educational

A Tightening Toy Market: 2

Rodger Jacobs
In part one we looked at changing perceptions and the increasing demand for sex toys. Today we'll wrap things up with a look at celebrity endorsements and the evolving sex toy market.

Celebrity Endorsements
Doc Johnson — with an extensive catalog of more than 3,500 products — recently landed a plum of a celebrity endorsement with the new Doc Johnson Jenna Jameson Extreme Doll, a love doll molded directly from the porn queen's frame — including her double D breasts. Multiple orders of the Jameson love doll have been shipped to distributors with a suggested retail price of $251, though it can be found for as low as $185.

"Doc Johnson's partnership with Jenna Jameson is one of the most successful ventures ever forged in the adult industry," a Doc Johnson representative told XBiz. "The powerhouse marketability of the Jenna Jameson name, her creative input and the unmatched quality of the design and manufacturing of Doc Johnson products have made her toys some of the most successful and important products in the industry."

Although Doc Johnson, founded in 1976, and Cal Exotics, founded in 1994, both have a strong web presence, both companies remain manufacturers, not retailers.

"Our website was created to give retailers and consumers a place to go for information about a product," a Doc Johnson representative added. "Instead of having retailers call our offices and ask the same questions about length, colors and so forth, there is now one central Doc Johnson information hub that is available online and provides this data to everyone."

Bloom explains that Cal Exotics does not sell from its website because it continues to support the manufacturer-to-distributor-to-retailer food chain.

"It has been a supportive way of doing business that has gotten us to a position of strength in the marketplace, and we have no intentions of breaking that chain," Bloom said.

Cal Exotics founder Susan Colvin is often credited with bringing a woman's touch to the sex toy industry.

"She really ushered in a new era in erotic novelties with creativity and extreme attention to detail that she gives to all facets of her business," Daniel Metcalf of Wicked said. "For the Wicked Toys, she's worked one-on-one with each of our stars to develop sensual textures and enhance the state-of-the-art technology used to give each girl's product line a distinct look and feel."

Colvin may have advanced the cause of direct marketing to women and couples but "sex positive" retailers like San Francisco's Good Vibrations — which opened its first brick-and-mortar space in 1977 — was carrying the banner long before Cal Exotics came into existence.

Good Vibrations launched its first website, Goodvibes.com, in 1996. The site carries toys and novelties from all of the top manufacturers, including 150 different models of battery-operated vibrators. Goodvibes.com averages 22.3 million hits per month, and the company estimates that 60 percent of its buyers are women.

In the early days of selling toys on the web, male-marketing strategies were still firmly in place, Genine Drozd of Pure Romance Inc. said.

Market Shift
"This was the sole strategy for years, but society has become more educated and has made a positive shift toward incorporating adult products into their daily lives, thus making it more acceptable for women, in general, to be more open about purchasing product, especially online," Drozd said.

Pure Romance consultants offer a line of more than 100 private-label and brand-name bedroom accessories, books, games and adult toys, as well as an exclusive high-quality line of sensual lotions, gels and scents. Products are sold at parties organized by volunteer hostesses and are available for customers to take home on the night of the party. Products are developed by Pure Romance and produced by major manufacturers.

Founded in 1993 in Cincinnati by Patty Brisben, Pure Romance recorded sales of more than $30 million for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2003. In 2004, sales were projected to reach $40 million.

"In 2003, when we launched our new destination consumer website, Pureromance.com," Brisben said. "Our designers took into consideration that women are crucial and critical buyers, which meant that our products had to be superior and our site needed to display the who, what, when, where, why and, most importantly, the how."

Statistically, women are loyal customers to a specific brand, Drozd pointed out, "and in order to keep them coming back, it is important to provide a place where they feel the permission to discover themselves and maybe something new about their relationship."

But despite the challenges of marketing products to specific audiences, sexes and age ranges, there is no question among some of the top sex toy business owners and manufacturers that adult novelties have grown from a small niche market to a vital and highly profitable component of the adult industry. Manufacturers have skillfully integrated their products into movies and pursued adult film stars with the urgent passion of college basketball recruiters.

"There is one thing that is still the same," Levine of Sextoy.com said. "Come out with something new and you can make good money and grow quickly with it. That is always what I'm working on."

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