Category Archives: Interview

INTERVIEW: Nataliya Vakhovskaya, LoveBox, carnal in Kiev

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our main distribution channel is our online store 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

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

INTERVIEW: Pierre & Hannah, Slap Stick Club

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

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

 

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

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

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

Given your name, many people would be forgiven for initially thinking you were a comedy club rather than a fetish club. What made you settle on this moniker? Were there any other contenders?
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.

Slap Stick Club logo, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing.
Fun fetishism!     [credit: Slap Stick Club]
What defines your typical Slap Stick Club attendee, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
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).

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

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

What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
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!).

Keep calm and start slapping - Slap Stick Club interview with Lascivious Marketing
What are you waiting for?!
[credit: Slap Stick Club]
What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far in your fetish event careers?
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

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: 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.

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

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