Category Archives: Blog

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

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

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

 

Innocent Sex Toys Rachael Purnell interview Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Rob Stuart]
BRIAN GRAY: Okay, Rachael, let’s start from the top. What was your background before Innocent Sex Toys, and what was the motivation to launch the company?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thanks Rachael! 

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


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING SECTOR?
If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrpreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

Until next time!
Brian

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: Martin King, Sinsins Boutique

The naughty wolf in sheep’s clothing? Meet Martin King from Sinsins Boutique, in Norwich.

Still going strong after nearly two decades in the adult retailing sector, Martin’s seen a lot, and learned a lot. Read on to get his thoughts on a variety of key business and marketing issues – and a healthy dose of reality for good measure.

 

BRIAN GRAY: First impressions count. From the pictures of your boutique, Sinsins is so untypical of an erotic or adult retailer. It’s not dark, it’s not trying to be edgy. It looks more like a nice artisan bakery or a gift shop. Are you the (naughty) wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Martin King, Sinsins Boutique, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutique]
MARTIN KING: Your description of Sinsins is totally spot on. You’re absolutely right when you say first impressions count. In essence, Sinsins is a gift shop which sells sensually charged erotic gifts and treats for temptation, seduction and flirtation with decorum, integrity, subtlety and vivaciousness whether they be for yourself or your sweetheart.

Sinsins Boutique of Love, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutque]
Many years ago I had the dubious privilege of venturing into a ‘sex shop’ which was part of a national chain. I went in as a lover and an explorer not as a wannabe hardcore porn star seeking blatant arousal and instant gratification. Hand on heart, it was the worst shopping experience of my life. It was at best functional, at worst grotesquely soulless. I was so incensed by this tawdry and sleazy debacle that I decided to create my own little independent Boutique of Love.

Sex shops sell blatant fantasy fodder with equally blatant, unrealistic imagery to match. Sinsins has done the opposite by shunning the gaudy and licentious. In a relationship love and sex are both pleasurably and immeasurably entwined… both elements are giddily special. ‘Naughty’ is in the eye or mind of the beholder, and the way Sinsins does ‘naughty’ is much more subtle, more thought provoking and intrinsically much deeper through its passion and captivation of the senses.

You’ve now been around for more than fifteen years. What do you think has been the key to surviving and thriving?
This is now our 18th year of trading, and I ask myself this question frequently. The only answers I can give with any degree of certainty, beyond refusing to sell tat, is having a strong rapport with our customers and a willingness to change with the times.

Sinsins Boutique, shop tag, interview Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutique]
In this time, you’ll have probably witnessed a fair few changes or developments within the adult retailing industry. Which ones most stand out?
In the old days, the majority of suppliers didn’t seem to care what they sold. I remember having a ‘heated’ argument with one over the fact that their product stated it required AA batteries to work. The only problem with this was that no standard brand of AA battery would fit their product. Their answer at that point was that their own brand fitted so what was my problem! Nine months after me providing them with an unequivocal direction in which they could go, they phoned me up out of the blue to tell me they had changed all their product motors because of me.

Product-wise (moving on in years) the biggest game changer for me and Sinsins was Lelo: elegant, luxurious, seductive…stunningly designed and beautifully presented. A real game-changer with a price tag to match. Almost everything about this brand matched perfectly with Sinsins’ ethos. It was also at this point I ended my ten plus years of self-inflicted single dad bachelor lifestyle and met a special lady, now my wife.

The other biggest change for me is the camaraderie within the industry. Maybe because I’ve been in it for so long now, maybe it was the beginning of the recession but there was a point when suddenly everything seemed to change. Suppliers started to care. Sales teams became not just good… but really good. There’s a large pool of awesome people out there in this industry who not only do a good job but they go out of their way to show they care.. even after moving companies.

If you were just starting from scratch in the adult retailing industry now but had all the knowledge and wisdom from your Sinsins years to call upon, how differently – if at all – would you go about it?
If I were starting from scratch?! I’m not getting any younger you know, time is passing me by way too quickly these days.

As a sole trader I wouldn’t. There’s a lot more to it than just buying stock from A, whacking it out on the shelf and selling it to the happy, non-demanding customer. Unless you’re a big player with tremendous cash deposit behind you, don’t do it. The sleepless nights, the cash flow worries, the sheer volume of work simply doesn’t stack up when it comes to immediate financial reward.

The majority of the consumers out there are more driven by online price comparison than by good old fashion face-to-face customer service, truthful sales knowledge and upfront expertise. We are lucky in that once our customers meet us they tend to remain loyal and we get to know them well.

Sinsins Boutique of Love, interior image, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutique]
It’s not hard to imagine that there’ll be some people who will take umbrage at a sex shop located in their local shopping street. How have you engaged with both the NIMBY’s and other local communities (business, public), etc. ?
We have never considered ourselves as a sex shop. Eighteen years ago our first premises was a council owned building. The estates department were loving our concept, the licensing department were not so enthralled. Licensing even refused us advertising on a black cab at one point – they took exception to the strapline ‘gifts, goodies and gadgets’. Apparently ‘gadget’ was potentially offensive.

Sinsins Boutique, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutique]
Sinsins has always operated without a need for a sex shop licence due to the balance of goods sold. We were lucky that Norwich Council decided to trust our concept before making the final licensing decision. We have earned their trust by hard graft and remaining apolitical.

Sinsins Boutique, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutique]
Sinsins has never hidden behind the shutters, you’ve always been able to see through our windows. Bar three cheeky pre-planned occasions (for press coverage), we have always maintained delicate and subtle window displays.

Our approach is to deny the NIMBYs any fuel to their way of thinking… the subtle approach challenges their negativity and leaves them solely to their own imaginations…  We have no wish to upset or challenge anybody, that’s just offensive and pointless. Those NIMBYs who have ventured over our threshold have, by and large, left more with a more accepting and appreciative view of what we do once they realise the branding of our product ranges don’t overtly scream out SEX! We’ve never touched pornography in any way shape or form. The atmosphere within Sinsins has always been as normal as in any other high street shop.

Over the years I have been invited to do talks to Relate Counsellors, the Institute of Psychosexual Medicine, lots of health related charities, Gynecology Units at The Norfolk & Norwich hospital and Addenbrookes too. We’ve also been invited guests on TV & local radio too. In every situation these organisations have approached us, not the reverse. We have earned an awful lot of trust by many people and organisations locally… and rest assured this didn’t happen overnight! Discretion, subtlety and confidentiality are of paramount importance all round.

Another factor for us is that Norwich champions small independent businesses.. we are proud to be part of this, and we are active members of Norwich Lanes (a local organisation which does a absolutely fantastic job of promoting the diversity of local independent businesses).

Sinsins Boutique, corporate logo, interview Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutique]
Let’s talk about your name SinSins Boutique of Love. How did you come up with the name and what made you decide to use it?
The name Sinsins is a play on words…. literally meaning Without Sin.

Who do you think the ideal Sinsins customer is, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
The ideal Sinsins customer is one who is polite, smiley, respectful, non-judgemental and with a positively inquisitive mind. It’s a bit old fashioned but those customers who talk to us and ask questions are the ones who get the best shopping experience from us. As far as three adjectives go, I’ve let my customers answer this for me: romantically welcoming, discretely joyous and intimately confidential.
[That’s SIX, Martin, but I’ll let you off! – Brian]

The popular perception is that adult retailers will be busiest around Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Is this still the case, and what are the most popular products you sell at these times, and the rest of the year?
Without doubt Christmas is the big one for Sinsins. Valentine’s is our second bite at the annual cherry. If i had to pick one product range the lube is our best seller by far. The time of year doesn’t change the variety of items sold, but it does massively change the quantities sold.

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?
As a micro business the marketing budget is for want of a better phrase… shoestring. Sinsins relies heavily on social media and customer recommendation. Marketing is an organic thing which builds the brand and trust over time. My main learning point over the years has been to do a little but often. You can waste a lot of cash on ill-thought through marketing, been there, done that.

What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
The biggest marketing challenge…. I guess that would have to be marketing sinsins.com . SEO is a full time job all by itself. I want to get our online presence to a wider audience. Working on the website is time consuming for sure, but I do see this as the way forwards.

What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far both about competing in the adult retailing industry, and as an entrepreneur?
The most valuable thing I’ve learned is cash flow. Cash flow is paramount. Building up a solid rapport and trust with suppliers can make life a hell of a lot easier too. Don’t try to compete, just build the uniqueness of your business… and never stop renewing and never lose sight of your bottom line.

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Sinsins?
As of January 2017, Sinsins relocated within Norwich City Centre. The next 12 months is all about bedding in again, pushing sinsins.com and to keep evolving. The last Friday of every month we are looking to do late night shopping collaborations in store. We kick it off at the end of this month with the Hewson Group’s Women, Sex & Shopping research – ‘All About Lube’. Then in June we are looking forward to collaborating with a very talented local photographer Julia Holland and we will be running An Introduction to Julia’s Boudoir Portraits.

 


I’ll admit: before coming across Sinsins on Twitter, the only thing I associated with Norwich was a silver spinning horse and the accompanying voiceover announcing “From Norwich, It’s the quiz of the week!” before Sale of the Century graced our TV screens. That and Delia Smith’s legendary (and for her sake, best forgotten) half time ‘announcement’ to the Norwich City crowd.

Now, with Sinsins, there’s a far better reason. For anyone thinking about entering the adult retailing sector, Martin’s account of things is an extremely insightful one, bursting with realism. It’s all very easy for new entrepreneurs to forget about the basics of business finance and instead focus on the perceived sexier aspects. His highlighting of SEO and cash flow particularly should be well heeded.

Through their own sensible stewardship, and maintaining good relations with the council and other local businesses, there’s a lot to be said for their approach to running a business in this sector.

Something tells me one interview with Martin might not be enough…..

…but for the moment, thanks again, and keep up the good work!

If you’re around the Norwich area, there’s no excuse for not having a visit. Or visit them on t’interweb at sinsins.com  Don’t forget to say hello on Twitter too, at @sinsinsboutique

 


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING SECTOR?
If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrpreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

Until next time!
Brian

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: Velvet Fleurs. Feminine, sophisticated sexiness.

A website selling luxury sex toys and unintimidating in the process? Meet Velvet Fleurs.

Its Founder, a busy mum with a retailing background, who we’ll call ‘J’ *, answers the questions.

 

Fleurs, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
J, Leading from the top at Velvet Fleurs. Accompanied by serious ‘to-do’ list. [Credit: Velvet Fleurs]
BRIAN GRAY: I’ve likened starting a business or brand to having achild.  As you’ve got three already – children that is – how does it compare with reality?

J: Anyone who has kids will know that there are no two days the same, just when you think you are on top of things the little cherubs blind-side you! I suppose you’re right, running a business and having children do have similarities. You quickly learn planning is key, you have to be versatile and more than anything, expect the unexpected!

With three whippersnappers already to contend with, never mind Velvet Fleurs, how do you manage time?  What’s been the most valuable time management tip you’ve either read of been told about?
I believe good time-management is a trait that comes naturally to some and at the risk of sounding smug, it is something I don’t need to work at! My approach is to keep lists, I find them invaluable in all areas of my life; they keep me on top of things and focused on my goals.

Velvet Fleurs, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Velvet Fleurs]
Let’s talk branding.  Why VelvetFleurs and what process did you gothrough to arrive at that name?
My goal has always been for the brand to be both feminine and sophisticated, a message I wanted to portray through all aspects of the business, from the aesthetics of the site, the product choices, our social media approach and of course the name.  I felt the best approach to getting this right was to have a nod to the type of business without it being brash.

I’d settled on “Velvet” when the idea of setting up the business was little more than an “I would like to give it a go”. I added “Fleurs” after many sessions of brainstorming.  As soon as I heard the two words together I knew it was the one.

Who do you think the ideal Velvet Fleurs customer is and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
Velvet Fleurs is for those who enjoy the exquisite pleasures in life, they like to experiment and push the boundaries in their sex lives whilst at the same time are willing to invest a little more in their pleasures and appreciate that things can be pleasing to the eye as well as functional.

When setting up the business the three main adjectives I kept coming back to were: feminine, unintimidating and unique.

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?
With my background in retail, I’ve always appreciated that marketing is one of the key principles of a business, where you quickly realise how vital it has been if you no longer do it.  For Velvet Fleurs, the key marketing strategy has of course been social media.  In this day and age it is a critical medium when connecting with both your customers and your B2B partners.

What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
I’m originally from a bricks and mortar background so getting to grips with SEO has been the biggest marketing challenge so far. It was a steep learning curve, made all the more difficult with the amount of seemingly conflicting information out there about what you should and shouldn’t do, coupled with the fact the likes of Google seem to be constantly changing the rules.

Sifting through the right information on the Internet has helped me understand SEO, allowing me to at least begin to address a potentially crippling problem for any new start up, there is clearly a lot more to learn though.

What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far both competing in the sex toy industry and as an entrepreneur?
At the risk of sounding clichéd; perseverance. It is important to give things a go and trust in your gut instincts!

From your own experiences, what do you think is the most important skill to possess when launching an adult retailing company?
I’m not sure there is any particular skill you need when launching a business within the adult sector over any other retail sectors, although it definitely helps if you are open minded.

I do believe though that when launching any business, the ‘must have’ skill is the ability to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. It is so important to keep your target customer at the forefront of all of your business decisions.

Whether at the beginning, or since then, what has been the most valuable marketing book you’ve read since Velvet Fleurs was conceived?
I would love to sound like I’m well versed in marketing literature but the truth is that the bulk of my knowledge and experience in marketing has evolved from the 20 years I’ve worked in retail.

Since the start of Velvet Fleurs I have of course read various blogs and online articles which have been very useful, but no books.

What has been the most enjoyable moment or experience with Velvet Fleurs that has made the blood, sweat and tears worthwhile?
The most enjoyable moment by far was when my first order came through.  It was a good number of weeks after I launched and a very nervy time – with each day that passed without a sale I really started to question some of the key decisions I had made up to that point.

The relief when that first order came through was immense. I’ll forever remember where I was, the time and what they ordered – great feeling!

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Velvet Fleurs?  What do you have planned?
Plans for the next 12 months will be to expand the Velvet Fleurs “boutique” range, this is an area of the business which offers something unique – that ultimate of guilty pleasures.

This is by far the most popular area with my customers, which is great as I just love trying to find new and innovative suppliers to further broaden the range.

I obviously can’t divulge too much but rest assured there will be several more exciting brands to sit alongside the existing Fucking Sculptures, Persian Palm and Liberator – so watch this space!


Having originally come across Velvet Fleurs in their capacity as a stockist of Persian Palm ceramic sex toys (click here for the interview with Eva) it is great to see independent manufacturers and retailers striking up effective partnerships in which there is a genuine – and effective – brand ‘fit’ with one another.
Good luck, J!

So, if some plush pleasure products tickle your fancy then head to velvetfleurs.uk  and don’t forget to say hello on Twitter too, at @velvetfleurs

* When arranging the interview, J was a little wary about her full name being connected with an adult retailing company, while her children were still young. I’m happy to respect this and maintain some privacy!


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING SECTOR?
If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrpreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

Until next time!
Brian

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: EAN Interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing

The tables are turned! This time it’s the turn of Lascivious Marketing Founder / MD Brian Gray to be grilled, in an interview with European adult retailing magazine, EAN.

The five-page interview covers an array of marketing issues and discussion about the adult retailing environment.

Enjoy the interview in the May 2017 edition (page 60) which can be viewed online or downloaded, and don’t forget to sign up for Six of the Best, the forthcoming weekly email updating you on the key stories in either the dating, lingerie, sex toy / adult pleasure, or fetishwear and equipment sectors.

And there’s a hint or two about some exciting industry projects that might be heading your way – keep your fingers crossed!

 


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING SECTOR?
If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrpreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

INTERVIEW: Sophie Thorne, Twisted Lingerie, making you misbehave

Deliciously provocative lingerie, that’s made for misbehaviour? That’ll be London-based Twisted Lingerie then.

CEO and Founder Sophie Thorne gets Lascivious-ly interrogated but she’s the one brandishing the whip. Well, the brand is anyway.

Sophie-Thorne-Twisted-Lingerie-Interview-Lascivious-Marketing
Sophie Thorne, Twisted Lingerie. Whip temporarily out of shot. [credit: Twisted Lingerie]
BRIAN GRAY: So let’s start from the beginning, Miss Twisted. Name, rank, and serial number. Who are you and what’s been your lingerie journey so far?

SOPHIE THORNE: Hi Brian! So I’m Sophie Thorne, the CEO & Founder of Twisted, a deliciously provocative lingerie brand which launched last month. Since my background isn’t in lingerie (or even in fashion), it’s been a steep learning curve and a lot of hard work – from ordering every “How to run a fashion business” book Amazon had on offer to competitor research at any lingerie shop within a 100-mile radius of my flat, to business plan writing and brand development, to pattern-making and god knows how many sample iterations, to the long hunt for a factory that not only met my quality standards but would also accept the tiny order quantities (I eventually settled on a small factory in Latvia), to pricing and distribution decisions, to production, shipping and launch. It’s exhausting just writing that list and it’s only a whistle-stop tour!

In your few years since graduating from university, you’ve had various business roles. What persuaded you to change direction and enter the lingerie industry?
Twisted was a several-years-in-the-making project. I’ve always been obsessed by lingerie; whilst my friends drooled over designer shoes and handbags, I was obsessed with Bordelle and Nichole de Carle, and would spend my weekends loitering in either Coco de Mer or Agent Provocateur.

As I became more familiar with the industry, I noticed the ever-increasing gap between cheap-and-tacky and super high-end lingerie. As I saw it, not many of my girlfriends felt comfortable spending £250 on a lingerie set but they didn’t necessarily want to buy a bright red push-up bra either. I felt there was a gap in the intimates market that the wider fashion industry had already acknowledged and started to fill: I could pick up a new dress from Zara or Topshop for £30 but I wasn’t able to find well-made and well-priced provocative lingerie – the kind made for after-dark frolicking rather than functionality – to wear underneath it.

Twisted was born out of a desire to build an accessibly-priced brand, without compromising on the designs or the quality of the production. Women shouldn’t have to wait for a special occasion to treat themselves; I wanted to give women a reason to make every day that little bit naughtier without breaking the bank.

And how much support did you receive from friends, family, and business contacts? And is Twisted a bootstrap enterprise or did you look for funding from other sources?
My friends and family were – and continue to be – hugely supportive, and I’ve had a great response to the brand from ex-colleagues and business contacts.

Twisted is entirely self-funded; I put my salary and savings into the company, and I’m keeping the business going using profits. I have big ambitions with Twisted but I am not sure how I feel about looking for funding from other sources. It would help the business to scale quickly but, by continuing to subsidise Twisted myself, I am able to maintain my vision, grow organically and create a sustainable brand.

So, let’s talk branding and positioning. Describe who you think the ideal Twisted Lingerie wearer is, and what three words would you want your customers to associate with Twisted Lingerie?
I don’t really believe there is an ideal Twisted Lingerie wearer. In my mind it’s about how the lingerie makes women feel when they wear it. Whether women conceal their Twisted side under their workwear or style their underwear as outerwear, we want our customers to feel confident and sexy.

The three words I would want customers to associate with Twisted are: ‘Made for Misbehaviour’ – our key strapline. But if pushed for three separate adjectives, I’d opt for provocative, bold, and….if you’ll let me, twisted, of course!

Xenia-Temptress-Set-Whip-Twisted-Lingerie-Interview-Lascivious-Marketing
Get ready to frolic. Or else ?
[Copyright © Tiffany Lin – www.tiffanylinphotography.com]
One of the things that impressed me when first coming across your company was the branding. You’ve got a very distinctive identity, one that looks professionally conceived and designed. Tell us more about the whole process you went through. Logotype choice, meme choice, strapline, the whole shebang!
The hardest part of the branding process was coming up with a name! Once I had – it came to me on the train as I was thinking about Shibari (Japanese rope bondage) – the rest sort of clicked into place. I worked with a fantastic branding consultant who designed the logo; the whip is inspired by one of my favourite leather accessory designers, Paul Seville. It did take a few iterations – the first set of designs were a bit too tame – but I’m thrilled with the final result.

Twisted-Lingerie-interview-Lascivious-Marketing
[credit: Twisted Lingerie]
Your website is wonderfully sprinkled with words and phrases such as ‘debauched’, ‘after-dark frolicking’ (I loved seeing that!), and the premise that ‘even sex can be sexed-up’. You’re definitely trying to appeal to women who want to be naughty rather than a shrinking violet. How much of this is due to identifying with a defined buyer persona, and how much of this is a hint of Sophie being expressed?
A bit of both I think! I definitely believe in the value of a strong tone of voice and that runs right through the customer’s experience, from the website to our care labels (“You can get me as dirty as you like, but wash me gently”). The language we use communicates the core ethos of the brand and I’m not apologetic about it. It won’t appeal to everyone, but that’s ok; it will appeal to the women (and their lovers) who want to break aware from the status quo and surrender to their desires, whatever they may be.

Xenia-Playsuit-Twisted-Lingerie-Interview-Lascivious-Marketing.
[Copyright © Tiffany Lin – www.tiffanylinphotography.com]
You offer student discount for all your products. This isn’t something I’ve come across at least before now. Is this quite common? What was the rationale behind this?
I think it is quite common amongst the likes of New Look, Misguided and ASOS. Given Twisted’s accessible price point, I’m in part competing with that type of brand so it felt right to offer the same types of incentives as they do. Plus I remember what it’s like to be a student – they’ve invariably blown all of their cash on nights out but still deserve to look hot on the next one!

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, not only for Twisted Lingerie but the industry as a whole?
It’s still early days for us but the one thing that really struck me is the lack of awareness amongst some of the smaller lingerie brands of the importance of marketing. As a lingerie fan myself, the most frustrating thing is knowing there are some fabulous indie brands out there but they lose out to the big players because they don’t use marketing effectively. Coming from a business background, I place a huge amount of importance on data gathering, A/B testing, optimisation, etc. but I am often met with blank faces when I try to discuss this in fashion circles.

What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
My limited marketing budget! Since I’m operating on a shoestring budget, I’ve had to be very creative about what I can do with little to no funds. Using social media and writing a blog has been at the heart of my marketing strategy. It takes patience – building a following doesn’t happen overnight – but by genuinely interacting and engaging with my customers and the wider lingerie community, I have started to see organic growth.

Time is our most precious commodity, especially for entrepreneurs. How do you maximise yours, and what tips have you picked up along the way?
About five years ago I read a Vanity Fair article about Barack Obama. In it he explains that he only wears blue or grey suits because he doesn’t want to waste time making decisions about what he’s wearing when he has so many other decisions to make. The concept really resonated – having a fixed routine means I’m able to be more productive as I don’t get distracted by trivial things; for example, I decide what I’m going to wear and eat the following day before I go to bed, I only socialise (be it for business or pleasure) once in the workweek, and if something comes up that isn’t on my to do, I won’t do it (at least not that day).

Xenia-Classic-Set-Twisted-Lingerie-Interview-Lascivious-Marketing
[Copyright © Tiffany Lin – www.tiffanylinphotography.com]
What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far both about competing in the lingerie industry, and as an entrepreneur?
As a self-funded startup with a super small team, I had to make it work with limited resources so I quickly learned to keep things basic. I think with new businesses there’s often a temptation to do too much or to try to appeal to everyone but I believe that zeroing in on one idea and executing it exceptionally is the key to success not only in the crowded lingerie industry, but also as an entrepreneur.

And finally, what has been your most enjoyable moment or experience with Twisted Lingerie, that has made the blood, sweat and tears all worthwhile?
My first sale – it was an incredible feeling having worked so hard to make my vision a reality, and then seeing that reality start to take form.

 


For someone who by her own admission hadn’t a stitch of formal exposure to the lingerie industry before founding Twisted, Sophie’s bootstrapping, whip-cracking ways are noteworthy. And while lingerie snobs may question the lack of training or experience, it’s more than offset by her commercial background and an intrinsic understanding of the importance of branding, positioning and data-backed decision-making. In fact, between you and me, it’s this which will arguably hold her in far better stead than the designers full of lofty dreams and ambitions who have a eye for figures, but not those on a spreadsheet never mind a balance sheet.

Good luck, Sophie!

So, if Sophie’s sexy wares have got you in the mood for some after-dark (or daylight, we don’t judge!) frolics, then head to www.twistedlingerie.co.uk  and don’t forget to say hello to them on Twitter too, at @TwistedLingerie

 

ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING SECTOR?
If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrpreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

Until next time!
Brian

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: Eva Cincar, Persian Palm, making ceramic sexy

Dildo or decorative object? Italian luxury sex toy firm Persian Palm has the answer: they’re both.

Co-founder Eva Cincar answers questions on branding and butt plugs, design and dildos. Brian Gray handles the alliteration.


BRIAN GRAY: So let’s start from the beginning. How did you meet one another and how did the relationship develop into one that said “Hey, let’s make sex toys together!”

Luana Giusti and Eva Cincar from Persian Palm, Italian ceramic sex toy brand, interview with Lascivious Marketing
Luana Giusti (l) and Eva Cincar (r) of Persian Palm: making ceramic sexy! [image copyright: Persian Palm]
EVA CINCAR: I’d start with the fact that we are both from the Italian region of Tuscany, which has a long history of ceramic production since the Middle Ages, so we have always had a close connection with ceramics. Also, I’m an archaeologist, which I studied at the university.

Luana and I have known each other for many years, we’re friends thanks to our husbands. Our friendship has become very beautiful and with a few secrets shared between each other. One night at dinner, talking passionately about what we could make from ceramic, the idea of producing artistic ceramic sex toys was mentioned. At the beginning we treated this as a bit of a joke, laughing about it. But some time later, talking about it again, we realized that it was no longer a joke but actually a really good idea. We began studying the market, to understand if there was a place in the market for such a product. Not long after that initial dinner, Persian Palm was born.

Persian-Palm-Luxury-Italian-Ceramic-Sex-Toy-Butt-Plug-interview-Lascivious-Marketing
Objet d’art or exquisite eroticism? Actually, it’s both! [image copyright: Persian Palm]
Many businesses begin either with a passion for a product or service, or experiencing a personal situation in which a need was subsequently identified, or because what’s already on sale isn’t good enough. Is one of those responsible for Persian Palm or was there another motivation?
Even before we had the idea of Persian Palm, we knew a little bit about the world of sex toys. We noticed that most of the products were so similar, and mass-produced using silicone, with more or less similar shapes. We also realised that people using sex toys usually keep them in their drawers, away from prying eyes. We noted that in today’s market there are few sex toys that a person can put on the shelf, without arousing comments from others. This is why we decided our line of sex toys would have a base, so they can stand by themselves as a decorative object in their own right, hand painted by ceramic artists, while being a fully functional, and safe, sex toy.

Another advantage of our sex toys is the fact that, all being individually decorated by hand, they can be personalised, which makes it even more of a personal, intimate toy. It becomes an object made just for you, as you want, and this item is your toy. So our goal is to create unique artistic sex toys for every single person exactly like they want it.

How did family and friends react when you first announced that you were setting up a sex toy company?
Reactions were very positive all round. Some people found it just an interesting idea, but others were very ecstatic. We never found hostility from anyone whom we told our project: indeed, a lot of our friends and helped us all with their own ideas.

How are the responsibilities split between the pair of you? Do your skills complement each other?
We divide our tasks, complementing each other. As I have a little more time, I take on the production, promotion and sales responsibilities, while Luana stands behind the administrative aspects.

In the UK, it can be an issue for sex toy companies getting business bank accounts due to the banks citing ‘reputational risk’ – which is ironic given their misbehaviour in the last decade or so! What if any challenges did you face in Italy?
Even if Italy is a country more closed regarding a lot of aspects, we have never encountered such problems. Indeed, our project was funded with a very soft loan, promoted by the Tuscany Region, and then also the banks were always ready to help and find the right solutions for our business.

What three adjectives would you like Persian Palm to be perceived as, by your target buyers?
Unique, artistic, and enjoyable!

Persian Palm, Italian Luxury Sex Toys Brand Packaging interview Lascivious Marketing brand packaging
Persian Palm, Italian ceramic sex toys, brand packaging. [image copyright: Persian Palm]
When it came to designing your logo and selecting your logotype, how was this achieved? Talk us through the process.
I would start from the name chosen for our brand, Persian Palm. The Palmetta Persiana (‘Persian Palm’, in English) is a decoration of Tuscan tiles that was very widespread in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. As it is our favourite Tuscan ceramic decoration, we choose it for our brand. Our logo is in fact based on that decoration, with a palmetta drawn on the letter P of the logo.

Persian Palm Italian Luxury Sex Toys handpainting interview Lascivious Marketing
Persian Palm: handpainted ceramic sexiness. [image copyright: Persian Palm]
Your toys are all hand painted. With this, there’s an obvious opportunity for customers to come to you with a particular paint scheme or design, or perhaps a naughty inscription, to be added. How often does this occur and is this something you’d like to see more of?
Yes, absolutely. Requests for customisation are very popular, taking advantage of the fact that ceramic materials allow such opportunities compared to mass production sex toys. Certainly we would like to see even more of these things, because as I said before, we want to produce a sex toy and a piece of art that is unique to each person, and with the customisation it becomes even more.

What have been your biggest marketing challenges so far and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenges for Persian Palm have been, and still are, increasing brand awareness, communicating the artistic value of our products, and introducing an uncommon material for the production of sex toys. Ceramic is a tough, durable, safe and beautiful material. We are still working to highlight its extraordinary qualities. It’s been used by humans in everyday life since the dawn of civilisation; indeed its discovery in the neolithic age was the beginning towards civilisation as we know it today.

Talking specifically about marketing, if you could go back to the beginning and start Persian Palm from scratch, what – if anything – would you do differently, second time around?
Sure, as beginners, we have made some small mistakes. But now, thinking on the spot, we would not have done anything differently. Perhaps one thing would be to communicate a little more the fact that, beyond the sex toy of Persian Palm, there is a really unique piece of art.

What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far both about competing in the adult retailing industry?
The most valuable thing we’ve learned is about the market segment we’re competing in. Our sex toys are sex toys, but at the same time we are producing design items, that not necessarily have to be sold in a sexy shop or erotic boutique. We realised that a lot of resellers of any kind of artistic and design items, are looking for us and our products.

Persian Palm Italian Luxury Ceramic Handpainted Sex Toy selection of butt plugs and dildos
Artistic, unique, intimate. Personalised plugs (and dildos) from Persian Palm. [image copyright: Persian Palm]
And finally, what has been your most enjoyable moment or experience with Persian Palm, that has made it all worthwhile?
I can tell that the most enjoyable moment was our first Persian Palm dildo sold. It was an indescribable sensation. After that, the best moment was our first fair, EroFame. It was the first time we went out with our products, showing them to an expert audience. Their reactions – and admirations – were priceless.

 


For a company that most definitely (thanks to their butt plugs) puts the ‘-anal’ into artisanal,  opportunites abound for Persian Palm to seek mutually rewarding partnerships not only with high-end adult retailers, but also with independent luxury art and contemporary interior design boutiques who are open-minded enough to accept PP’s wares as sex toys while also recognising their unique decorative values.

So, if your appetite has been whetted for some of Eva and Luana’s decoratively debauched delights, then head to www.persianpalm.com  and don’t forget to say hello to them on Twitter too, at @PersianPalm

Good luck, ladies! Ciao bellas!

[all images supplied by Persian Palm]

 

ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING SECTOR?
If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrpreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

Until next time!
Brian

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.

Lingerie Industry Snobs: Know your Place!

Is the lingerie sector guilty of being a bit too precious about whose company they keep?

In all the sectors that can be included in the umbrella industry of love, sex and everything in between, the lingerie sector is arguably the one to care most about branding and positioning.

Firstly, it’s great to see lingerie marketers looking out for their brand. This is entirely understandable, and highly commendable. For the most part, lingerie isn’t a commodity purchase. If a branded item is of genuine high quality and carries with it a premium price, then the brand values and touchpoints should reinforce this.

But the industry could collectively have a bit of a reality check too, and realise their position in the grander scheme of things.

Unfortunately, there’s an impression that the lingerie industry can be snobbish when considering the other sectors involved in the love and lust business. This has been backed up with one or two personal discussions I’ve had where I’ve had the distinct impression this has been the case. I’m not mentioning names.

Here at Lascivious Marketing our target sectors have a common link: they all play their part in the journey of lust, love, and maybe, just maybe, happy ever after (no promises, ‘mind), from the very start. Lingerie is but one sector.

Need a bit more convincing? Take a look at this highly elaborate piece of infographic-ery I rustled up to visually bring home just how many other sectors the lingerie sector has for company when it comes to your fellow man and woman satisfying their love and sex lives.

The Lascivious Marketing Guide to the Businesses of Love and Lust
Hey lingerie sector, ‘think you’re operating in isolation? Think again.

There are probably quite a few other sectors that should be added to the list but these are the ones that most quickly spring to mind
[Should we perhaps add ‘Lawyers’ too, or is that being a tad pessimistic? Yeah, let’s leave it out!]

So while certain lingerie designers may be spending a lot of time and effort in positioning their wares as aspirational, premium-priced items that suggest quality, elegance, and style etc etc….  they also need to accept that if their wares are being worn with more baser instincts in mind, there’s a good chance they will be part of a bigger picture – if even just for one evening – that involves products and services from other sectors.

“But we’re the lingerie industry…”
Yes you are, but when considering the wide range of goods and services consumed in the context of love, sex, and relationships, you’re not operating in isolation. Far from it. If Dita von Teese, who many reckon is the epitome of glamour and style in her skimpies, can attend the Erotica expo back in the Noughties – which was also choc-full of exhibitors punting everything from bondage duct tape to other mischievous wares – then you can get off your high horse.

“But, but…..you’re involved with sex toys! Smutty cock rings and dirty dildos!”
Yes, and not to put too fine a point on it, there are some very expensive – not to mention ornate and of the highest quality – sex toys out there which easily exceed the price of a pair of your beloved skimpies. And probably bring about far more pleasure to their owners, too.

So there.

Furthermore, have you ever considered the fact that your own beloved customers may very well be putting such toys to use in their own encounters while adorning your prized items? How do you like them apples ?!

At the end of the day, lingerie designers and marketers have no control over how customers wear their items, in what environments, and doing what with whom. In actual fact, they don’t have too much control over their brand either. They can ‘manage’ it as much as possible in terms of visual identity and touchpoints, but they can’t manage how it’s perceived by their target audience who are the true brand arbiters. And they’ll do what they damn well please with whoever’s items of intimate apparel.

Or would snobby lingerie designers and retailers prefer laying down some ground rules? Accompanying the care instructions for how their skimpies should be washed and dried, will be some usage instructions too.

“XXX Lingerie’s brand means everything to us. In fact, it’s far more important to us than your purchasing of one of our items. So, that means you can’t use dildos while wearing this item, or be wearing it while on a sexy rendezvous, especially if there’s the chance it’s going to be a sordid no-strings attached variety, tut tut. Nor can you wear it in a sex club, even a posh one, or in fact be getting up to any mischief at all. Better still, just don’t wear it. Leave it in its nice box comforted by its protective tissue paper. Thanks awfully. XoXo ”

Sounds pretty ridiculous, right? So let’s all grow up a little. If lingerie designers and retailers accept that the above is nonsense, but can’t accept that the Lascivious Marketing client base may include fetishwear and dildo retailers as well as those in the lingerie sector, it’s more than a bit hypocritical. Lingerie is not the sole actor in the love and lust sector. And neither is it when it comes to the sectors covered by Lascivious Marketing.

We love to work with companies and individuals who care about their brand. But at the same time, we will also ensure we work with people who show common sense, gumption and with feet firmly on the ground.

If you’re turning your nose up at Lascivious Marketing because we attend to other sectors, such as adult retailing / sex toys, you’re the type of client we wouldn’t want to be associated with either, for numerous reasons.

Now, let’s get back to spreading some love…..ly marketing!

If you’re a lingerie company and you’ve got no issue at all with the company we keep, and you’d like to chat about your marketing and how we can assist you maximise your marketing effectiveness, get in touch. I don’t bite…..unless you wa….ahh, you’ve heard that a thousand times.

Until next time!
Brian

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

Lingerie Branding: What’s in a Name?

How bad an idea is naming a lingerie brand after the designer?

For anyone responsible or merely interested in brand creation, positioning and visual identity, ‘Designing Brand Identity’ written by Alina Wheeler is an excellent book. It’s an invaluable point of reference for the whole process while also featuring a shedload of real examples. Lots of colours, lots of visuals, and written in pretty straightforward prose.

While the primary market for the book would probably be people working in larger companies, it’s a great introduction nonetheless for those in smaller companies or indeed starting out on their entrepreneurial journey.

When it comes to lingerie branding, there’s a common tendency to use the designer’s name as the brand name. Why is this? It doesn’t come without its own issues.


BRAND NAME TYPES

Wheeler explains the different brand types available. There’s seven in total, namely:

Founder
Descriptive
Fabricated
Metaphor
Acronym
Magic Spell
Combinations (of the above)

Needless to say, I started thinking about lingerie brands and examples of each of the different name types.

LINGERIE BRANDBRAND TYPE
Karolina LaskowskaFounder
Attollo LingerieDescriptive (says what it does on the tin)
FoxersFabricated (distinctive, created name)
BordelleMetaphor (Using names, places, things, animals etc to project a quality)
Let me know! ACRONYM
Creme Bralee Magic Spell (altering spelling of an existing phrase)
Bombshell GabrielleCombinations of above

Although not an extensive or rigorous search (mostly comprising of LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers/followed) the biggest group would probably be the combination of ‘METAPHOR + DESCRIPTIVE’, i.e. Pounce Underwear.

Attollo Lingerie is an interesting one.  Yes, it’s DESCRIPTIVE in the sense that ‘…Lingerie‘ is part of the name. Also in a sense equally descriptive with ‘Attollo…‘ assuming you learned Latin at school! Some people might argue that it’s actually a combination of METAPHOR + DESCRIPTIVE given that the meaning isn’t obvious to non-Latin scholars. But I’ve got the casting vote in this instance and I think it’s being cleverly descriptive. So there. (Good luck, A+F)

I also think Bombshell Gabrielle is a great name: a combination of METAPHOR + FOUNDER, with the bonus of sounding great when spoken. (Take a bow, Gabby)

As you’d expect, the same applies to lingerie retailers, with many brand name types well represented. Boutiques such as Gabriella Sandham and Caroline Randell are ‘Founders’ while others such as A Sophisticated Pair belong in the ‘Metaphor’ pair. There is no shortage whatsoever of ‘METAPHOR + DESCRIPTIVE’ and ‘FOUNDER + DESCRIPTIVE’ combinations. The latter is pretty self-explanatory. There will be a differentiating name, metaphor etc coupled with ‘…Lingerie’ or ‘…Intimates’. This obviously doesn’t do any harm whatsoever when it comes to SEO.

FOUNDER NAMES: PERILS AND PITFALLS ?
When describing ‘Founder’ brand names, Wheeler explains:-
“Many companies are named after the founders: Ben & Jerry’s, Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren, Mrs. Fields. It might be easier to protect. It satisfies an ego. The downside is that it is inextricably tied to a real human being.”

A few things spring to mind here. Wheeler mentions ego: something vital to possess when starting up a business. A thick skin helps too. This is amplified when it’s something as personal as designing lingerie, especially if it’s high end / couture. It can represent the thoughts, feelings, desires and so on of the designer.

But is the decision to name the company after oneself a sign of too big an ego? Or a lack of imagination? Personally, I doubt the latter. If a designer can produce some stunning designs but not a distinctive identity there’s something very wrong.

Also, what happens if the designer walks in front of a bus or gets caught in some embarrassing tabloid sting? (There’s a reason marketing and advertising agencies create fictional brand characters). What if further down the line there’s a boardroom punch up and the designer/founder leaves the company but legally cannot use his or her own name as a new trading name?  (This HAS happened in the creative industries: Saatchi & Saatchi is a prime example).

MEANING TO A NAME?
But what are the implications of using the designer’s name in the lingerie branding world?

You see, words are powerful things. Not on their own of course (they’re just groups of letters strung together), but through shared meaning and fields of experience. Basically, how words are perceived and interpreted by others. These words immediately conjure up certain images.

When I see the name Pounce Underwear I can IMMEDIATELY start forming an idea in my mind about the type of items being sold and who their likely target markets are. It also gives a clue about the brand essence (its DNA, if you like), personality and perhaps the people behind the brand.

My mind has no difficulty in visualising images around ‘Pounce’, pouncing, or being pounced upon. It suggests something racy and animalistic, verging on predatory, even. Ooh la la. ‘Led by instinct’ they proudly proclaim on their website. You see how the picture in your head is being defined that bit more?

In a similar vein, Bordelle also conjures up something. Agent Provocateur? No further explanation required. I know immediately that these aren’t the sorts of safe, homely brands being talked about in care homes or down at the local WI.

In contrast, what do the names our dear old Mum and Dad gave us convey?

Absolutely nothing.

Consider two fictitious lingerie firms, called let’s say, “Amanda Jones” and “Jane Williams”. From this I have no idea if Amanda’s wares are more exciting than the ones offered by Jane, who in turn are more exciting than another brand called “Emma”.

Furthermore, are all ‘Amandas’ homogonous in their ‘brand essence and values’ ? Of course not.

Let’s step outside the lingerie sector for a moment to illustrate this more effectively.

Think of Ralph Lauren. On its own it’s just a name, but then apply an endorsed brand architecture with the introduction of ‘Polo’. The word and logo immediately conjures up images of a sport played and watched by the upper classes and all the associated trappings of that ecosystem. Wealth, status, success, influence: all these things come to mind. It’s easy to see how that one word has far more power in its ability to create a strong brand image and position in the minds of customers than mere ‘Ralph Lauren’. Capische ?

It’s all well and good if the person has already achieved widespread fame, and an enviable lifestyle that others aspire to…. And all the trappings that go with it. Think of all the actors, actresses, sports stars and athletes who suddenly have fragrances introduced in their name. It’s the intended rub-off effect of those people who’ve already made it, and the values they hold or behaviours they exhibit. Once more, their names per se are irrelevant. Its their brand values that are the big draw.

Conversely, it’s not so hot if the designer is still living with parents in the suburbs rather than a plush Mayfair penthouse overlooking Hyde Park. ‘Faking it til you make it’ won’t work. Consumers are too savvy.
(That said, moving back in with the oldies makes for great short-term business sense, keeping your cash flow and expenses in order. As for your sanity, that’s another matter!)

Perhaps there’s a certain exoticism in having a foreign name and marketing it in a foreign country.  In marketing terms it would be associated with ‘country of origin effect.’  Or some sort of perceived erotic arbitrage.  The obvious downside is that its own domestic market may view it less enthusiastically.

If someone enters ‘sexy lingerie’ into Google and the choice comes up between ‘Pounce’, ‘Bordelle’ or just someone’s name, I know which one I’d put my money on to receive the least clicks. Furthermore, if Amanda’s garments are erotic, provocative and conjuring up images of all sorts of debauchery and not at all designed with the school or supermarket run in mind, then isn’t such a nondescript name arguably a disservice?

But there’s something else to be considered: purchase rationale. What if the searcher’s key criterion is functionality rather than thrills? In this instance the named designer might get a look in, especially if the page description hits the spot. But what if the searcher is looking for something spicier?

What about lingerie bought by men for their beloved (or be-lusted) ? Smart guys will have undertaken a covert rake through his partner’s knicker drawer to see what floats her boat. In this instance if he comes across a few items from a named designer during his rummaging, then that will be his initial reference point when going online to investigate further.

But, given that men – anecdotally at least – are often guilty at the best of times of buying far racier skimpies for their partners in crime than what the women would normally buy themselves, what chance does lingerie designed by ‘Jane Doe’ stand in the Google results when listed alongside more thought-provoking brands such as Fraulein Kink and Bordelle? Again, I know where I’d put my money.

If the designer is at the very beginning of his or her career, then they may feel that simply getting their name out there and recognised is critical.  On one hand, brand awareness is of course vitally important.

On the other, lack of sales will kill a business quicker. Having a recognised name out there is useless if the revenue and profit figures are depressing. And if a brand name is not attracting attention, creating interest, and helping to arouse desire and convince consumers to take action and buy, then what’s the point of it?

Maybe the use of the designer’s name is to try and appeal to a broad church and not limit themselves to one category. But trying to appeal to everybody is always going to end in tears. If I had a heart problem, who would I rather see: my GP or a cardiologist?

But the most important priority is to be revenue earning and making a profit. Having one’s own name in lights or on a swing label is a distant second. In other words, choose the brand identity which will have the biggest impact on the bottom line.

In a fast-living world, where time is in short supply and faced with 24/7 digital media and relentless advertising assaults on one’s mind, a company can have only the slightest of moments to make an impression. Make it count. Choose an identity that immediately means something to someone.

As you’ll no doubt appreciate, branding is a huge topic in its own right. And I’ll be coming back to it in future posts.  So I’ll leave more talking points for then. But if you’re sufficiently stirred – for better or worse – by these here words, get in touch. Send a tweet or indulge yourself with flowing prose.

Until next time!
Brian

Welcome to the Lascivious Party

First things first, hello and welcome to the Lascivious Marketing website. And to the first of many blog posts, featuring various utterings (or smutterings, ooh la la) that will either amuse, educate, interest and maybe even intrigue you. Perhaps all in one go!

And while this is the first blog post, it’s rather apt to spend a few minutes talking about planning.

You see, I planned to have the website completely er…completed before saying hello to the big wide, naughty world. There’s still some webpages that aren’t uploaded for your viewing pleasure, but will be. That by the way is my none-too-subtle way of impressing upon you the need to come back for more and not be just a one-visit stand.

Besides, you’ll have already formed an opinion within the first few seconds of landing on this here website whether it a) piques your interest and b) reassures you that behind the ‘shop window’ of what you see before you, there’s professionalism and competence by the bucketload.

Therefore, when there’s a few pages missing, you’ll have already decided to come back regularly to see what’s new. I salute you!

But if you’re running a small business, or heading up a marketing function in an SME, you’ll be well aware that a balance has to be found between planning and action.

Whereas the perfectionist would agonise over this, in business there’s no time for that trait. There are phrases aplenty highlighting this. ‘A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow,’ gets top marks. In short, if you’re about 80-85% of the way there, crack on. Don’t delay in taking action. Work on the remaining bits after if needbe.

Why?

Because there’s another well-used maxim, courtesy of Helmuth von Moltke, head of the Prussian army from back in the nineteenth century. “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” Once you’re on the battlefield – or in your case, the marketplace – it’s a bit of a crap shoot, in all honesty. Yes I know: Debretts will be so aghast at my saucy vernacular.

But is that to say that plans are useless? Far from it. Sure, I realise that I’m going up against some big hitters here. Apparently Google has never had a business plan (although they do have a set of guiding principles). Are they doing badly? Hardly.

Scottish beer mavericks BrewDog aren’t fans of business plans either. While I don’t agree with all their principles or attitudes to business or marketing, it’s blindingly obvious that not having a business plan hasn’t stopped them doing fabulous things. Especially producing 5AM Saint, my favourite from the BrewDog kennel. Yum, indeed.

Now before you start derisively sticking fingers up at marketing books, or guides you’ve received from your local small business support organisation, there’s room for compromise here. Once again we head back to the military. And to a chap called Ike. Ike knew a thing or two about fighting – and winning – wars.

“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”
General Dwight D Eisenhower
(Yep, Ike. And he later became US President too.)

Have you ever heard of a modern war that was fought without a plan? Exactly.

On balance, I think this is the closest to summing up the required marketing mindset for the smaller company with their eyes on the prize and a desire to go up in the world.

At its most basic, marketing planning is all about answering four key questions.

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • How do you get there?
  • And how will you know you’ve arrived?

Simple enough, but in order to get somewhere, you need to have a plan, and in order to have a plan, you need to know your current situation. Your circumstances may be markedly different from a competitor who on the surface looks quite similar. The best marketing plans also play to a company’s strengths. How do you know these strengths in the absence of a decent bit of self-examination – a marketing audit?

So, going back to Ike’s words of wisdom. In order to win, he had to know his own strengths and weaknesses – as well as his adversary’s – in order to create a plan offering the best chance of success. ‘Makes sense now, doesn’t it?

But he also was savvy enough – and you should be too – to know that unexpected things happen, whether in war or in business. New rivals, with equally new products, and/or marketing weapons can put a spanner in the works. Does that mean that a shiny marketing plan may be rendered irrelevant? Not necessarily. A lot of the work – and insight – spent creating it will still be more than valid. It might just require a bit of tweaking here and there.

So don’t you be shirking from evaluating your company and your external environment. You’d better know your strengths and weaknesses inside out. And while you’re at it, get a handle on external opportunities and threats coming your way.
(If you’re a marketing novice, I just stealthily introduced you to the not-so-humble SWOT Analysis. Sneaky, huh?)

But before I momentarily say toodle-pip until the next time, one final point.

Yes, a good plan is normally more than enough, and that a perfect plan should not come at the expense of getting in the thick of it sooner. But don’t think that ditching the perfectionism means getting away with half-assed work. If you’re an up and coming lingerie designer and seller, while your marketing plan doesn’t have to be as sharp as a razor in all the elements to get you on your way, you’d still better know how to make damn good bras. That means attention to detail in the dimensions, the stitching, etc etc. There’s no room for error or having a lackadaisical attitude towards product quality.

See the difference? Great.

And that holds true from my side as well. For instance, merely being able to ask questions does not equate to being able to design a great customer research survey (although I’m sure there are some people out there who’ll probably think so). Attention to detail and accuracy are as paramount to myself and Lascivious as they are to the hard-working lingerie designer. Trust me on this: I’m a professional.

Anyway, I digress. Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ll hear from you either on Twitter, or if you like, by emailing me, or picking up the phone to talk about your upcoming marketing project you think we might be able to assist you with.

Look out for the next post full of words (definitely) and wisdom (probably) and perhaps some good marketing advice as well.
Carpe diem, you naughty boys and girls!

Brian