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Icon Brands: Building an Icon

Tod Hunter

Launched in July 2011 as a boutique label focusing on a small number of branded lines focused on specific merchandising categories, Icon Brands starts its third year at the Summer 2013 ANME Show. The Icon Brands inventory currently offers six lines, half of which are inspired by successful production companies: Evil Angel — extreme and fetish items; Falcon and Raging Stallion — men’s products; plus Eat Play Love — romantic edibles; Icon Brands Signature — soft novelties; and V Lubricants — premium, paraben-free lubricants.

Founded by Evil Angel owner John Stagliano and Urban Graphics owner Jeff L, the company’s personnel includes Joanie Lee, vice president of sales; Rebecca Weinberg, director of product development; and Jenny Tse, sales and merchandising. Lee started in the adult industry in 1999 and was previously VP of Sales at Video Team. Weinberg was an e-commerce buyer from 2002 and product developer at several adultnovelty companies, and Tse was an account executive at Doc Johnson for more than 15 years before moving to Icon.

A big reason why our video branded toys have done so well is because we create items specifically targeted to the consumer of that brand category. -Joanie Lee, Evil Angel

“The three of us have strong opinions, but we also have a lot of respect for one another,” Lee told XBIZ. “I think our passion for what we do and our common goal to grow Icon Brands to its full potential makes us an even stronger team.”

The company offers some 200 items, each with its own distinctive tie-in to the company’s standing brands: “We aren’t just creating new and innovative items. We are growing existing and successful brands,” Lee said. “All of our almost 200 items fall under only six brands and that allows for easy merchandising and quicker sales through brand recognition. A fan of Buttman can go to an Evil Angel section of a store and find a Buttman Viewable Butt Plug. He’s going to recognize the brand he loves, identify with it and feel confident buying it. A Falcon fan will follow a star on DVD, and then find his dong on a wall. Name recognition is everything, and with our iconic brands it’s built-in.”

“Every item indeed has a backstory and a reason why it was added to our line,” Weinberg said. “As the market has shown, making a cut-out paddle that can leave a cool shape mark on the receiver has been all the rage over the past few years — everything from a cute little heart to a full tire tread. With thoughts of the big burly men of Falcon, one of our very reserved owners yelled out ‘How about a boot paddle?’ My thoughts were ‘what a great idea’ … it has to exist already. But lo and behold we were the first. And so we say at Icon, ‘Nothing says love like a kick in the ass.’”

“A big reason why our video branded toys have done so well is because we create items specifically targeted to the consumer of that brand category,” Lee told XBIZ. “You wouldn’t blink to see our Raging Stallion Helmet Head Plugs or Jackboot Paddle on the set of a Raging Stallion movie. That means a fan of Raging Stallion movies or the consumer they target will likely appreciate that item. We don’t blindly throw products into a line to see what sticks. From product to package design to marketing, we remain focused on who is buying the item and how they are using it. “One of the tie-ins at Icon Brands’ launch was Evil Angel toys.

“Evil Angel toys was an obvious venture, being that John Stagliano is a partner in Icon Brands,” Lee told XBIZ. “Luckily, Evil Angel Video is also one of the most well-known adult production companies in the world. Several key personnel at Icon Brands have career backgrounds in video production and sales, including myself. Awareness of the numerous video companies and their impact on the adult market helps when choosing brands to partner with.”

The company’s gay lines are tied in with leading gay studios Falcon and Raging Stallion. “Falcon Studios has been at the forefront of the gay adult production business for over 30 years,” Lee said. “The first molds we released have been around for quite some time and have always been super-popular, due to their quality and size. When we took over the license, these legacy dongs were not being actively distributed. We repackaged them, and added a whole range of new Falcon and Raging Stallion products to revitalize the line. We believed in the Falcon name and it paid off. Today Falcon and Raging Stallion are a huge success — the leading novelty lines in gay. And when it comes to new molds, we consult with the experts at Falcon to guide us in choosing the right performers for their brand, like Jesse Santana and D.O. who were the most recent Raging Stallion molds.”

Falcon products include signature cocks from Falcon Exclusive performers as well as plugs, prostate massagers and strokers. The rougher-trade Raging Stallion lines include giant butt plugs, big toys, and the previously mentioned boot paddles, in keeping with the harder Raging Stallion appeal.

The Fashionistas-branded toys tied in with John Stagliano’s award-winning DVD series and long-running Las Vegas show, have been a big hit for Icon.

“The Fashionistas line certainly has been one of our major homeruns. The concept for this line is unique to Icon Brands,” Lee told XBIZ. “The element of printed glass was never incorporated into the BDSM genre. Each item is beautifully printed with elegant designs. The glass handles provide not only perfect balance, but truly feels like a piece of art in your hands. From the Nipple Suckers to the Piggy Tail Plug to the Whip and Riding Crop, Fashionistas has certainly raised the bar in high-end BDSM gear.”

The company’s roots in graphic design are evident in Icon Brands packaging, which highlights the product and synchronizes with other products in the same line, and won the company a 2011 XBIZ Award for Excellence in Packaging. “Icon’s upper management comes from the world of design, so our products and packaging will always have a strong graphic orientation,” Weinberg said. “We’re frequently told we have a ‘fresh, new look,’ and we really appreciate that because we’ve really work hard to achieve it. And as more and more women become novelty buyers, that design orientation will only become more important.

“We definitely have merchandising on our minds when we launch new products,” Lee said. “Each brand has a broad selection of items that complement each other. We suggest our items not go into a ‘Gay’ or ‘Couples’ section, but rather a Falcon, Evil Angel or Icon Brands section. Our products look most appealing when merchandised together and that’s something we carefully plan.”

Tse herself represents another part of the company’s commitment to merchandising in stores around the country. Lee calls her “absolutely one of the best at motivating salespeople. She does Ladies Nights, trainings, and in-store merchandising. Retailers love Jenny, and Jenny loves to travel, demonstrate product and cheer up the place!”

For more information, visit the Icon Brands website at IconBrands.com.

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