educational

The Emotional Connection: 1

Matt O'Conner
Let's say you've built a killer paysite or printed a few thousand copies of a new gonzo DVD. Now, you have to persuade people to pull out their credit cards and pay for it. The good news is, nothing on Earth sells quite like sex. The bad news is, your product is competing with thousands of other sites and titles.

So, how do you make your product the one they choose?

Good marketing.

Good marketing is what makes people feel an emotional connection to a particular brand of carbonated, caramel-colored sugar water. It's what makes us all wonder: Who is Victoria, and what, exactly, is her secret? And good marketing is what makes a web surfer or aisle browser decide to spend some quality personal time with one adult website or DVD rather than all the others available to him.

So, then, the real question is: What are the components of good marketing? For the answer, one only needs to look at how the most successful companies in our business market themselves and their products.

"In this market, you can't afford not to innovate," Michael Stabile, senior media manager at NakedSword.com, told XBiz. "Some of our smartest moves have been small experiments that generated large amounts of buzz."

Stabile said his company constantly searches for inventive ways to approach the market. NakedSword pioneered the then-widely ignored blog market, launching its lucrative GayPornBlog.com in 2002, and produced the first and only ongoing gay porn soap opera, "Wet Palms." The company also experiments with content that doesn't necessarily fit the textbook definition of porn, such as its popular "Tim and Roma Show" and a gossip column.

"If you want to stand out and leap ahead, you definitely need to shake things up and take a chance on something groundbreaking," Shannon Groth, director of operations at RealBigCash Inc., told XBiz.

Look To The Stars
One sure-fire way to stand out is to attach your product to well-known personalities, which adult film studio No Boundaries Entertainment accomplishes, in part, by hiring performers such as Bridgette Kerkove and Gia Paloma to direct its movies.

"This is a customer-driven business, and customers know the stars," Cory Jordan, president of No Boundaries Entertainment, told XBiz. "Fans know Bridgette. They know Gia. When you give customers what they want, they start asking for [your products] by name."

Having star power also can go a long way toward firing up a company's publicity machine. When Howard Stern started a gentleman's video club, Metro Entertainment provided the first video as well as two of its stars, Bridgette Kerkove and Britney Foster, to join in the movie discussion. The effort cost Metro a couple of plane tickets and a hotel stay, a small price for such valuable advertising.

Metro used a similar technique to gain a foothold in the ethnic market, leveraging the name recognition not of its contract talent but of well known hip hop artists. The company enlisted rap band Digital Underground to host and create music for its "Sex in the Studio" video. The story was picked up by mainstream cable TV stations such as MTV, BET and VH1, as well as mainstream magazines such as King, Vibe and The Source.

By the time the video hit stores, it had a built-in audience ready to buy. And that, according to Harry Weiss, talent coordinator at Lurid Entertainment, is what makes distributors and retailers want to carry your products.

"Distributors want something they can turn quickly," Weiss said. "That's where the initial expense of name recognition pays off."

While it helps to have big name performers to boost your marketing efforts, you don't necessarily need contract talent in order to create star power. Sometimes, a little imagination is all it takes. Adult webmasters, in particular, have proven especially resourceful in creating strong personality-driven brands out of whole cloth.

Take Legendary Lars, president of affiliate network Streamray Inc. Several years ago, Lars ran an ad showing himself dressed in pimp attire with the headline, "I bought this ad to make up for the small size of my penis." When people started to comment about the ad, Lars recognized an opportunity. He quickly followed up with similar efforts such as an interactive game on the Streamray.com home page that featured his pimped-out image. Had he only run the initial ad, people likely would have forgotten. But because he spun the ad into a full-blown image-building campaign, he remains one of the most recognizable personality brands in the online adult universe.

"That ad made the company," Lars told XBiz.

Of course, recognition — awareness — should not be mistaken for branding. The corporate graveyard is littered with well-known brands: George magazine, The Yugo, Pets.com — and just about every other dot-com that was hyped to the nth degree in the late '90s. Lars' idea could have backfired, had it been executed poorly. But it was a success because Lars poked fun at himself and made people laugh, and they liked him for it. And in marketing, that's at least half the battle.

The other half is making sure you don't give customers a reason to stop liking you.

In part two, we'll examine audiences and delivering your message to them.

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