Sales Manager Joanie Lee Discusses Evolution of Icon Brands

Helmed by industry veteran Joanie Lee, Icon Brands started off by recreating commonly available products such as butt plugs and “love kits,” branding them with style and sophistication.

“We try to bring a fresh, new approach to each product idea, and not do a product without a unique selling point,” Lee said. “For instance, when we did fetish with Fashionistas (John Stagliano’s runaway bestselling video series), we incorporated striking black glass handles with beautiful silver flourishes, which was before the 50 Shades phenomenon, and which no one had done. We wanted to have the most elegant fetish line out there, and we feel we still do.”

We try to bring a fresh, new approach to each product idea, and not do a product without a unique selling point. - Joanie Lee

Of course, it takes more than just putting new objects into special packaging to catch the customer’s eye and make them part with their hard earned money. Icon Brands recognized that early on by co-branding products with established video companies, allowing both Icon and those video companies to increase their bottom lines and customer awareness, something that has become increasingly tricky in the Internet age. While Fashionistas was an award-winning video series instead of a complete catalog brand, it still set the bar for Icon’s quality products associated with the popular adult film.

Falcon’s strictly gay men’s video line has always been one of the most popular of that genre and Icon captured their brand shortly after their launch. Lee shared Icon’s secret: “We’ve had tremendous success with branding. Fashionistas, as we mentioned, was a big hit for us, and of course, we turned Falcon around, in less than 18 months, from a line that hadn’t been updated in over 10 years into the best-selling gay line in novelties. It was a major re-packaging and re-marketing effort, but we knew they had the name and we had the style, and when the two met, it was magic. It’s still one of our leading brands to this day.”

When asked about Icon’s bestselling gay lines of men’s sex toys, Lee continued, “We expect great things from both Cocky Boys and Bel Ami. What’s nice is that there’s little crossover: Falcon is for the traditional, hardcore, experienced player; Cocky Boys is for a young, hip demographic that follows the studio’s award-winning, naturalistic work; and of course, Bel Ami is the European Gold Standard, with models that look like they’ve just stepped out of the pages of a high-end Italian fashion mag. The advance demand for the two lines has been tremendous.”

But Icon just doesn’t focus on fetish or gay products. They keep their eyes open for trends in the industry and continue to create and innovate, two words that can be found in the dictionary under “iconic.”

Icon developed a line of adult toy kits that distinguish themselves from others with packaging that no one had thought of before. Lee boasted “When we did kits, we hid them in books and called the series ‘BookSmart,’ so the user had a storage place for the toys afterward and could put them high on a bookshelf and never be ‘discovered.’”

The collections are the epitome of discreet: the book entitled “The Lavenders,” with a strong romance novel type illustrated cover, has a collection of, you guessed it, lavender colored vibes. The aptly titled “Through Rose Colored Glasses” offers a pink vibe collection of the same toys and “In the Heart of the Night” has midnight black toys within its case. Even Elizabeth Taylor, who starred in the film with a similar title, would want one of these collections on her bookshelf. Even the guys are thought of with the clever titles of “Perfecting Your Stroke” – an aptly covered box with a golfer on the cover and containing delightful toys for your putter and balls. “The Other Door” creaks open the mysteries of backdoor sex with anal beads, lubes, and other necessities guaranteed for anal pleasure. The packaging for the series is so clever; it won the 2012 XBIZ Award for Excellence in Product Packaging and continues to be a bestseller for Icon.

Of course, every successful toy line must keep creating to distinguish itself from the increasing competitiveness of the industry. Icon established the Velvet Plush line that includes silicone plugs, lusciously coated kegel ball kits of two sizes and shapes, and a few uniquely designed vibrators. Lee added, “For the heterosexual market, Velvet Plush is a tremendous seller. The material is so smooth it’s almost liquid-like to the touch. It’s made with a patented process than creates a feel unlike any other.”

But Icon didn’t stop with just sex toys for the straight and gay market. Their line goes deep into the sexual accouterments area with the “Eat, Play, Love” line of edibles and playtime enhancements. The “E, P, L” division includes four different themes to their “Happy Endings” adult oriented fortune cookies with the themes revolving around Fetish, Valentine’s Day, Pride, and regular. Crack open one of the familiar fortune cookies and receive a fortune that can make you hungry for another one in half an hour! Female Pleasure Balm, in a handy lip balm dispenser, is available in a variety of flavors, perfect to use on that other set of lips. Luster Dust and Massage Me oils are flavored and deliciously edible, too.

To top it all off, a percentage of sales in the “Eat, Play, Love” category is donated to stop sex trafficking so not only can one support customer’s desires, purchasing this line for retail can help support Icon’s social outreach as well.

V Lubricants is the privately labeled line carrying the Icon name. Available in a variety of water-based, silicone-based and gel formulas, the smartly designed labels and packaging are stylish and discreet, looking much like cosmetic products. The lubricant line continues to be a steady seller for Icon.

Of course, no successful company becomes iconic on products alone. Icon’s staff includes industry vet Jenny Tse, who many in the industry know and trust. Tse handles sales and merchandising, and does product presentations in the style that buyers have come to know and love. As always, Tse leaves their clients with a lot of information and a smile on their faces.

Icon Brands also has a full creative and product development staff that does all the photography and packaging design in-house, and their key management personnel are intimately involved in both. In fact, according to Lee, “there are no ‘detached’ executives at Icon.”

More recently, Icon Brands recognized that they needed to reorganize in order to stay viable and healthy in the competitive world of adult toy manufacturing. When word started creeping out, a few key investors from outside the adult business contacted Icon’s management and asked for a presentation. They knew of the growing adult novelty field, which had been so publicized since the “50 Shades” phenomenon, and knew there was an investment potential there. The investor group came together and formed Icon Capital Group Holdings, LLC, working closely with the product and sales team ever since.

Lee commented on the success of the transition of working with outside investors, saying, “It’s been going extremely well, as one can clearly see in our new licenses, our newly revitalized Falcon relationship, and our much higher fill rates. We’re still not fully back in stock with some lines, but that’s only because of the lengthy lead time in manufacturing. But everything’s on order, we’ve been releasing new items, and we couldn’t be more excited about the future.”

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