Making an Impact: Smart Packaging and Branding Sells Sex Toys

Alex Henderson

From erotic videos to professional domination to strip clubs, the adult entertainment industry can be extremely visual. Appearance counts. Aesthetics matter. And that certainly holds true when it comes to sex toys. Packaging, for sex toys, is a vital part of sales and marketing. Effective packaging not only helps to establish a company’s brand, but also, can help a brand grow and prosper.

Andy Green, president and founder of XGEN Products (based in the Philadelphia suburbs), asserted that the packaging of sex toys must do more than acquaint retailers and customers with an individual product — it must also sell them on the brand itself. “Although it sounds like common sense, good package design revolves around understanding how the customer will make their decision,” Green explained. “Sometimes, this is best achieved with photography, sometimes text — and sometimes, with the form of the packaging itself. For branding purposes, consistency across a company’s items is crucial. For example, our Bodywand packaging features a consistent set of design elements that let customers know this is a family of products regardless of which model they are currently considering.”

You can have a fantastic product, but if your packaging doesn’t reflect what’s inside, you’re in trouble. Cheap-looking packaging will put off a discerning customer. -Monique Carty, Nexus

Jeff Swenson, head of design for the Los Angeles-based Screaming O, stressed that with sex toys, effective packaging must convince consumers that a particular product is unique, interesting and creative yet at the same time, educate them about a company’s brand. This is a challenge, Swenson said, but it’s certainly doable.

“Good, effective packaging is a balancing act between consistency and individuality,” Swenson observed. “You always want to follow certain rules to keep all of your products branded within the same family while showcasing the individual features of each. If you start from the top down on most Screaming O products, you’ll find: (1) who makes it, (2) what it’s called, (3) what it can do for you and why you need it, (4) any bonus features — battery type, etc. — and (5) product safety information. Covering these five points provides consumers with everything they need to make an informed purchase while building trust and brand loyalty. Through successful branding and packaging design, consumers can see all the reasons why they should choose The Screaming O over other brands and feel confident that they’re buying fun and affordable sex toys made from body-safe, lab-tested materials.”

Swenson added that with consumers, a sex toy’s packaging can be either a deal-maker or a deal-breaker. “Attractive and informative packaging is crucial to any consumer purchasing a sex toy,” Swenson asserted. “A good portion of customers at your average adult store are newbies looking for their first few products or shoppers who aren’t interested in striking up a conversation with the nearest sales rep. They might even be a little nervous and aren’t exactly sure what they are looking for, which is why The Screaming O makes sure to balance our education with some subtle humor to break the ice. It’s one of the reasons why consumers associate a bright, fun and sex-positive attitude with our brand.”

Monique Carty, director of the U.K.-based Nexus, emphasized that sex toy manufacturers need to take both retailers and consumers into consideration when it comes to packaging and branding. First, Carty said, the packaging must sell retailers on a company’s products — and once the products have made it into the store, the packaging must win over consumers.

“There are a lot of things to consider when packaging your products,” Carty explained. “There’s the aesthetic design — how can you attract your key audience and get across what your brand stands for as well as the product’s unique selling points? Then there’s the functionality for both the consumer and the retail store. You can have a fantastic product, but if your packaging doesn’t reflect what’s inside, you’re in trouble. Cheap-looking packaging will put off a discerning customer. There is also no point in having great features if you don’t present them clearly to the customer on the packaging.”

Carty continued, “If retailers don’t like the way your product sits in their store, they are going to be resistant no matter how amazing the product is. It’s common sense to make it as appealing as possible. All our items have clear packaging or the items pictured clearly on the packaging.”

Carty noted that if a company is marketing high-end sex toys, the packaging must look high-end. “As a high-end brand, we have always tried to reflect the positioning in the packaging,” Carty said of Nexus. “We have updated the design to keep it modern, and we like to include silicone pads so customers can feel the material of the product inside.”

Green stressed that consumers will not have a chance to decide whether or not they want to purchase a company’s sex toys if the packaging does not convince retailers that the products are worth carrying. “First and foremost, all of XGEN’s decisions are based on the needs of retailers,” Green asserted. “Our overriding goal is to provide our customers products that are easy to display and sell. To that end, all our brands’ packaging is either pre-planned to hang in planograms, be placed in a display we’ve provided, or a combination of the two. Bodywand packaging, for example, can be placed on a shelf or hung on pegs. The package sizing and design is set up to fit perfectly in our free-standing display or when cohesively presented on a wall.”

Green added, “Across our brands, we offer everything from slat wall skins to header signs to freestanding, physical displays — each of which has been designed to help retailers succeed.”

Packaging, according to Green, must convince consumers why they need a particular sex toy and why it is worth spending money on. “For our purposes,” Green noted, “a consumer should be thinking about the product and the product only when they see our packaging. But to make that happen takes some serious work. The package needs to draw them in, help them understand the product’s quality and features, and ultimately, persuade them to make a purchase.”