Category Archives: Brand Interviews

INTERVIEW: Peter Cooke, Fetters

Warwick doesn’t only have a famous castle worth visiting. Renowned BDSM and bondage retailer Fetters entices customers from far and wide to see for themselves the wares on offer.

Taking time to speak to Lascivious Marketing is their Marketing Director, Peter Cooke. Here he highlights marketing segmentation and targeting among their diverse customer base, and more.

BRIAN GRAY:  So let’s get started. Who are Fetters and what are your #sexySME credentials?

PETER COOKE: Fetters is a manufacturer and retailer of BDSM furniture, restraints and fetish accessories. We make many items below our showroom in Warwick but we also retail popular kink brands through our showroom and online.

The business was started in 1976 and in 2015 fetish brand REGULATION purchased the business to bring more bondage focused products into the family. Fetters has changed a lot since the 70s. It’s gradually moved from selling mostly gay S&M products to a more pansexual customer base.

Looking at your website, you offer a wide range of different products in key groups. Which are the most popular items? Have there been any changes in purchasing patterns or new trends that you’re witnessing?
Our most popular products tend to be the smaller bondage accessories, so leather collars, cuffs and mitts. They really are great essentials that everyone starts with. Over the last two years we’ve introduced more dildos, usually at the more premium end such as Square Peg Toys from the USA. These have been extremely popular which was a little unexpected.

Overall, we’re seeing greater interest in products that can help make a great BDSM session; canes, gags, toys etc. People are increasingly ordering products for their weekend plans and we’re realising it’s important to make more of these available to ship quickly and easily.

You’ve got a showroom in Warwick. How would you describe the people who walk in the door? Also, are they curious browsers or do they tend to be quite specific about what they’re coming in for?
We have quite a broad range of customers. Many couples come in together, especially younger couples. Some have experience on the “scene” but many are just curious individuals who are looking for tools to act out a fantasy or indulge in a desire they’ve discovered online. Our showroom is one of the best places to see and sample our furniture so some do travel from greater distances, even outside Europe, to visit us.

What defines your typical Fetters customer, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
I couldn’t even start to define a typical Fetters customer. Some are discreet, others loud and proud. Some comfortable curious while others are highly experienced and heavily involved in the BDSM community. There’s everything in between. Whatever their story, I’d like our customers to see us as Deviant, Exciting and Genuine.

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

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’re still very much on a journey with our marketing approach but we’ve definitely learnt not to overreach with our target market. Many of our products can appeal to both gay and straight customers but these scenes rarely mix and images or copy written for one group won’t be well received by both.

We decided to continue with a more pansexual approach but we’ve learnt to also be aware of what is resonating with customers who have a personal identity preference such as submissive females or switch couples etc. It’s quite a tall order but we’re trying hard to create a brand that speaks broadly to many BDSM individuals.

It’s not hard to imagine – at least in the past – that some locals (such as the NIMBY – “Not in my back yard” – brigade) might be concerned or even outraged about your showroom and types of wares being sold. To what extent – if any – does this affect day-to-day operations?
We try and keep a relatively low profile with our showroom, especially with the exterior. Our interior is designed to be warm and welcoming even though some of our pieces might seem less friendly. Customers appreciate this and our neighbours are either content or less aware. We’re also careful to ensure we don’t seem too seedy or sleazy. We’ll leave that to our customers once they’re home!

Ultimately though, we do have a certain level of pride in hoping our business can enrich the sex lives of people in a positive way. We would do our best to defend that freedom but thankfully we’ve not encountered many issues along the way.

As well as actual and prospective customers, bricks and mortar adult retailers have to engage with other audiences such as the local council, licensing authorities, media and so on. What has been your experience of this, and what do you see as being the key to maintaining good relations with such groups?
Openness and transparency are important. We don’t want to seem underground and obscure. On the other hand, we have to consider customer privacy very carefully. We regularly get press requests for interviews, tours or journalists asking to be connected with customers for editorials. There are benefits to bringing kink, fetishes and adult products out into the mainstream, but my experience is that the reception of this kind of coverage is often not positive, especially online. We choose very carefully and always favour adult or fetish media if we can.

Honestly speaking, we’re not selling our products to the mainstream. There are other, very good retailers for this. We’re serving a sizable niche market. We keep this in mind when contacted by more mainstream media.

What has been your most enjoyable moment or experience with Fetters that has made the blood, sweat and tears all worthwhile?
There’s not a specific moment but when I look at how far our showroom and website have come over the past two years I’m happy what we’re moving in the right direction.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given, and from who?
It’s not a piece of advice but I have a favourite quote, “If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters.”
[it’s a favourite of mine too! You only need one to work.  Brian]

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 with some great people so I’ve been fortunate that we’re able to share our workload on a lot of projects. It’s also easy to get carried away with the day-to-day but I try to just stop and reflect at the beginning of a week. This helps me plan and be more efficient with time.

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Fetters?
We’ve got a couple of exciting photoshoots planned and hopefully the introduction of some video content to really increase customer knowledge of our more unusual products. We’re also holding a number of showroom shopping events which have become popular and provide the perfect excuse for those outside of the Midlands to visit.


Thanks Pete! And it’s refreshing to see an adult retailer that can testify that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ and markets their products and services accordingly. Different buyer personas are vital, thus requiring targeted marketing communications for each identified segment. This genuine customer-led marketing approach is to be commended and should be adopted across the industry by all manufacturers and retailers.

If you want to take a closer look at the many wares on offer, then head to the Fetters website. You can also follow Fetters on Twitter too.


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING / EVENTS SECTORS?
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!
Brian

INTERVIEW: Isabella, Xenses

Tulips aren’t the only lovely things coming from the Netherlands. From lingerie to sex toys and erotic art, adult retailer Xenses nearly has it all.

At the Xenses helm is (Flying?) Dutchwoman Isabella, who talks about her mission, customer base, marketing lessons, and a lot more.

BRIAN GRAY: So let’s start from the beginning, Miss Xenses. ‘Name, rank, and serial number’ as the military used to say! Who are you and what’s been your adult retailing journey so far?

ISABELLA: Miss Xenses a.k.a Isabella is a bit of a mystery and I like that not many people know who I am.  Isn’t it the not knowing that keeps it sexy? But I can confirm that I am a woman, that should do it for now 😉 Xenses is my first experience with adult retailing and that period covers about 7 years. I’ve started with no knowledge of the erotic luxury market and thought that a LELO sex toy was the most luxurious product out there. How little did I know! Xenses has grown from a main-stream adult web shop to a luxury online boutique together with my knowledge of this business.

What made you decide on the name Xenses for your business?
It was actually quite the process to find a name, I had a page filled with dozens of names in front of me, the end result of weeks, even months thinking of names. In the end I’ve chosen Xenses, a mixture of Senses and seX.

Mission statements – especially from corporate behemoths – can often be vague, boring and the reader ends up none the wiser afterwards. But I’ve got faith with you, Isabella! How would you sum up the mission of Xenses?
It’s really simple: I want to bring love and happiness to lovers all over the world with unique, hand crafted products that will inspire love and satisfy desires. And in doing so curate an amazing collection of high quality and luxurious products that will WOW my clients.

Your website offers a wide range of adult retail products, from lingerie to sex toys to erotic art. Needless to say, there’s a lot of different designers and manufacturers to deal with! Tell us more about this. Who approaches who? What criteria are in place?
Well, it happens both ways, I contact designers and they approach me as well. As it is my aim to bring mostly unique brands and products together, I search the internet for new and exciting brands that could be an addition to Xenses. I prefer hand crafted products that are unique, innovative, luxurious and of high quality. But as with everything, there needs to be a balance, I need well-known brands as well to attract clients.

You’re based in the Netherlands but thanks to the joys of the internet your customers can be from almost anywhere. What countries are your most lucrative so far? How much of your sales comes from domestic customers?
Believe it or not, but the Dutch in general are not that progressive when it comes to erotic shopping, they also do not like to spend money on luxury. After my first year only selling in the Netherlands, I’ve opened the international online boutique Xenses-shop.com and that has been a success from the start. We sell and ship all over the world from New Zealand to Japan with the US, UK, France and Germany as home for most of my clients. I would say that 60-65% of my business comes from abroad and these order amounts are also the highest.

Who is the typical Xenses customer, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand? Most of my clients are male, shopping for their special lady. And I hope they would say: sexy, luxurious and high quality.

A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?
Personal Service. Okay that is two words, but it is something that I value and put a lot of effort in. Online shopping is per definition not personal, but I make it personal as much as I can without losing the discretion or anonymity most of my clients seek.

What has been the highlight so far in your entrepreneurial journey, and why?
I have never been an entrepreneur before Xenses, so I am thrilled to learn about this new talent of mine. The most satisfying part of my business experience however is that I receive a lot of personal feed-back from couples that have loved the shopping experience with Xenses and adore their purchase. I do get official reviews that are visible online, however most clients prefer contacting me directly.

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 small business I do most things myself including marketing. I do work with others at times, but it has been my experience that this business is so elusive, a lot of marketing principles just do not apply. And I have spent a lot of my business capital on expert third parties finding this out. Also the fact that it is an adult business means that restrictions are in place, you cannot do what other regular companies can.

And lastly, my wide range of products can be a challenge, for example lingerie lovers do not necessarily have an interest in sex toys or bondage accessories. The challenge lies in finding a balance on social media and the right mix of products that will attract the right clients for Xenses.

What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
Running an adult company in the Netherlands means encountering many prejudices and obstacles on social media, Google and when contacting magazines and people in general. Erotic luxury is really not a well-known concept here, I have been challenging this notion from the start with high quality luxury products.

What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far both about competing in the adult retailing industry, and as an entrepreneur?
Online visibility is everything, make sure you are found through Adwords, improve your SEO, use social media, keep innovating and find and promote your own unique concept. And stay true to yourself!

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Xenses? The coming months are the busiest months for Xenses, there is not much time to do anything else. In spring I will have time to take a step back and take the pulse of the business and adapt my business to stay on top. What I can say is that we have brought a new brand on board for SS18 that will blow everyone’s mind 😉


Thanks Isabella! And here’s hoping Xenses continues to tempt new and existing customers alike in the Netherlands and further afield.

Yield to temptation at the Xenses website. And don’t forget to follow Xenses on Twitter and Instagram.


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING / EVENTS SECTORS?
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!
Brian

INTERVIEW: Rebecca Allsop, Yummy Gummy Latex

Meet the sweet sounding and equally delicious looking latex brand that’s the anithesis of its fetish-esque peers. Introducing, Yummy Gummy Latex.

Yummy Gummy Latex co-founder and designer Rebecca Allsop talks branding, marketing, and the ‘joys’ of social media.

BRIAN GRAY: Who is Yummy Gummy Latex and what’s the story behind it?

REBECCA ALLSOP: Yummy Gummy is myself (Rebecca) and my boyfriend (Sam). I started making sheet latex back in 2013 when I was taught how to make it by a late photographer who had previously been in the business of making sheet latex. I hadn’t discovered latex before then and wasn’t particularly impressed by it.

But after doing a bit of research I realised no one did what I could now do, which was make patterned multi coloured latex. Fast forward to me taking the little bits that I had made to the BBB (Birmingham Bizarre Bazaar) and having the latex designers there jump for joy that someone finally brought them what they had been waiting for. We saw how big the gap in the market was and after being made redundant and with some encouragement from Sam, I went for Yummy Gummy full time and haven’t looked back.

Yummy Gummy Latex is certainly a distinctive name. How and why did you settle on this particular moniker?
I literally chucked a pile of the little sheets I first made in to the middle of my room and stared at them until I found a name that described them perfectly. They looked just like gummy sweeties in their colour and texture. For me having a name that made people understand what the company was about immediately was really important, to save having to explain or for people to have to research more. It’s fun and memorable, I’ve had many people stand in front of my banners reading the name and chuckling to themselves saying how perfect it is and how nice it is that it’s breaking the dark fetish nature that latex brands usually take.

And what do you see as the brand vision and brand essence of Yummy Gummy Latex?
I always say I want to take over the world with latex.  I want to spread multi coloured latex to the masses and break down that heavy fetish stereotype that the non-latex wearer thinks it’s like. It’s not all “weirdos and gimps”, it’s fun and expressive.

What three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
Innovative, Exciting and Approachable.

A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?
Innovative or Pioneering.

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?
Facebook is crap, Instagram is for the win, and I still don’t know how to work Twitter. At the end of the day I use If This Then That, as a tool to manage all my social medias at once to save myself time. I like posting little clips of me manipulating a sheet of latex as a photo rarely gets across the colours and textures and sparkles right where as a video gives customers a really good idea of what they’re getting.

You’re fairly active on social media, especially Instagram. What have been your key observations on social media as a marketing tool for Yummy Gummy? And how much of your social media activity is planned versus spontaneous?
Its pretty much all spontaneous, I really hate having to post regularly on social media, I much prefer to be making. I have to force myself to try and find something to post every day so I stay relevant and remind people whats new and what they could be buying.

You also actively sell your wares at various markets around the country. What are your opinions on these and how do your sales at these compare to those ordered online?
I do most of my clothing sales at markets as people can try on and impulse buy, or buy in confidence that something fits how they would like it. I’m very good at convincing people just to try something on for fun and before they know it they’re handing over their credit card because they’ve found their clothing soulmate. I sell pretty much all my sheet latex online however as most people are happy not seeing the latex in person before buying and all the sheet latex is made to order.

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 have collaborated with Godemiche Silicone who do the same thing as I do with latex but with dildos. They make multi coloured dildos! I gave them some of my glitter that matches a best selling dress and we created the Gleam dildo. We probably could have made more of a deal of it than we did but both being in similar situations we were both distracted by trying to make our own orders and run our separate companies than to make the most out of the collab with give aways on social media etc.

What has been your personal highlight so far with your involvement with the brand, and why?
Meeting customers and attending the first Sexhibition show in 2015 where I got to dress my idolised fetish models in my latex and have them walk the catwalk. Or when I won my two awards, one for Best Newcomer for the European Fetish awards, or the Sexhibition Best Latex Designer of the Year award. Having peer recognition and support from the community was just amazing to see where I had come with the brand, something I had originally just seen as a little hobby / Etsy business than my full time employment of 4 years.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given or read somewhere, and from whom?
I am advised a lot by another latex brand. As for any particular advice I can’t think of any.

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Yummy Gummy Latex?
I’ve just made a catusit and a bra, which doesn’t sound much, but it’s something I’ve been asked for for years and years but put off doing because they have to fit perfectly and be practically bespoke in every aspect. I am hoping to shoot my collection on some well known Instagram models, collaborate with a plus-size blogger for a joint collection for the much larger lady and I hope to approach fashion boutiques and try and get some stockists in traditional clothing shops.

Thanks Rebecca! And here’s hoping Yummy Gummy Latex hangs onto its its sweet spot in the latex world. 

Tempted by Rebecca’s latex lovelies? Head over to the Yummy Gummy Latex website and don’t forget to follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING / EVENTS SECTORS?
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!
Brian

INTERVIEW: Stacey Mavrou, Eustratia

Meet the Manchester company guiding you the right way into the latex fashion world: Eustratia.

Eustratia Founder and Designer Stacey Mavrou talks branding, marketing, and how she and her company runs.

BRIAN GRAY: Let’s start from the beginning, Stacey. Give us a brief history of Eustratia, your background, and motivation for going into business.

STACEY MAVROU: I first encountered latex clothes in Camden in 2004. I was initially intrigued by the seams without stitching and the fascination grew from there. I have always seen fashion as a powerful mode of self-expression and I wanted to offer people an aesthetic I didn’t see anywhere else. I guess I identified that need through an inability to find the perfect outfit for myself, I wanted something that defined me completely and I wanted to give others to be able to experience that too.

Why did you settle on Eustratia as the name? What does it signify?
The name is a translation of the first part of my (Greek) name (pronounced in Greek, Efstratia), meaning the “good” or “right” way in regards to the path that you take. I inherited the name from my grandmother who was a seamstress and the first person to introduce me to the world of fashion.

As an existing name, there are others who use it on social media, so I like to make the brand easier to identify by adding  _fashion.

And what do you see as the brand vision and brand essence of Eustratia?
The core principle behind the brand is the balance between opposites. I enjoy contrasting elements and love to explore the dynamics between them. After years of experimentation, I think I have reached a point where the balance is right and the result harmonious.

This has led to a slight shift in direction for the brand in the last year. Instead of creating a new and elaborate collection each season, I now offer a carefully curated range of customisable basics, featuring my signature latex-lace, alongside unique, seasonal motifs and items. I still want to enable customers to create an outfit that defines them, but I have used my years in the industry to streamline the process and offer options that resonate with my customers.

What defines your typical Eustratia Fashion customer, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
I’m not sure if you could call Eustratia customers “typical” but I would probably define the main customer type as a party girl or performer. I make things for men on occasion, but the majority of my customers are female. They want something to wear to a club or event that defines them as a person but also works in a busy environment; something striking yet comfortable, sexy but not vulgar, fashionable and simultaneously unique.

Any of the above adjectives would do: I would be more interested to hear what they would use without my prompting!

The UK is home to more than a few highly renowned latex fetish / lingerie designers. What do you think differentiates yourself from them?
I do believe we have the latex designers with the best taste here in the UK and there is certainly something for everyone. In the past, I would have said that it was my unique combination of materials and techniques that set me apart, (since I started creating my first official collection in 2010, I have used combinations of latex with lace, guipure, mesh and other fabrics, chain mail, studs, crystals, perspex and taxidermy) but as these are no longer unique to my brand, I would now say that what differentiates me, is the balance between the contrasting elements in my work and ability to look inwards when I create, instead of concerning myself with what other people are creating or comparing myself to them.

A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?
“Harmony”

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?
Be consistent, overreaching to do something big is pointless if you can’t keep it up.

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 really don’t think I would collaborate with an adult brand as I don’t really consider myself one, I like to walk that fine line between fetish and fashion. I am honoured if people find pleasure in my clothes and I don’t think there should be stigma attached to that but I wouldn’t want to force a certain image onto anyone who sees them differently.

You studied Fashion Design and Technology at Manchester Metropolitan University. Hindsight is always a great thing, but to what extent has it prepared you as a commercial designer, but also as a marketer and businesswoman?
I think doing such a broad course was useful and gave a more spherical view of the industry on the whole and the different positions one could go into. However, as someone whose mind was already made up, I’m not sure I acquired any knowledge could easily be impelled while running my own business. For example, I wouldn’t say I knew much at all about marketing as a graduate, despite doing well on that particular module.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given or read somewhere, and from whom?
Be consistent. I’m sure I’ve read that everywhere but it really is integral. People have short memories and you have to constantly remind them of your existence.

Time is our most precious commodity, especially for entrepreneurs. How do you maximise yours, and what tips have you picked up along the way?
Time management has been an issue for me in the past , as a young designer, full of enthusiasm to create and be involved in new projects, it’s easy to take on too much and in turn, to neglect the more boring but essential business admin. I’ve found that routine works best for me, I have specific tasks assigned to each day of the week and a certain amount of hours assigned to making each day, to stop it taking over my life!

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Eustratia?
At the moment, I’m just focusing on fine-tuning the business side of things. I’m having a break from fashion shows and stalls and even large-scale photoshoots, which were previously a priority of mine. Although I love defining and sharing my vision and the stories that inspire my work, I felt the need to focus more on the actual ordering process of the garments and make it easier for people to just order a piece they are 100% sure about without having to make contact first. I answer all my messages myself and I’m always happy to make suggestions and alternations to suit each individual, but I’m aware that not everyone likes to shop that way.

Thanks Stacey! Here’s hoping you’re similarly guided to bigger and even better fortunes on your journey.

Tempted by Stacey’s wares?  You wouldn’t be the first one! Head over to the Eustratia website and don’t forget to follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING / EVENTS SECTORS?
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!
Brian

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING / EVENTS SECTORS?
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!
Brian

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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?
Quality.
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.

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!


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING / EVENTS SECTORS?
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!
Brian

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.

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.

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.

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?
Erotic.
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.

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.


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING / EVENTS SECTORS?
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!
Brian

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.

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.

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?
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).

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?
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.

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?
“Love”.
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.

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 lovebox.com.ua. 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 lovebox.com.ua  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!


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING / EVENTS SECTORS?
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!
Brian

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.

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?
P:
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?
P:
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?
P:
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.

What defines your typical Slap Stick Club attendee, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
P:
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?
P:
Slap!
H: hahaha – agreed.

What has been the highlight so far in your journey, and why?
P:
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?
P:
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).

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?
P:
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?
P:
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!).

What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far in your fetish event careers?
P:
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?
P:
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 slapstickclub.com  Don’t forget to say hello on Twitter too, at @slap_stick_club
Instagram too? Yep…. slapstick.club


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING / EVENTS SECTORS?
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!
Brian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thanks Rachael! 

If you fancy giving Innocent Sex Toys a visit – especially if you’re planning on being, how should I put this, not so innocent! – you can find them at 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