trends

Marketing BDSM

Laurie Bergquist
I don't know about you, but one of the first fantasies I had when I thought of pushing the edge of my sexual comfort zone had to do with silk scarves restraining my partner. Last time I checked, that is borderline bondage. Many people would never admit they are into bondage, because society has programmed us to think bondage=pain=dirty. It's important for people to understand that bondage does not necessarily involve pain. Bondage tests your trust with your partner, and it can increase intimacy and romance. Add a blindfold to the mix and your other senses take over, especially the sense of touch — who would say no to that?

Girls love sharing their sexual experiences, dreams and desires over a glass of wine with the gals. Over the years, I have had lots of these delicious conversations with my girlfriends. Not being a guy, I can't say for sure, but I have heard of similar locker room discussions of conquests and whatnot. Gradually, bondage is creeping its way into these conversations, because bondage is sexy.

For people who are just beginning to branch out sexually, tasteful packaging is the best way to attract those customers. Spartacus' recent total packaging overhaul is helping consumers, especially women, to visualize themselves using our products. We do this by making our packaging bright and educational, and by adding teaser text to tickle their hidden desires. When you get right down to it, our packaging is seductive but respectful — exactly the thing most women want — a little naughty, but still tasteful. Most women love to shop, and what partner would turn down an adventurous night of trying new things in bed?

More and more women feel comfortable enough to come into boutiques to explore the options available to help them achieve enhanced sexual relations. In our shop in Portland, Ore., we see women shopping in groups during an evening out, couples on a date together, and guys sent on a mission to restock a bedside item. Good packaging can make products approachable to all consumers, and it is an opportunity for all manufacturers, big and small. You might think packaging elements that appeal to the soccer mom in the suburb would be a total turnoff to a gay man in San Francisco. This kind of thinking has led companies to focus whole product lines on one demographic to try to cash in on that specific market. At Spartacus, our ultimate goal is to have packaging so eye catching it will stop anyone, appeal to them, and make them want to touch it, no matter their gender, relationship status or culture.

How do we do that, you ask? I think most manufacturers would agree that it is a challenge, even with the best graphic staff and photography. We like to use bright color combinations to help catch the customer's eye, but even this is an art form. Having an art staff that is in touch with current design trends is a key to our success.

"Marketing to anyone" is really just a fancy name for educating your audience. Yeah, we could get technical — and trust me, I have read a lot about marketing — but the bottom line is that everyone appreciates education. For us, that education is about the intimacy, romance and trust that BDSM creates. This comes through in our packaging photos and text and so much more. We always strive to appeal to everyone, from those just starting to play to the people who live BDSM as a lifestyle choice.

We love bondage beginners, because they are a very large group who can often be game for anything. You would be amazed at how many beginners start with one of our ball gags. We also find many people may start out with a beginners fabric set from another manufacturer, love it, and then come back for our line. We call that graduation day. We explain on our packaging what they might experience while using our products, which helps them feel more comfortable buying our products. As they get more into the experience, they may cross over to some of our fetish items.

People who live BDSM as a lifestyle love our lockable leather restraints, leather spreader bars, and other heavy-duty items. We chose a different look for these items, the Extreme Line, which is more edgy, but still tasteful and artistic. We even expanded this line because it was so well received. With the packaging for this line, our graphic artist used men, women and two men together. We really like how she tried to appeal to everyone, but kept the look consistent.

We have gotten such great feedback from CEOs, buyers and store clerks about how easy we make merchandising our products. Manufacturers can encourage a beautiful display by keeping the look of product categories consistent, using packages of similar shape and size, and keeping the color palette complementary. Whether they group our line together on our floor rack or split it out between different categories in their stores, the overall impression is eye catching and appealing to any shopper.

Packaging and marketing BDSM products to women and couples is a challenge. With our 21 years of experience, we know it is possible. We strive to be tasteful and respectful to all audiences to try to bring people together — one very healthy, satisfied customer at a time.

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