Tag Archives: sex toys

INTERVIEW: Richard Almgren, Dodil

What’s green and squishy, but then becomes hard? And again soon after. No, it’s not a rude riddle. It’s the Dodil, the Swedish sex toy that requires only your imagination. Just add boiling water!

Dodil ‘Head Honcho’ Richard Almgren answers the questions in this long anticipated Q&A.

Richard Almgren, Founder of Sedish sex toy brand Dodil, interviewed by erotic marketing agency, Lascivious Marketing [credit: Dodil]
Richard Almgen, Founder of Dodil [credit: Dodil]
BRIAN GRAY: So let’s start by asking you to give us an introduction to Dodil and the people behind it.

RICHARD ALMGREN: The innermost core of the dodil is me, the inventor Richard Almgren, an engineer and seeker of solutions with a wonderful family and a heap of good and supportive friends. From these friendships necessary competences have been added. As in the case with our head communicator Peter, who contributes with his broad experience within marketing and communication. We decided to team up during the spring of 2017, and we really enjoy working and developing together. We share the same core values of inclusiveness and equality which of course influences the brand identity.

Dodil sex toy with flask, interview with erotic marketing agency, Lascivious Marketing [credit: Dodil]
[credit: Dodil]
What exactly is the dodil and how does it work?
The dodil-dildo is a transformable dildo you can shape and reshape in your own hands to fit your anatomy and desires. The whole (optional) dodil-kit includes a branded thermos-flask ideal for the boiling water you need to heat up the dildo.

When you heat the dodil-dildo the inside thermoplastic melts, which makes the product warm, soft and squishy to handle. Now is when you can create all kinds of dildo-shapes. While it cools it turns harder and eventually just as rigid as in its virgin state. The facts that you can do this over and over again and that the thermoplastic is biodegradable makes the dodil truly revolutionary. Money and nature will be saved with pleasure.

How and when did you get the idea for the product?
As an engineer, I had gotten seriously intrigued by the remarkable character of what turned out to be the material core of the dodil, the thermoplastic. How liquid it appears when heated and how durable and rigid when cool. With my knowledge and background I follow with keen interest the development of new solutions to old issues through the use of new materials. What I could not get my head around, was why this ‘bioplastic’ had not yet been used much in new applications apart from in internal medicine. So it got me thinking.

One day I brought an oblong piece of this plastic to a good friend and maker of fishing lures, to see if he could make something out of it. Somewhat puzzled when presented with the material, my friend remarks; “that looks like a dildo to me”. This kindled the light-bulb and the journey began.

I can tell you that inventing something is not all just calculations and prototyping. I have spent thousands of hours analysing the market, learning the industry, checking out the latest technology, you name it. At this time I found myself developing another sex-toy invention and all of a sudden I was sitting in my workshop with not one nor two, but three different and new inventions and uses of sex-toys. So I made a decision on which one was the most viable and behold – the dodil was born.

One dodil makes many dildos - interview with erotic marketing agency, Lascivious Marketing [credit: Dodil]
[credit: Dodil]
With all the seemingly endless hubbub about connected toys and sex robots (with Yours Truly writing about it on several occasions recently) it’s quite refreshing to see something original that doesn’t need either a USB cable or internet access. To what extent have customers and the erotic trade reacted to this particular aspect?
Thank you, we do embrace being revolutionary. The dodil is pretty much DIY, which in its way wraps up what masturbation is about. Everyone gets how remarkable it is to be able to change something according to your own preferences and various desires. And, when it comes to the anatomy of our bodies, which changes over time and is very much like fingerprints, we are all original.

Our customers thanks us for creating this fun and unparalleled product which performs astoundingly well as an internal massager, and for explorations of hot spots to spark. I could say we probably have developed  the world’s best vaginal massager, but instead I leave it with: It is in your hands to make it into the world’s best vaginal massager. A-spot, G-spot, any spot, there is a full alphabet in the dodil to explore.

We also have had reactions to how great it is for couples play. It is indeed something to explore and try together. Or simply surprise your partner with a new design.

The erotic trade also gets it, the more they learn about us. We are consciously win-win oriented. This is why we work hard with our brand, earned media and by staying inclusive.

Dodil, Swedish sex toy, green thermos flask, orange highlights, interview with erotic marketing agency, Lascivious Marketing [credit: Dodil]
[credit: Dodil]
At the moment, the Dodil is an all green affair. What was the rationale for this, and are there any plans for introducing more colour options?
You can call it turquoise, teal, blue, green or aquamarine, but the more specific name of the colour is robin egg blue. The point is to stick out enough while tapping into most people’s liking with a colour we can claim. Something we have managed to do pretty well.

We also have our intriguing and fiery orange colour in our logo. This will be incorporated in upcoming designs and products as well. We like being different, but we are sure our current technology and coming solutions will be what really reforms masturbation regardless of what colour our products have.

Users can create all sorts of shapes and textures with the Dodil. For the more creative among them, rather than visiting IKEA for moulds and cutters (and the meatballs), there’s an obvious opportunity to introduce some Dodil branded accessories. When can these be expected?
We are all about user-experience and user-friendliness, and these will be the factors leading the way to whatever may come. But yes, besides our thermos-flask, it would sure be fun with a dodil-branded kettle for example.

What three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
Revolutionary, Fun and Friendly.

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

Swedish sex toy, Dodil, splashing into flask, interview with erotic marketing agency Lascivious Marketing [credit: Dodil]
[credit: Dodil]
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?
For us it has been all about how you introduce the dodil to people who never heard of or could imagine such a thing. Marketing of today is really about catching those short moments of attention from a customer or future partner. And by redesigning great deals of our appearance and conceptualizing the dodil with “design your dildo” we are confident that we have nailed it. Design and dildo is something that means pretty much the same wherever in the world you go, and put together you get ‘the dodil – design your dildo’, simple as that. And once you have passed the initial threshold you can point at the obvious advantages and the procedure.

Swedish sex toy brand Dodil, single dodil packaging along with different shaped dodils, interview with erotic marketing agency Lascivious Marketing [credit: Dodil]
[credit: Dodil]
What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
To explain the product to new adopters for sure. Hence why we have reshaped ourselves and focus on the advantages put into a concept and slightly less about the actual product. Early on the response came to be a lot about how suitable the dodil is, with its whole packaging and playfulness, as a special gift. But lately we have gotten more response telling about how useful it is as a multi-tool in the quest for a vaginal climax. With this said, we now have reasons to adapt our messaging accordingly.

We didn’t break into the market with approaching retailers and distributors boasting that we have this great invention in our hands. Instead we took it slowly and sought out the reactions and input from thousands of people during this summer’s Pride festivities. From the collected response, we made some improvements to the dodil and then tried it next with the expert consumers (the blogging community).

We have been following and befriending an amazing amount of truly great people over months and they have been a great source for further development. The amount of information and expertise which is gathered in the influencer/blogging community is mind-blowing. And again, just before we went into  business for real, we made some final smaller changes. And here we are, with the world’s first user-designed dildo.

Time is our most precious commodity, especially for entrepreneurs. How do you maximise yours, and what tips have you picked up along the way?
Luckily, I have a supportive family, as well as I am surrounded by a solid team. We are passionate about what we are doing, and we allow a lot of creativity to spark in between chaos and order. But basically, a solid plan gets you a long way. Stake out your road map and set goals along the way to the greater goal. Trust and delegate. And keep listening to those who you have reasons to believe knows better than you.

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Dodil?
Exponential growth, of both the dildo-revolution and the number of new friends. We will continuously stay in the learning loop and keep developing ourselves, our communication and our coming products.

Thanks Richard, and here’s hoping 2018 keeps you busy and successful. And we’ll keep a look out for the Dodil kettle!  

If you’ve got the urge to design your own dildo, then you know exactly where to go. Head to the Dodil website, and say hello to Richard and Co., on social media too: you can find them on Twitter and Instagram.


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!


INTERVIEW: Silvia Picari, Italian artisan sex toys

Italy: known for its style, flair and…sex toys? Silvia Picari from Turin will surely convince you so.

Each one of Silvia’s artisan dildos and butt plugs is truly unique due to their wooden construction. Read on to learn all about it from Silvia herself.

Italian artisan sex toy creator, Silvia Picari, interview with erotic marketing agency, Lascivious Marketing [credit: Silvia Picari]
[credit: Silvia Picari]
BRIAN GRAY: So who is Silvia Picari and what’s been your journey into the world of wooden sex toys?

SILVIA PICARI: Silvia is a human being, a person who is basically calm and relaxed, she likes to joke, to ironize, to live lightly and reflect on the meaning of things (she’s much more but it is difficult to talk about it in a few lines).

Formally I am an architect, designer, artisan and passionate about product design. I love getting my hands dirty and living creatively makes me happy, so I felt the need to develop a project in which I could freely express myself.

The fact of having chosen this particular trade, stems from personal research on the nature of human relationships and on the importance that empathy and love assume in the construction of a happy and cooperative society.

I wanted to make my own product, I wanted to make it in a craft way to feel in touch with it and give it uniqueness. I wanted to give character and meaning to my work.

I have put together these aspects of my way of being and I have undertaken this new, very personal path.

Italian wooden sex toy artisan Silvia Picari working, interviewed by erotic marketing agency, Lascivious Marketing [credit: Silvia Picari]
[credit: Silvia Picari]
Your Italian compatriots Persian Palm opted for ceramics for their dildos. You’ve chosen wood. What are the key advantages and selling points of wood as the key ingredient rather than other substances?
I think it’s not a matter of advantages of a material over the other, but rather a matter of personal sensations and tastes.

Each material to the touch, offers different sensations. The ceramic, glass and steel sensations of cold and heat, the stone is heavy, the silicone is realistic. Wood is natural, it is a living and warm material.

The soft warmth of the polished, solid wood, but still able to gently press on the natural forms of the human body, offers intense sensations of warmth and fullness that is definitely worth trying.

In addition, I personally find it beautiful. The veins and shades of color are always different and make each piece unique. Even if produced in series, two wooden toys will never be identical to each other. Because of its unique nature, this material as well as pleasant, dignifies the very act of giving pleasure.

How much support did you receive from friends, family, and business contacts? Is this a bootstrap enterprise or did you look for funding from other sources, enterprise grants etc?
I received and received a lot of support from family and friends. They are my main supporters and advisors and they actively help me when I need it most. Since I started this business, I was lucky enough to meet many people who were enthusiastic about my work and collaborations that made me grow professionally.

Mine is a small craft business born less than a year. I care about the craft aspect of my work, but as with all new businesses, it is precisely when we start that we need more support. I am working to find funding, but I have to admit that in Italy from this point of view, we lag behind.

As well as offering products for immediate purchase on your website, you also offer tailor-made experiences for clients whereby they come to your Turin premises to be directly involved in the construction and finishing of their products. How well is this being received by the media and customers? Is this a growing offering, or is it still quite a small select customer segment?
The tailor-made experience is also possible for those are not in Turin. From anywhere in the world, the “tailor-made” purchase includes a meeting / consultation by appointment that, if you do not have the possibility to reach my workshop, can be at the customer’s choice, by Skype, phone or mail. This meeting is designed to establish a direct contact between the customer and the realization of his personal toy.

This kind of experience is perceived in a very positive way because it makes the purchase a participatory and conscious action rather than a passive exchange of assets. I consider it a fundamental aspect of my work, the added value that differentiates my products from those in series.

According to my experience it is definitely a growing offer and I am working to improve it more and more.

Sivia Picari artisan wooden sex toys and packaging, interview with erotic marketing agency, Lascivious Marketing [credit: Silvia Picari]
[credit: Silvia Picari]
You previously operated under a different moniker. What was the reason for the change of identity? And what was the rationale behind choosing to use your own name rather than a more descriptive, symbolic or metaphorical brand name?
The reason is that the very idea of ​​this project, as I told you before, comes from a personal research path and is strongly linked to my way of being. For this reason, it evolves and changes with it.

When I started this project I wanted to show my products and underline the playful and sex-positive aspect of the design. For this reason I chose an onomatopoeic name, a “vibrant” logo and, in general, a sparkling and colored image.

In the meantime I have perfected my craft skills, listened to tips, suggestions and selected the most interesting shapes and colors to create new models. I acquired skills and awareness, I grew up and I decided that my project had to grow with me.

This new image wants to better tell the way in which my objects are born, from the idea to the realization and to represent that personal growth that translates into the continuous intent of improving my work. Using my name it means to presenting myself to those are interested in my products, by establishing a more confidential relationship and thus underlining the added value of a craft product.

What three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
Unique.  Because I care to underline the craftsmanship of my products. Each piece is handmade and as such is always different from the previous one.

Ethical.  Because it comes from sustainable production and ecological materials. Because the design of products is designed to represent a healthy and positive idea of sexuality and relationships between human beings.

Familiar.  Because I like to have a direct contact with people who are interested in my work and my products. I am pleased to inform and advise the customer in buying the product that best suits his needs and make sure that he feels comfortable during the purchase.

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

Like the love I put on crafting each piece. Love, empathy and sharing is also the concept that gave life to my products, and an instrument of love is the dildo itself, through which we learn how to love ourselves and consequently also others.

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?
Surely I have learned that marketing is very important, but also that there’s a way of doing it.

Personally, I like to think about it as a way to tell the company and its products, to share the enthusiasm and passion behind the realization of each toy.

I don’t agree with aggressive marketing made of glamorous ads and invasive mailing lists. I prefer the idea of a confidential and kind storytelling, aiming to make people interested on what the company does. Content-based marketing, whose purpose is to establish a sincere and lasting interest from the customers, that respects the intelligence of consumers, involving them in the business experience rather than making them a passive target of announcements and declarations. In this way the customer purchases because he understands the product, appreciates it and shares its value.

Italian artisan sex toy maker Silvia Picari in factory, interviewed by erotic marketing agency, Lascivious Marketing [credit: Silvia Picari]
[credit: Silvia Picari]
What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
My biggest challenge is certainly being able to tell and explain my products in the best way.

They are pleasure objects, but they are also wooden sculptures, artistic totems to be exhibited, symbolic objects that represent my point of view about love and sexuality in a provocative and amusing way. They are artisanal objects and as such, the result of an ethical process.

To tell all this, I work a lot on the website, writing clear and detailed contents and updating the photos. In addition, I use social networks discreetly, publishing photos and videos of the various stages of processing or examples of customized products to give an idea about the possibilities offered.

Italian artisan wooden sex toys from Silvia Picari, interviewed by erotic marketing agency, Lascivious Marketing [credit: Silvia Picari]
[credit: Silvia Picari]
If you could get another erotic brand (whether lingerie, sex toys, fetishwear, pleasure products, BDSM equipment, events or other) involved in a joint marketing campaign, event or other collaboration with yourself, who would it be and why?
I am very interested in collaborations with brands not necessarily related to the adults products trade. I am fascinated by the idea of bringing my products closer to the world of design and culture, for example.

This is not to deny the natural belonging of my products to the sex toys trade but, on the contrary, because I think that this type of objects should be part of everyday life in people’s lives. I like to think that, exposing a beautiful dildo on a beautiful bookshelf, it would be viewed into the common imaginary, as a sign of a peaceful relationship with sexuality and, more generally, of an open and tolerant mentality towards others.

Nevertheless, I adore the experimental part of my work. I like to develop new ideas and products, so another kind of collaboration that I dream to have, is with other artisans specialized on crafting materials different from wood.

Italian artisan sex toy maker Silvia Picari painting a wooden sex toy, interview with erotic marketing agency, Lascivious Marketing [credit: Silvia Picari]
[credit: Silvia Picari]
Time is our most precious commodity, especially for entrepreneurs. How do you maximise yours, and what tips have you picked up along the way?
For a craft company, time takes on a different value than a company that produces in series. In this dimension, we do not work on quantities, but on the quality of the product. Quality means experimentation, thoroughness, attention to detail. We work on customized pieces and this means listening carefully to the needs of the customer and studying the right solutions to satisfy them. You work with your hands and this can lead to unforeseen problems. For all this, it takes time.

Of course, my week is organized on a regular way. I divide the days between production and painting of the pieces, I have dedicated days for contacts with retailers and collaborations, others for communication and marketing and so on, but if I have to be honest, when it comes to making a piece, I’m so absorbed and involved in the processing that I’m not very careful with the flowing time.

And what do the next twelve months hold in store for Silvia Picari?
I am very positive about next year. It will start from January with a collaboration that fills me with enthusiasm, the one with The Fish & Chips Film Festival – Turin International Erotic Film Festival. The festival, will take place in January from 18th to 21st and, as for previous editions, the third will also feature from a careful selection of films and short films that, as a fundamental requirement, represent sex as liberating and never discriminatory. For the Festival, I will be a technical sponsor. I will make the trophies for the winning feature and short films, a limited edition of pieces for the crowdfunding and a new line of personalized products.

Other interesting collaborations are planned with art and design galleries and a project related to publishing with Valentine aka Fluida Wolf (feminist, writer and interpreter): a limited series of plugs to be attached with the book by Tristan Taormino “The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women “, of which Valentine wrote the preface and edited the translation.

In the meantime I am working on the development of new products, but I don’t want to anticipate anything, it will be a surprise for 2018, stay tuned!

Thanks Silvia, for a very informative interview. Best of luck for 2018 and beyond! 

To see more of Silvia’s wooden wares, head to the Silvia Picari website. Say Ciao! to Silvia on Instagram for good measure too!

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!


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.


Peter Cooke, Marketing Director, Fetters [credit: Fetters]
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.

[credit: Fetters]
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?

[credit: Fetters]
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.

[credit: Fetters]
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?

[credit: Fetters]
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.

[credit: Fetters]
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.

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!


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.

Mise en Cage - Weston Lace Up Brief - Photo Pierre Dal Corso
Mise en Cage – Weston Lace Up Brief [credit: Pierre Dal Corso]
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.

Ludique - Diamond Lingerie - Photo Florin Opris
Ludique – Diamond Lingerie [credit: Florin Opris]
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.

Absidem - Janice Studded Handcuffs
Absidem – Janice Studded Handcuffs

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.

Something Wicked - Ava Lingerie Collection
Something Wicked – Ava Lingerie Collection

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.

Absainte - Jacinthe Body Jewelry
Absainte – Jacinthe Body Jewelry

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.


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!


INTERVIEW: Victoria Jane, Crowned Jewels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good marketing is important for any company, not only to thrive but just to survive. What have been your key marketing learning points and observations so far?
It’s very hard to market sex toys. Sex sells everything but when you try to use sex to sell sex, it can be considered sleazy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Until next time!


INTERVIEW: Jessie Maeday, Elysian Latex

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good marketing is important for any company, not only to thrive but just to survive. What have been your key marketing learning points and observations so far?
Oh gosh, I am truly terrible at marketing! I have a little piece of the internet via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter which I try to keep updated regularly with current work, events and inspiration and they are all growing at what I’d consider to be a respectable pace. Branching out to different parts of the work is difficult and most of my followers are UK based, which is good for now as the brand is still in its early stages. I also have an Etsy page where I sell my work, but this desperately needs to be moved onto my own website so I can really show off what Elysian Latex is all about!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Until next time!

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

INTERVIEW: Liam McKenzie, Couples Playthings

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good marketing is important for any company, not only to thrive but just to survive. What have been your key marketing learning points and observations so far?
So far, we’ve learned that marketing is so much more than just pay-per-click advertising or posting your logo on a third party’s website. We’ve spoken with (and watched) several competitors go out of business for this very reason. We’ve learned through our own experience that networking and connecting with industry influencers in various ways works a lot better. We’re also finding out first-hand that word-of-mouth marketing is still possible.

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

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

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

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

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


Thanks, Liam!

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


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

Until next time!

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

INTERVIEW: Ukrainian Marketing Review, Brian Gray

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Until next time!

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

INTERVIEW: Nataliya Vakhovskaya, LoveBox, carnal in Kiev

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our main distribution channel is our online store 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!

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

Until next time!

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

SIX reasons branding matters for adult retailers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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