How to Prepare for the Next Big Thing in Adult Retail

Alex Parker

It’s here, the much-awaited bonanza that is the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie. Distributors are stocked up, retailers poised and the marketing machine is set to roll selling “Fifty Shades of Grey” merchandise to a public who are curious about BDSM play in a way that they never have been before. All this from Britain, a country that with some small exceptions seems to be looked on as rather reserved and prudish by the rest of Europe and indeed the rest of the world.

But wait, all was not well with Christian and Anastasia. It has been reported that some of the scenes in the movie have had to be re-shot due to being, well, a bit tame. Onlookers might think that making a movie based on a book about a sexual BDSM relationship without enough sex in it was a bit of a faux pas. I would argue the opposite because getting the balance right is actually very difficult when it comes to the silver screen. I love a sexy movie as much as the next man, or woman and by that I don’t mean necessarily a porn movie because sex is about the mental and the physical so finding something sexy is actually more about state of mind than my state of undress, or that of the performers on screen.

Bearing all that in mind we all have to look forward to the next “Fifty Shades of Grey.” No, not a sequel but what is the next big thing that will expand the sexual consciousness of the world’s population and in so doing create marketing opportunities for our industry.

Furthermore what I find sexy today is very different from yesterday, last week or last year. Yes fundamentally my sexuality is the same but it evolves over time keeping things fresh and exciting, and I’m just one individual. Now apply that to a population like that of England, the whole of the United Kingdom or Europe and try to judge what adults will find sexy or sensual without offending part of the viewing public is tricky. Add to that the problems of censorship across jurisdictions within continental Europe and then into North America and Asia and any film whose fundamental core is about sadism and masochism has to walk a tightrope, a tightrope that’s made of a single strand of piano wire and electrified with 32,000 volts whilst juggling a bowling ball and bag of feathers.

Bearing all that in mind we all have to look forward to the next “Fifty Shades of Grey.” No, not a sequel but what is the next big thing that will expand the sexual consciousness of the world’s population and in so doing create marketing opportunities for our industry. Greater minds than mine are I’m sure applied to this very problem right now and in all probability will come up with a number of killer strategies to get everyone from college students to grannies consuming sexy media (be that literature or movies) with the ultimate goal of getting them to buy adult products.

I do have one idea however that might be of use to anyone who is interested.

At the beginning of this piece I did say that there were some small exceptions to our prudish British nature. Whereas on the continent several nationalities are seen (rightly or wrongly) to be naughtier, kinkier or just more open than us Brits we are acknowledged as being the source of a river of smutty humor that is almost wholesome family entertainment.

Up until the 1980s a number of bawdy shows and films were produced in the U.K. based on the same premise — humor that relied exclusively on sexism and misogyny. For 20 years from the 1960s individuals like Benny Hill and groups like those behind the “Carry On” movies managed to hijack the spirit of free love and turn it into a vehicle for repressed viewers (and subsequently it turns out repressed performers) to ogle scantily clad girls in compromising situations. Some of these programs had global appeal long after their broadcast in the U.K. was deemed unacceptable by the TV channels and public. Viewing them now reveals how exploitative they really were, managing to put on screen some very disturbing images and views about acceptable conduct towards women.

In no way am I suggesting that sex toy manufacturers should try to replicate the dreadful “humor” employed by these shows but what I would say is that even as I watched them as a kid, feeling uncomfortable at the appalling message they carried I felt them inveigling my impressionable mind. The reason was of course the humor. Using humor in the right way could be the key to the next “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Humor in the 21st Century doesn’t have to be derisory, bigoted or play to stereotypes because it can be smart. The public is smart, savvy and sexually switched on in a way that in the 1970s was unheard of.

“Sex and the City” showed the world it was alright to talk about and buy a rabbit vibrator in the same way you’d buy your next pair of Jimmy Choos. “Fifty Shades of Grey” got everyone talking about butt plugs and BDSM over the dinner table, I can verify this from personal experience because I found myself talking with my own mother about it one Christmas Day!

Good humor is universal as proved by the cross pollination of TV shows from the U.S. to Europe and back again. One of the problems marketing guys face right now is that the public is smart and can see through carefully constructed marketing plans, look what happened the last time Fox news tried to get a tag trending on Twitter. The whole Internet sneered and poked fun at their #OverIt2014 campaign.

Europe is no different from the rest of the world; we all love to laugh even at ourselves, though pointing and laughing at people when they are naked is usually frowned upon. Is comedy the magic bullet to sell your new product or increase the sales of your core SKUs? No, because there is no magic bullet and your products have to appeal to European consumers who know their way around the adult market so your product has to have quality and be effective too.

So does anyone fancy seeing a “Carry On Up The Chicken Ranch”? I hope so because I’m working on a screenplay right now and product placement opportunities will be available.

Alex Parker is an adult product consultant, journalist and erotic author. Since 2005 he has worked within the adult novelty and adult movie industry as reviewer, correspondent and advisor to some of Europe’s largest manufacturers and distributors.


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