Retail Biz: Double the Pleasure

Ariana Rodriguez
The sex toy industry was founded on products that aided women with masturbation as a cure to their hysteria among other ailments. And throughout history, as women owned their sexuality, vibrators promoted sexual gratification sans the need for a partner. On the flipside, vibrators also made their way into couples’ bedrooms under the guise of marital aids as encouraged by sex therapists. Nowadays, manufacturers are milking the “couples-friendly” label, selling twice the amount of product by packaging his and hers products together.

Jennifer Martsolf, vice president of marketing for Trigg Laboratories, Wet brand lube’s manufacturer, said marketing to couples entails tugging at their heart strings, with promises of promoting intimacy and adding the spark that some couples need to rejuvenate their relationships.

“Our couples products Wet together and Wet together Ultimate Pleasure Gels encourage touch, closeness and foreplay and while each product satisfies his and her needs separately, the greater benefit comes when the products are used together,” Martsolf said. “Many people turn to couples specific products for special occasions (Valentine’s Day, date night, anniversaries), with higherend packaging and multiple bottles you will often see a higher price point on these products.”

Hott Products Vice President Chris Post said that while some products such as vibrators and strokers are clearly made to please one person at a time, the couples-friendly label is a dynamic one.

“It’s kind of a grey area,” he said. “Anything that can bring people together can be packaged to apply to women and men.”

Post noted Hott Products’ Horny Honey as a single product with multiple target consumers as the sex enhancement cream is advertised as increasing the libido of both men and women.

“It’s all in the marketing,” The Screaming O’s Keith Caggiano said. “Two Screaming O products stand out, having had great success from this two-way sales approach.

“When we came out with the Bullet Buddies, we knew we had a no-brainer tagline — ‘Who’s Your Buddy?’ This opens the question to anyone. Women: Meet your new best friend; you’ll never want to be without your buddy — and you get to choose which one you like the most.

“Couples: bring a buddy into the bedroom — playing on the idea of a threesome, see how these Buddies can change your sex life.”

Kevin Ishikawa, president of AVNS Inc., which distributes male enhancement pills RockHard Extreme and The Best Sexual Enhancer, said that the marketing angle for the male sex-enhancement pills is up to the retailer.

“The Naughty Teddy in Fullerton, Calif., is a lingerie store and they market the two pills towards the woman as a sexual enhancer for their husband or boyfriend,” he said. “Cool Bookstore in Monterey markets the pill towards the male (gay, straight, bi or whatever) since their store is mainly catering towards the male consumer.”

Intimate Organics’ Rebecca Powley said that the company’s line of cleansing gels and foaming bath products attract singles with its packaging.

“We have an image which is clean and somewhat peaceful, making one want to take care of and pamper oneself,” Powley said. “Intimate Organics sexual enhancement products, lube and massage oils are for couples. We promote the idea of love and connecting with your partner. Our products do huge sales when it is Christmas, Valentine’s Day and special occasions. It’s a new horizon out there for couples-friendly products — sex isn’t ‘dirty’ anymore!”

Lust Cosmetics CFO Jennifer Gurland said that Lust Cosmetics was founded on the idea of uniting both same-sex and hetero couples 30 to 50 years old, but later had to alter marketing to cater to singles and their sexual habits.

“Our first taglines, ‘Lust for the One You Love’ and ‘Sex Isn’t Just for Saturday Night,’ were directed at long-term, otherwise happy couples who really needed a boost to their intimate relationship.

“Having said that, our first consumer tradeshow taught us about a completely different target market — 18- to 30-year-olds. Thus came our warning about not using our products on a first date because we did not want our products to cloud anyone’s judgment.”

Alexander Institute’s Loving Sex brand DVDs are instructional movies targeting couples. Mier Sharony, president of Alexander Institute, said the success of the DVDs can be directly attributed to its target audience.

“Our DVDs are not just titillation; they include instructional substance,” Sharony said. “As a result, our products are sold in mainstream markets like Publishers Clearing House and Amazon. We have a bigger market than typical adult films. Our DVDs appeal to females and that helps drive sales too.”

Sharony added that the instructional DVDs don’t get marked as taboo like porn does because of their educational value and learning from the movies also encourages repetitive viewings.

“So much porn is available cheaply or for free online, but people want to own our DVDs because they want to watch them more than once,” Sharony said. “There is a lot you can learn from them. They appeal to an older generation as well; people who are more comfortable with DVDs than streaming or online programs. We hear from our customers that they are more comfortable with educational or instructional films than with porn.”