Sexual Enhancement Products and Shifting Consumer Attitudes

Q. Boyer

Over the history of the sexual enhancement products market, there have been two constants on which you can rely: strong sales and outrageous marketing claims. Whether the miracle promised by the manufacturers of items like penis enlargement pills was manifest or implied in its marketing claims, companies have for decades seemed to strike a balance between grabbing the public’s attention and garnering the wrong sort of attention from the FDA or FTC.

As is the case with broader market for adult products of all kinds, however, there is change in the air in the sexual enhancement product sector these days, driven by an awareness that consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and ever more cognizant of the risks associated with any manner of consumable, be it food, energy drinks, dietary supplements or enhancements.

With the sexual enhancement category being as volatile as it is, educated retailers can rest assured that Rock On has been reformulated with the most comprehensive list of safe active ingredients in enhancement products as well as electrolytes and vitamins that have become all the rage with consumers. -Jeff Bolanos CEO, Beamonstar

“Consumers are becoming more aware of ingredients and what exactly they are putting in or on their bodies,” Conde Aumann of Screaming O told XBIZ. “As a result, more retailers are taking the time to examine what each product is made of and making sure their staff knows, as well. Store owners and workers are helping to make sure every customer gets the best experience possible, which establishes trust and assures they’ll come back time and time again to get great suggestions on which products will work best for them.”

Such tendencies are music to the ears of Keith Caggiano, president of Rock On, who said that his company is in the process of reconfiguring the positioning of its products, emphasizing their “vitality component” and the products’ overall wellness benefits, rather than focusing entirely on sexual enhancement claims.

“The reformulation of Rock On makes it easier than ever for retailers to sell it with conviction,” Caggiano said. “With the sexual enhancement category being as volatile as it is, educated retailers can rest assured that Rock On has been reformulated with the most comprehensive list of safe active ingredients in enhancement products as well as electrolytes and vitamins that have become all the rage with consumers.”

Government regulation and enforcement has played a role in the changes to the sexual enhancement product market as well, particularly in the area of potency boosters, erection aids and various male performance supplements, noted Alain Elmaleh, president of Bodispa Wellness Products.

“As the FDA, Health Canada and many other government bodies around the world that regulate these types of products increase the inspections at the wholesale and retail level, and multiply the recalls and the pullout orders of erection products that don’t comply with local or federal regulations, retailers are increasingly looking for products that they can sell legally, without the stress and the risk of having them pulled out from inspectors at any moment and risk receiving hefty fines,” Elmaleh told XBIZ.

“At Bodispa we have noticed this trend over the past two years, and we developed products that while being completely legal and fully complying with the local regulations, still perform according to expectations.”

Elmaleh also echoed Aumann and Caggiano concerning the importance of using safe, high-quality ingredients, noting that in making Prolong R, Bodispa’s desensitizer for men designed to prevent premature ejaculation, the company opted to use benzocaine over the more commonly used lidocaine after Bodispa’s research concluded that benzocaine is the more body-safe of the two.

Aiding manufacturers and distributors of sexual enhancement products in their attempt to cast their goods in a new light is the existence of a consumer market that is already highly accepting of enhancement products and supplements, Jeff Bolanos, CEO of Beamonstar, told XBIZ.

“Every adult store in the country carries some sort of adult supplement,” Bolanos observed. “The products have also spilled into the mainstream; ExtenZe is behind the counter in most gas stations, convenience stores and liquor stores all over the country.”

Richie Harris, the U.S. Sales Executive for Bathmate, told XBIZ that communicating the efficacy of your product to consumers in a clear and compelling way is the key to drawing in new customers — and of course, it also helps if the product actually lives up to the promise of its own marketing and advertising. With respect to Bathmate, Harris said it all starts with the design concept.

“The strength of the Bathmate is that it was designed by award-winning engineers who fully understand the mechanics of vacuum when applied to the penis,” Harris said. “Traditional air pumps have been around for decades, and virtually anyone with a workshop can apply a pump to a plastic tube and create a vacuum around the penis.

“That’s not to say all air pumps are cheap and basic; some air pumps are quality products. But it is Bathmate’s use of water to create the partial vacuum around the penis that makes it different, and it is the understanding of pneumatics (air) as opposed to hydraulics (water) that has led to this breakthrough in penis health and enhancement.”

Of course, quality ingredients and effective function aren’t the only factors that affect a product’s success in the market; all of the usual consumer considerations are still in play, Aumann observed.

“Our all-natural Climax Cream orgasm enhancer and KissOboo tingly lip balms are top-sellers not just because of their quality and popularity, but also because of their price point,” Aumann said. “Both items fall within the $5-7 MSRP, so they act as fantastic add-ons and impulse purchases.”

While it’s all well and good to create a quality product, it’s also true that even the finest commercial creations will sit idle on the shelf if nobody knows about them, so a primary concern of any sexual enhancement producer is crafting a solid marketing campaign that is designed to build lasting mind-share and brand awareness.

“Beamonstar has always focused on branding, and making our packaging and POS Displays superior to all our competitors,” Bolanos said. “SexVoltz was just 1 SKU and the marketing and branding behind it was so strong we parlayed that name into an entire line of sexual enhancement products, including Delay Spray, Lubes and Vibrating Rings. Retailers and Distributors love the way we market our products which has led to us acquiring exclusive distribution rights for major brands like ExtenZe and Eroforte.”

Caggiano added that if you want to build brand loyalty, it starts with establishing a trusted brand identity, and observed that there is an ongoing reshaping of the way consumers perceive the entire adult product sphere, from content and pleasure products, as well as sexual enhancement products.

“Think about what it used to be like when you’d enter an adult store,” Caggiano said. “It was seedy and dark — not the sort of environment where you’re necessarily comfortable as a consumer, because you feel sleazy just being there. The whole market is changing, and now most adult stores appear more upstanding; they’re brighter, cleaner, far more consumer-friendly places.”

As a result of the broad spectrum makeover of the adult marketplace, Caggiano said that “the level of trust between consumers and adult products has changed,” adding that along with that change in attitude comes a higher expectation of quality on the part of consumers. “As the mainstreaming of sexual wellness continues, consumers are relying on retailers to stock the best quality products.”

Just as they have in the broader market for adult products and content, shifts in consumer perception present both opportunities and challenges for makers of sexual enhancement products.

Going forward, the success of such products will increasingly rely on the products fulfilling the promise of their own marketing — or all that improved consumer perception might fade faster than the buzz one gets off knocking back a bottle of Red Bull.