Retail: Fifty Shades of Anticipation

Retailers are in a unique position of having both the marketing support of major manufacturers and the ability to develop custom promotions specifically for their own customers. The upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey movie release provide several opportunities for business owners to take advantage of both these marketing and promotional avenues.

If the success of the books is any indication, then the release of the first Fifty Shades of Grey film on Valentine’s Day will generate a ton of new pleasure products customers. As members of the adult business community, I think we can all agree our mission is two-fold: 1) Bring FSOGheads/pleasure product virgins into your store. 2) Convert these FSOG one-time customers into repeat/longtime customers.

I can think of at least five major manufacturers who will be releasing Fifty Shades of Grey themed products or product lines. And guess what? They all have substantial marketing collateral to support the release of these new lines.

Efficient marketers know that reinventing the wheel is costly, unnecessary and can be completely ineffective. Instead of trying to duplicate the work of others – why not just use it? There’s no need to develop your own signage, taglines and slogans for FSOG product that has already been messaged exactly how the manufacturer wants it. Use their resources and whatever sales tips and tactics are provided – the manufacturer’s goal is the same as yours: to sell product. I can think of at least five major manufacturers who will be releasing Fifty Shades of Grey themed products or product lines. And guess what? They all have substantial marketing collateral to support the release of these new lines. If you’re stocking these products, you’ll want to get and use the manufacturer promotional materials developed specifically to sell these products.

Everyone with access to media will be hearing about the new movie and the toys featured in the movie – there will be conversations on talk shows about sex, news shows about sex, articles online about BDSM, sex toys – I mean, expect it all – a total and complete media orgy of Fifty Shades of Grey. Think about how many people will be walking around with the fresh thoughts of Fifty Shades of Grey, bondage, Ben-wa balls and sex floating around their heads. How lucky can we get? We’ve already got billions of dollars in free “power of suggestion” publicity for nothing – all we have to do is parlay that publicity into a successful call to action. That call to action has to be inviting, comfortable, unintimidating, friendly, adventurous and fun.

For a pop cultural phenomenon like Fifty Shades of Grey, you may want to consider different marketing tactics to lure this new breed of adult customer into your store. Certainly you’ll want an advertising presence in more “mainstream” or local publications to appeal to Fifty Shades of Grey moviegoers and couples. Maybe partner with another local business – a restaurant, wine bar or movie theater to create a “Fifty Shades of Grey date night.” If you have a store window, build a display with manufacturer materials that speak directly to first time customers and Fifty Shades fans.

Think outside your existing customer comfort zone because you’re trying to net new shoppers from a different pond. Maybe put together FSOG street teams to hand out store invites, product samples, etc. I would dispatch my street team to movie theaters for before and after screenings and send them to nearby clubs and bars. You can even make some of your associates Fifty Shades of Grey ambassadors - or have one of them dressed in a grey tie or other FSOG garb as your designated rep for FSOG fans/first-timers to dole out essential first-timer product info.

Once you’ve successfully brought new customers into the store, you want to sell them on your store’s experience. Sure, you want your new customers to leave with products, but you absolutely want them to leave with the intent of returning in the near future for all their intimate needs. So, this is where you and your team need to win them over. The FSOG movie has created endless opportunities for you and your staff to develop new and strong relationships with an entirely different demographic. There’s time to prepare. I might use the time to get my staff fully primed on all BDSM products as well as the basics of the Fifty Shades book. I might also implement customer service training for your team so that your staff doesn’t miss a single opportunity to win the sale. A refresher on cross promoting, cross selling and upselling would also be a good investment in staff training.

Rather than use the massive publicity and exposure from FSOG as an excuse to price gauge, use it to build a foundation for a positive relationship with your community and new customers. There’s no reason to let Fifty Shades of Grey become just a one-month hit for your store during the movie release – with the right marketing plan you can use the upcoming blockbuster to build long-term and profitable success.

Brian Sofer currently serves as marketing ninja at Eldorado Trading Company. Sofer joined the Eldorado team in 2010. Brian is a creative, results-oriented marketing professional with extensive experience across his career utilizing digital media.