Q&A With JOYDIVISION’S Bianca Kuennecke
For the last 20 years German powerhaüs, JOYDIVISION has earned a reputation in the industry for being one of the foremost manufacturers of high quality pleasure products in the world. With an unmistakable focus on women’s health and couples’ pleasure, the company has been able to maintain its brand’s unique balance of luxury and sex positivity with award-winning German engineering and design. JOYDIVISION recently set up shop in the U.S. and we had a chance to learn more about the company from Executive Vice President Bianca Kuennecke.
XBIZ: Congratulations on your company’s 20th anniversary! Tell us a little bit about JOYDIVISION for those who may not be familiar.
BIANCA KUENNECKE: Thank you! Well, JOYDIVISION is a German manufacturer of sensual erotic lifestyle products ranging from personal lubricants, adult toys and novelties as well as massage oils. Headquartered in Hannover, Germany and – yes thank you, celebrating our 20th Anniversary in 2014, we have become one of the leading brands in the European market for sexual wellness products. What started 20 years ago with just one product – the love swing – has now grown into a global operation with established distribution networks in over 60 countries. And recently we’ve established a corporate presence in the U.S. where a JOYDIVISION LLC was founded in 2013.
XBIZ: What makes the JOYDIVISION manufacturing process different?
KUENNECKE: All of our products are solely manufactured in Germany. Maintaining local control over production ensures not only our high quality standards and independence, but also protects JOYDIVISION know-how. While we don’t necessarily consider “Made in Germany” to be one of our USPs [Unique Selling Propositions], it certainly has proven to be a positive influence when it comes to overall design, reliability and most importantly – safety! I’d also like to point out that all JOYDIVISION vibrators are actually handmade – so each item is truly unique.
XBIZ: What should Americans know about German manufacturing and engineering?
KUENNECKE: Well, I would say that Germans generally have a very high standard of quality perception and process advancement. We always strive for perfection but remain humble in doing so – but we believe there’s always room for improvement and are therefore never satisfied.
XBIZ: What can you tell us about JOYDIVISION’s unique materials and how they’re procured and developed?
KUENNECKE: That’s a trade secret of course, but I can tell you that the origin of our Silikomed material actually stems from the breast implant industry. The features of the material were so unique that we decided to utilize it for our own product lines. Silikomed became a great success, because the material is antiallergic, safe and can be used with both silicone and water-based lubricants.
XBIZ: There are about 250 or so products in the JOYDIVISION range – what are your best sellers?
KUENNECKE: AQUAglide and BIOglide are certainly our top sellers in Europe. We’re very proud of our top-of-the-line lubricants. Though we have also recently experienced amazing success with our Joyballs Secret. In the U.S., our MicroSets, the Papillon and LadyLike have been overwhelmingly popular, which shows us again that we are dealing with two completely different markets and target groups.
XBIZ: What’s one thing that JOYDIVISION is known for in the industry?
KUENNECKE: Quality – It’s what drives us. We stand behind all of our products and have always – and will always– ensure all of JOYDIVISION products are made of the highest medical grade materials. They are all body-safe and are always made with our customers in mind. Unfortunately, there are many products on the market that simply look pretty, but are made with cheap plastic or less than safe silicone – trying to trick an uneducated consumer base.
XBIZ: Do you have other lines or brands being manufactured under the JOYDIVISION name?
KUENNECKE: In Europe we also manufacture under the redmed label that specializes primarily in medical and sexual medical products. Some products are similar in design, but have distinctive differences in the material composition.
XBIZ: So, why has JOYDIVISION been successful in a highly competitive field for 20 years?
KUENNECKE: JOYDIVISION has been successful for many reasons but I would say the biggest one is again, the quality of our products. When you work with a company and truly believe and love the products you create it shows. We always try to reinvent ourselves, but not at the expense of jeopardizing our core philosophy. We didn’t just create great products, but a lifestyle as well. Throughout the years we made sure to have healthy growth without over extending ourselves. Despite having flagship products, we never specialized in just one area, but rather created a diverse portfolio. JOYDIVISION’s exceptional customer loyalty is proof that this strategy worked.
XBIZ: How are JOYDIVISION’s Joyballs secret different from most Kegel exercisers?
KUENNECKE: For us, women’s input is critical to developing effective products that women will want and use. Not only do we have a gynecologist on our product development team, we’re always seeking to create compelling products based on the inspiration and needs of our customers. The Joyballs secret were not designed overnight, but rather developed over time with voluminous input and feedback from women around the world. We wanted to create something much more approachable and intuitive than what was on the market. With that in mind we developed a product that is ergonomically shaped to fit gently into the sensitive female anatomy while remaining very discreet. We also wanted an easy and innovative removal for the most comfortable use possible. The training device effectively strengthens and tightens the female pelvic floor muscles while providing simultaneous, soft stimulation.
Our patented trampoline effect and unique stringless design for Joyballs secret also set it apart. They deliver a virtually silent, non-visible yet definitely tangible and effective experience when in use.
XBIZ: Which other JOYDIVISION products focus on health and/or medical aspects?
KUENNECKE: Our BIOglide Safe is an HPV preventative lubricant, made of all natural ingredients. The earlier mentioned Soft-Tampons are specifically designed for hygienic intercourse or any other physical activities during menstruation.
XBIZ: JOYDIVISION recently opened offices in the U.S. Why did you select Atlanta for your headquarters as opposed to say on the West Coast in Los Angeles?
KUENNECKE: We analyzed many locations across the country, but Atlanta provided the best opportunities for us. Atlanta has the largest airport in the world with the most direct daily flights to Europe than any other airport in the U.S. Plus, one decisive factor is the six-hour time difference as opposed to nine hours from L.A. to Germany for example. Many European companies underestimate this. Daily communication with our headquarters would have been very limited otherwise. Logistically it also made sense, since we’re importing from Germany of course, and not from Asia. We also learned during our site selection process that Atlanta was voted the No. 1 city to start a business by FDI Magazine and ranked No. 3 by Forbes.
XBIZ: Why, after 20 years, the sudden push to target the U.S.?
KUENNECKE: The U.S. is a very different and particular market. Expanding our business to the U.S. has always been on our agenda, but we knew that it would involve thorough planning and the right strategy. We’ve been observing the U.S. market for several years now and eventually deemed the time to be right, especially since the sex toy industry has been moving more mainstream and general acceptance and public reception has increased. Another thing to keep in mind is that the U.S., despite its huge market potential, also presents many market entry barriers such as FDA regulations or over-saturation in certain segments that needed to be taken into consideration and required extensive planning.
XBIZ: What are the differences between European pleasure products consumers and American ones? How is the industry different in general in both regions?
KUENNECKE: Europeans are much more open when it comes to sexuality and their sex lives. Even though the U.S. is one of the largest sex toy industries in the world, it is still sometimes a subject that people don’t speak openly about. Whereas in Europe you can be much more direct in your marketing approach – you have to follow a more subtle strategy for the mainstream U.S. consumer.
XBIZ: What do you see as the biggest challenge for pleasure products manufacturers in our changing industry?
KUENNECKE: The biggest challenge is educating the consumer on the safety and quality of their products. There is still a stigma associated with sexual wellness products that leave many people feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable with the subject matter. Sadly, there are companies that take advantage of uneducated consumers and offer unsafe products. JOYDIVISION has always provided the highest quality products on the market.
XBIZ: What is the biggest need currently NOT being met by the pleasure products industry?
KUENNECKE: One of the biggest needs in any sexual health related industry is knowledge. Unfortunately, there are still many people out there who are still very embarrassed and uneducated about sex in general, from the health and safety of pleasure products, all the way down to a basic understanding of their own bodies. Thankfully over the last few years people are becoming more open and accepting of intimacy in general and with the Internet at your fingertips many people are more educated on the subject than in the past, but overall, still less than half of Americans have never used a personal lubricant.
XBIZ: What’s your background and how did you wind up at JOYDIVISION?
KUENNECKE: Both, my bachelor and master’s degree are in molecular biotechnology, with one focusing more on the engineering part, while the other specialized in the coursework of molecular medicine, oncology and innovative technology management. During my education I was also actively involved in the Manage & More and Innovations coach programs. When I was approached by JOYDIVISION I did not know anything about them or the industry they’re in, but after our first meeting I was intrigued and wanted to take the challenge.
XBIZ: What do you like best about the industry?
KUENNECKE: I must say I really enjoy working with the people. Not only at JOYDIVSION, but also in the industry itself. Most of all though, I love making a difference in people’s lives. What better job is there than to develop and sell products that give people pleasure?
XBIZ: How much traveling are you doing for JOYDIVISION in a given year?
KUENNECKE: Ever since we started the U.S. project I’ve certainly been collecting a few miles. This year alone I’ve been traveling from Europe to the U.S. about three times and attended most of the trade shows on both continents as well.