For companies that manufacture sex toys and pleasure products, the U.S. continues to be a highly lucrative market. A few states have restrictions on the sale of sex toys (Alabama, for example), but overall, the U.S. offers many possibilities for selling everything from dildos, vibrators and butt plugs to lubricants and oils. That said, the demand for sex toys and pleasure products is not limited to the U.S. by any means — and savvy U.S.-based manufacturers realize that there is also much money to be made in places ranging from Europe to Latin America to Australia and New Zealand.
Brian Sofer, digital marketing manager for the Chatsworth, Calif.-based Pipedream Products, stressed that sex toy manufacturers in the U.S. should bear in mind how much sexual attitudes can differ from one country to another. “On the surface, the U.S. is still a bit lagging when it comes to its openness regarding sexuality,” Sofer told XBIZ. “Generally, there can be more chances to push the envelope when it comes to our imagery and messaging internationally. For a brand like Pipedream, that’s an attractive opportunity that we take advantage of for more edgy material. As always, it’s important to take into consideration who exactly the customers are — and there are subtle differences between domestic and international customers. So again, we try to sync our promotions, branding, ads, etc. to the audience we’re trying to penetrate. An ad for a Fetish Fantasy product in Moscow may be a bit different than the Fetish Fantasy ad we run in Melbourne.”
It is important when marketing sex toys internationally to have an understanding of the cultural differences and different values for specific demographics. -Molly Murphy, Jimmyjane
Sofer cited Europe, Australia and South America as some of Pipedream’s most lucrative markets outside the U.S., explaining, “As sex toys become more accepted and mainstreamed, we see sales increasing in those (parts of the world). Effective promotion is essential, and we take great care in expanding our brand’s reach to hit all our target markets. In some cases, we’ll speak directly to an audience with specific messaging to reflect the culture and attitudes of the region.”
Chad Braverman, COO and creative director for Doc Johnson, asserted that the “made in the USA” label has been a valuable part of the North Hollywood, Calif.-based sex toy giant’s international promotions. “Growth is currently strong for pleasure products in the international marketplace,” Braverman told XBIZ. “After a few soft years, it appears as though pleasure product sales are building strength once again. Our team is fortunate because our Doc Johnson brand has a substantial presence globally. We have worked hard to build a strong reputation for making top quality American-made pleasure products. And coincidentally, the current universal trend around the world is American-made products as a whole. This makes Doc Johnson perfectly poised as the company to meet this growing demand.”
Braverman added that using high-quality materials has been an important way for Doc Johnson to reach non-U.S. customers. “Another prevalent trend in both international and domestic markets is the desire for products made with the best ingredients and materials available,” Braverman explained. “Doc Johnson has recently expanded its silicone manufacturing department to keep up with the global demand for high-quality silicone products. Additionally, our on-site lab continues to reflect consumer requests by developing an array of prime-ingredient sexual enhancement creams, sprays and gels made from natural ingredients like tea tree oil, aloe and Vitamin E.”
LELO, which is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden but has a large office in the U.S. and a strong North American presence, is another major provider of pleasure products that has been internationally minded in its marketing campaigns. Patty Callahan, LELO’s communications and marketing manager, sent XBIZ an official statement from the company’s global department reflecting on the importance of marketing pleasure products on a country-by-country basis.
“U.S.-based companies who have never traded in other industries need to learn to break information down into ever smaller parts,” LELO’s global department told XBIZ. “For example, it’s easy to say things like ‘We’re doing well in Europe,’ but Europe has a population of 743 million people. That’s almost exactly twice the population of the U.S. So the truth is, you could be doing really well in, say, Germany, but terribly in Ireland. Breaking down the numbers by region — and more poignantly, by culture — will ensure that your business grows faster and retains its strength. For comparison, you’d know very quickly if your brand was exploding in Washington but dying in San Francisco, and you’d probably know why. It would likely be something to do with the culture, the politics or legal constraints. You would take steps to equalize that. The same is true internationally: the better you understand your local audience, the more you allow your audience to know you.”
Asked to comment on countries that have been lucrative growth markets for LELO, the company’s global department responded: “China over the past three years, as with many luxury brands, has been a boom area. We’ve also enjoyed great success in Brazil and Russia in recent years, and there’s a lot that can be done in those markets.”
Molly Murphy, director of marketing and public relations for the San Francisco-based sex toy manufacturer Jimmyjane, emphasized that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to promoting sex toys in different parts of the world. “It is important when marketing sex toys internationally to have an understanding of the cultural differences and different values for specific demographics,” Murphy told XBIZ. “While the products sold worldwide are the same, how you position the products might change depending on the location. For more conservative countries, such as Latin American countries, we might speak to the couple’s angle and how these products can enhance a relationship. This can make the products more approachable where religious influence might stigmatize them. In more liberal areas, we have the liberty to be more provocative and playful in our presentation, though Jimmyjane always aims to create a sophisticated presentation. No matter where you are in the world, people are interested in sexuality, as it is intrinsic to all of our lives.”