience is a real bonus. All of us at EAN are really looking forward to working together to bring some clarity and much needed objectivity to the industry, step by step.”

While acknowledging the first survey is yet to be launched, Gray has a keen eye for what potentially lies beyond this, in particular the establishing of a longer-term industry-level research capability which can regularly call upon industry respondents of all levels of seniority to anonymously voice their opinions on key issues.

“Of course it’s early days, and the success of this survey – and hopefully of others in the future – completely relies on the genuine enthusiasm among adult retailing professionals at all levels who want to make their opinions count,” he stated. “But there’s a real opportunity to make something of this especially when it’s sorely needed. It would be a really positive development if there is enough interest and enthusiasm for not only repeat survey waves, but perhaps even the introduction of regular monthly industry trackers to monitor retailer confidence and performance over time and measure attitudes to key areas of interest.”

With the first industry survey fast approaching, both Lascivious Marketing and EAN will be busy spreading the message about the survey and its benefits – including free summary reports for all respondents – to existing industry contacts, and new ones who have heard about the survey across social media.

For Randolph Heil, EAN’s responsibilities are clear. “With our existing readership base spread across the continent – and beyond – EAN will be emailing them very soon, urging them to be a part of this initiative and sending details of how to participate. And when the survey findings are released you can rest assured that EAN will be covering the key issues, not to mention leading the subsequent conversations that will surely arise.”

To join the research panel, visit . For more information about any of the industry survey, or to discuss other marketing assistance, Brian can be contacted at or phoning +44 (0)141 255 0769.

[article also appears in EAN]

SIX reasons branding matters for adult retailers

What’s more important to your adult retailing business? The products you’re selling or the brands themselves?

It’s a question that stirs up discussion in marketing land across multiple industries. And it’s easy to see why the brand vs product debate will also run among adult retailing and marketing professionals. So here we are !

The ‘product’ camp will highlight that goods have to be built well, be of sufficient quality and satisfy wants through specific features which will bring certain benefits to the end-user. Most people can see the logic in that. Afterall, you wouldn’t want a pair of knickers disintegrating after one wash, or battery issues with a dildo (ask Martin from Sinsins about that!).

Meanwhile, the brand camp will emphasise the emotional connection that exists between a brand and consumers. Good products can be provided by a brand, but if there’s a non-existent emotional bond between brand and buyer, then the utility of the product is meaningless – it won’t be purchased.

If you’ve read Al Ries’ brilliant (and concise, and very easy to read for non-marketers) book “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” you might have an idea as to which camp Ries certainly belongs to.

I’m not attempting in this blog post to decisively answer the question once and for all. Like a lot of things, I think the truth is to be found in the murkier waters between both extremes.

Are lingerie buyers purely driven by product features alone? Hardly. They’re looking for brands they can identify with, resonate with, and grow with.

But there’s no denying that concentrating purely on products and product quality is not a good thing to do. That emotional connection, that personal psychological bond between consumer and brand is one that has to be forged, embraced and worked on. Yep, you guessed it, just like the relationships we create with one another.

But before we risk descending into group hugs and all that malarkey, let’s concentrate on the matter at hand – your business. Your brand is vital to your business success. Furthermore, a brand that’s in rude health will bring several benefits to your company.

So, here we go. Short and to the point.

Standing out from the crowd
When you have a clearly differentiated identity and values from others, you stand out from the competition. A strong brand has higher visibility in a category: think of this when you are seeking new customers. You can charge more than undifferentiated rivals, especially if you are perceived to be of higher quality (this can be achieved through, yes, superior product quality, COMBINED WITH the words and images utilised in your marcoms, website etc.). Greater share of wallet is also likely.

Defending market share
If you were thinking of entering a new market, would you think twice knowing there’s a brand giant ready to stomp on you? Furthermore, how difficult do you think it will be to steal their customers away who are loyal to that brand? A strong brand is one that will be hard to beat in a category knife fight.

Brand Elasticity
This is a big ace in the hand of the ‘brand’ camp. A strong brand can be ‘elastic’; able to enter new categories or geographic territories based on the inherent transferable brand values and strengths – and not product excellence. Think of Virgin (credit cards to space travel), or in a similar rock n’ roll vein, the mega-selling rock band KISS (condoms to coffins!).

How easy would it be for a company that concentrates purely on product development and excellence in one particular sector, to easily diversify or enter new categories at the drop of a hat? Not very. There’s an uphill battle to be won convincing a potentially cynical prospect base.

Loyal customers have a ‘goodwill bank’ allowing a company to recover easier from a crisis or a negative service encounter. Customers with a strong emotional connection to a brand – reinforced from previously consistent positive experiences – may well give the company the benefit of the doubt and be less harsh in their response to that company than they would with other brands they are less favourably disposed towards.

And let’s not forget – if the situation has been successfully resolved, there’s a very good chance customers will become even more evangelical towards the brand. And they’ll tell others.

Balance Sheet bonus
Strong brands possess their own monetary value or equity. From the 1980’s onwards major companies have listed their brands on the company balance sheet and placed a monetary value on them. Indeed, one major UK household food and drink brand fought off a major hostile takeover in the late 1980’s when it listed the value of its brand on its balance sheet.

Another warning sign? You’d better believe it. Build your brand to protect you in choppy waters.

Comfort blanket during tough times
Finally, let’s not forget just how challenging the current business and economic environment is. While mainstream media like to tell you that things are rosy, the reality is something different. There’s been a ‘lost decade’ of wage growth; indeed forecasts from the Institute of Fiscal Studies predict that by the year 2022, UK average earnings will be similar to what they were back in 2007. Add to that proposed big welfare cuts on the way. That’s sobering – and pretty depressing – reading.

So when times are tough and spending (household or corporate) is heavily scrutinised, customers tend to stay loyal to strong and dependable brands. It’s not really a time for trying out new alternatives. And while customers want quality and value, that doesn’t simply equate to cheaper prices. Don’t be tempted to slash prices during tough times.

So, in a nutshell, give a damn about the lingerie, sex toy or fetishwear brands you own, or those from other companies you sell.

And if you own your own adult brand: nurture it, build it, love and cherish it like a real loved one (almost).

Do it well, and it will show its worth in many ways back – including, financially.
Until next time!

PS. Want to talk more about branding and how Lascivious Marketing can help your adult retailing business? Get in touch now!

PPS. And don’t forget to sign up to receive SIX OF THE BEST – our free weekly email containing key weblinks covering the sex toy and adult retailing world AND hot marketing tips for your business.

Sex toy survey errors: avoid these major mistakes!

Bad marketing is worse than no marketing. The same holds true for market research. Learn from the mistakes made in a recent sex toy survey so your own research will fare much better AND give you worthwhile data.

Alternative blog post title: Your sex toy survey sucks: here’s why.

Last month I came across a sex toy survey concerning vibrator usage and preferences from a well-known Californian sex toy retailer. They’d announced it on Twitter and provided the link to Survey Monkey.

I won’t bore you with the details, but while no doubt well-intentioned, it was badly executed: full of the errors that will mean nothing to anyone untrained, but well known to even the newest of trainee researchers starting out their MR career.

With years spent at the marketing research coalface, seeing this made me…. weep? No, that would be overly dramatic. I just got frustrated.  And for the record, after I’d looked at the survey I reached out to the retailer on Twitter asking them if they wanted to know how their data could have been improved with just a few tweaks. They never replied. Fair enough.

In a nutshell, there was no introductory message, no thank you for participating, no explanation of how the results were going to be used. In short, no building up of rapport AT ALL. None, zip, nada.

And given how cack-handed they started, it was pretty obvious it wasn’t going to get better. There were the ropey response options to consider. One question asked about frequency of vibrator usage. The options included such precise terms as ‘often’.

Tell me sports fans, what is ‘often’? Once an hour, once a day, a week or perhaps a month? You tell me. And I’ll bet your definition will vary from the next person.

It’s a relative term and open to interpretation.

How many lingerie sales do you think you’d get if you just told your customers: “Buy this bra, it’s for curvy women,” without giving them any size and cup dimensions.

Or, more appropriately, given the nature of the retailer’s wares on sale, how would you feel if you were told “Ah, here’s the dildo you want if you really want filled up.

First things first, we’re not all identically sized (apologies if you did indeed attend biology class at school). Then, it’s again relative as one person may feel….ahem…filled with a different number of inches (length and circumference) from the next person.

What would a pilot on final approach in fog say if Air Traffic Control told him his required altitude was “just a bit more now” ?

What if you asked your bank manager what your balance was, and they replied “Well, it’s in the region of this much.”

Do I need to go on?


Keep your eyes peeled! Voodoo sex toy surveys are all around.

Or in other words, beware of voodoo polling. Yes, the term is well known in the research world. And has been for decades.

When a survey is sent out willy-nilly with no control over who completes it (‘self-selected’ surveys), then it’s exposed to all sorts of issues. Think of those little poll graphics you see in your newspaper over BREXIT; dog fouling on the streets; closing of bingo halls, you name it. Do you really think they’re at all accurate or representative? Think again. They’re completed by those who are obsessed by the subject, or have an axe to grind. Anything but a representative sample of the local population.

The free Survey Monkey plan allows for IP tracking and email address gathering. But are you really telling me that the creator of this rank amateur sex toy survey is really going to give a damn about who is participating? At best it could be people who have no interest or desire in your wares or indeed your company. At worst, it could be a business rival doing their best to stiff the competition any which way. In this case, by having them think they’re getting ‘valuable insight’.  It’s not hard to create a bunch of fake email addresses or get some mates to all fill in a few questionnaires, with orders to respond as randomly as possible, so there’s no sense at all to be made of their responses. Result? Once again, dodgy data.

And that’s before I even mention the stats stuff.

Survey Monkey’s free survey plan allows for 100 responses. Consider how many people use vibrators in the same locale, let alone the world (we have to assume other people from who knows where also filled in the survey, given there are no quotas or filters on the free plan).

So, in a nutshell there’s a badly designed survey, with subsequent data that could be fairly described as ‘potentially worthless’. Add to this that there’s only one hundred responses, and no controls over who completes it.

Who thinks that one hundred people’s opinions – especially given the absence of any screening – is representative of sex toy users in that locale? And then there’s our old faithful stats friend – margin of error – which alone makes a sample size of 100 hardly worth the time and effort writing and launching the survey.

All in all this survey was a bit of a joke. Thank the stars that when I checked last night, it was no longer up.

*** UPDATE 30/5/17: The survey results were revealed and apparently 375 responses were obtained. While the number of completions is healthier, the complete lack of any respondent screening still makes it pretty worthless from a business and statistical perspective.

If you give a damn about your business to the last penny, then why be so godawfully lacking in detail when it comes to your sex toy survey research? Or maybe many lingerie or adult retailing businesses are just more of a side-hobby, rather than a real bona-fide business where people’s livelihoods are on the line if things aren’t going well? You tell me.

Now when all said and done, don’t think for one minute that I’m giving Survey Monkey a hard time in all of this.

Far from it.

The plethora of online survey applications now available is great for small and growing adult retailers wishing to cost-effectively conduct a sex toy survey, ideally among their own customer base with already possessed email addresses that have been verified and are good to go. It’s a far cry from the days when you’d have to commission an agency to do the fieldwork for you.

So I’m not – and I don’t recommend you do, either – shooting the survey apps. Let’s get one thing straight: if the questions are atrocious to begin with, it’s a lost cause.  Or in cruder parlance: “Put sh*t in, get sh*t out.

When splurging out a little for the paid Plans from Survey Monkey and the like, there’s a lot to be said for them. You’ll get higher response limits and some decent bells and whistles included at all stages of the survey process. Add to the equation some well thought out – and written – questions (arising from proper research objectives and specified information needs) and it’s a powerful combination indeed that can really help your business. Trust me on this.

Sadly, crap surveys are something I see time and time again. Why do people think that just because the survey app is available AND they can ask some questions, there’s going to be worthwhile usable data?

Using the same logic, how likely is it that if I am given some paint and a brush I’m going to be immediately capable of creating something like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?  I’ve been given the same tools as Michelangelo, so surely there’s no problem, right?

There’s just one. I can’t paint for toffee. Even if my life depended on it. Entrusting me with a tin of Dulux, a brush and a bare wall – or ceiling – is a pretty risky move.

The same principle applies to those given access to online survey platforms. Those untrained in marketing research can write questions in the same way that I can hold a paint brush. The tools – namely the brush, the paint – and the online survey platform – are all there. There’s just one thing missing – the knowhow.

I couldn’t just leave you hanging there after dismembering an awful survey, could I ?

Of course not.

So, let’s learn something from all of this, using a real-life example I found many years ago on a similarly depressing website visitor survey on a UK-based adult retailing website.

Do you know if your partner owns a vibrator?

Don’t know

Those who responded ‘Yes’ were then immediately asked further questions concerning vibrators. So what’s wrong with it?

It’s misleading. Think about the subsequent findings:
X% of those questioned know if their partner owns a vibrator or not.

It’s hard to believe the purpose of the question was to really ask respondents if they know whether their partner owns a vibrator. The question in this guise is asking for respondents’ knowledge, rather than ownership per se – the latter of which is much more important to retailers.

While the question writer most likely wanted the survey to be friendly and engaging, in doing so they potentially ruined the data.

You MUST ensure questions are without ambiguity, otherwise the survey – and the subsequent data – is now open to response error, and being rendered useless for the purpose it was designed for.

The question should therefore be phrased simply as follows:-

Does your partner own a vibrator?
Don’t know

Simples. All bases covered.

Consider possible respondent groups and sub-groups when designing your questions. Give serious consideration to how the research can be used to identify different respondent segments.

Let’s consider the question above once more. Rather than simply asking a ‘Yes/No’ question, why not offer several response options allowing respondents to answer the question, AND potentially identify some new user segments? Change the question to:-

How many vibrators does your partner own?
5 or more
Don’t know

By rewording the question and providing these options, the original question is still being answered, but now there is the opportunity to gain much greater insight. At the analysis stage the responses can be netted to provide (for instance) the following ownership segments: None, Light (1-2), Medium (3-4), and Heavy (5 or more).

[These numbers are illustrative, by the way. Feel free to change them to something more representative if your own customer knowledge suggests otherwise!]

Can you see how invaluable this is, especially when analysing the rest of the data? You can now look at responses to all the other questions based on levels of vibrator ownership, and see whether any key findings are found along these lines. How do heavy owners/users differ from light ones? The data could be extremely revealing, depending on what other questions make up the survey.

This is one of the key reasons for thinking carefully about the questionnaire design process and not rushing things. The question needs to be phrased properly to avoid response error and confusion and so on, but consideration must also be given to how the responses can be used to add to the analysis.

Remember to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to your research!

Lesson over!

PS: I’ve got some more things to say on adult retailing market research in my recent interview with European adult retail publication EAN. And watch out for more adult retailing research matters coming soon!

And of course, if you need EXPERT help with your own market or customer research requirements, you know who to contact!