opinion

Toys: Tech-Smart and Seductive

Bob Johnson

When sex toys become so hot that Grammy award-winning entertainers want in on the action, then you know you have an industry on the cusp of mega-success.

That’s the case with OhMiBod’s marketing coup, where the company snagged Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta’s” Kandi Burrus as a partner for its Bedroom Kandi line of luxury personal pleasure products.

We manufacture all LELO products in-house. This way, we are able to not only guarantee the safety of our products, but we are also able to minimize return rates, keep delivery times as prompt as possible, and allow for more creative collaboration between our design and manufacturing teams. —Donna Faro, LELO

The partnership began when Burrus was interested in pursuing the idea of creating a pleasure product of her own. Through the power of social media and Twitter, OhMiBod and Kandi made a connection, according to OhMiBod founder Suki Dunham.

“When Kandi found OhMiBod, she knew we were a great fit for one another because of her background as a music artist and OhMiBod’s brand connection to music powered vibration. The partnership is truly incredible. It combines the design flair and technology of OhMiBod with the national presence that Kandi has through her reality TV shows and her appeal as a music artist,” Dunham says.

The unique celebrity endorsement is only one example of trends in luxury, high-end sex toys that appear to be growing by leaps and bounds.

Although skyrocketing sales of rudimentary pleasure products like silky ropes, fueled by “Fifty Shades of Grey” - inspired horny housewives flocking to hardware stores, the more luxurious and pricey bedroom goods are proving to continue to be an industry mainstay and are adding new features every day.

Mainstream media exposure has never been so extensive, and the acceptance of quality sex toys reflects how people are more open-minded and feel more comfortable discussing topics that were only a decade ago considered taboo, according to Donna Faro, U.S. sales and marketing manager for LELO.

Entrenue’s brand and marketing director Lisa Mazurek adds, “It is amazing what has happened to the ‘luxury’ toy market in the past six years. It went from virtually nothing (rejected even) to a genuine valuable channel of revenue for the majority of stores.”

So what can be new in the world of vibrators, ropes and rabbits? Plenty.

Dunham says her company is seeing a significant increase in customers’ design preferences towards products that are unique and multi-functional. The new high-end toys must have a cohesive designoriented product range, similar to its Bedroom Kandi.

“This gives customers an incentive to ‘collect’ the entire line. It’s almost like putting together an ‘outfit’ of toys, so to speak. We’re currently in the process of adding massage oil candles, lingerie, flavored lubricants, as well as, a variety of other accessories, all of which carefully adhere to the Bedroom Kandi uniform design theme,” she says.

And functionality also plays a role, so move over tablets and smart phones, some high-end products even go full-on geek.

Dunham notes that some of the OhMiBod products have built-in technology, such as Happiness & Joy, a dual-stim rabbit which allows for both standard pre-set patterns and the ability to connect wirelessly to a smart phone or music player for either music or mobile app-controlled vibrations.

“All of our products are rechargeable either via USB or standard wall outlets and use high quality body-safe materials, long lasting battery systems for fast charging and long lasting vibrations,” Dunham says.

Borrowing from video game trends, Faro says LELO’s Sense- Motion products feature Wii-like controls that allow a unique way to interact with its personal massagers by letting users tilt, shake or turn the wireless controller to vary vibration patterns as freely as they choose. The result is a completely new kind of sensual experience, where the massagers respond instantly to changing movements of the controller and sense motion.

Another unique feature allows synchronized vibrations to be shared between the wireless controller and the couples’ massager, allowing the person holding the SenseMotion controller to feel the vibrations their partner is experiencing.

Faro notes that new enhancements, upgrades and features even include 3X more wireless range and 50 percent more power.

JOPEN, another company sitting squarely in the burgeoning luxury sex toy field, is also in bed with new technology, tapping into a more sophisticated customer base that caters to “a refined taste.”

Company vice president Jackie White says JOPEN’s Vanity and Intensity lines boast power and multiple levels that’s like having “Intel Inside.” “Vanity is powered by the one and only PowerBullet — renowned for strong, reliable, unmatched vibrations. And the re-sealable port in Vanity’s Vr1 through Vr9 series is unique because it closes off to make the product waterproof. Additionally, the dual motors and the completely useable surface, which is covered in silicone, make Vanity very unique. The Vr10 through Vr12 series also have a charging base and LED light indicator,” she says.

Hitting the G-spot, literally, Je Joue’s toys have an exclusive magnetic recharging feature through its buttons, and its G-Ki product — what it calls its “ultimate G-spot toy” — that comes with an adjustable form offering the key to G-spot pleasure whatever the user’s shape.

And that’s not all. Commercial director Dan Gasper points to the company’s FiFi, what he describes as the world’s first three-motor rabbit featuring little motors in each ear as well as the shaft.

But turn-on tech has to be appealing too.

“The market has moved swiftly over the years and Je Joue has always strived to stay one step ahead. However, we never forget that most of our customers have never seen a sex toy, so we should never innovate for innovation’s sake. Instead we try to focus on making sure our products look beautiful, are a pleasure to use and own, and stimulate amazingly,” Gasper notes.

Je Joue recognizes that men also need to be addressed in the sex toy game. The company last March released Mio, a couples-friendly device that enables men and couples to “share more” with a vibrating love ring that helps both partners experience enhanced intimacy and more satisfying sex.

WeVibe’s Sarah Bobas believes that in addition to high-tech improvements like vibration patters and remote control, products also need to be made with quality materials that are both body and environmentally friendly.

“Coming from a company that introduced a whole new shape category into the luxury toy industry I have to say I haven’t seen a lot of new shape trends since. The innovations appear to be in the functionality of the products (with more customization in terms of patterns of vibrations and the introduction of remote controlling capabilities) and in added features (waterproof, rechargeable batteries, etc),” she points out.

But with all of the high-end sexy toy bells and whistles in a company’s portfolio, products still need to be marketed.

Nearly all pleasure product executives agree that there has been a marked increase in mainstream acceptance of sexuality, porn and sex toys — especially among women.

Bobas says she feels fortunate to be present at a time where mainstream consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with technology in the bedroom and embracing novelty and sexual wellness products as contributors to a healthy lifestyle. “I think that a lot of that can be accredited to a generally more open discussion about sexual proclivities by celebrities and prominent media figures and experts in the health, wellness, sexuality and lifestyle media. As a result of this decreased sensitivity in general, we are present in a more sex-toy friendly environment.”

JOPEN’s White points out that unlike typical sex toy products, luxury pleasure products now require a different marketing approach that appeals to more sophisticated buyers. She notes that the company’s Intensity product is supported with an SEO Intensity Insider Program campaign that targets consumers directly through Google Adwords. She explains that traffic is driven to an Intensity Insider microsite where people are invited to become “Insiders.” They are then provided with information about Kegel muscles and sexual wellness. If they register, they’re sent email updates, newsletters and a chance to win a free Intensity product.

“The campaign is very successful and has increased website traffic by nearly 400 percent for the JOPEN website, White says. “And it’s important for retailers and distributors to know we are supporting the promotion of Intensity and Vanity with consumer-targeted promotions. This helps shoppers recognize the products and brands when they ultimately go to make a purchase.”

Bobas says social media has allowed people to connect with their favorite manufacturers and engage with them in discussions about anything from their color preferences for new products coming down the line, to getting advice about how to handle an intimate issue at home.

“Being present and conversant with your audience in these spaces has rapidly become a priority,” Bobas notes.

JOPEN also taps the trend in social media with YouTube videos, Facebook page, Twitter account, and its own blog. “Spreading the word is important to us; it is our way of supporting our products all the way from beginning to end,” White says.

She notes that the company is a firm believer in channel marketing and recently hired a brand manager for JOPEN to ensure that the brand is upheld every step of the way.

LELO also gives kudos to social media. The company’s Facebook and Twitter followers have increased by more than 500 percent in the last year alone, according to Faro and its appearances at the Cannes International Film Festival, the Consumer Electronic Show, Milan Design Week, and many more, demonstrate how the power of the Internet, and particularly social media, has propelled the industry to the forefront of discussion.

But with all of the mainstream hype and technical improvements, are customers willing to shell out their cash? It just may hinge on quality.

LELO’s Faro says her company’s primary commitment is to ensure the highest quality of standards for its customers’ health, well-being and satisfaction. “We manufacture all LELO products in-house. This way, we are able to not only guarantee the safety of our products, but we are also able to minimize return rates, keep delivery times as prompt as possible, and allow for more creative collaboration between our design and manufacturing teams.”

And Entrenue’s Mazurek agrees that quality is a major factor. “If the reason that a cost of a toy is higher because it is better quality, I don’t think that customers mind paying for that. It goes along with the idea that temporary/disposable products are more wasteful if they don’t last as long,” she says.

Bobas looks at the bottom line and echoes the need for quality. “We are enticing customers to make a bigger purchase, and as such, need to demonstrate our credibility as a producer of quality products that are designed to deliver results.”

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