In the highly competitive pleasure products sector, companies that withstand the test of time are also companies that aren’t afraid to change with the times — and one such company is Trigg Laboratories. Founded by CEO Michael Trigg in 1989, the Las Vegas-based manufacturer is well-known for its successful, long-running Wet line of personal lubricants (StaysWetLonger.com). And Trigg Laboratories, after 29 years in business, is continuing to grow and evolve.
“We’ve come a really long way in almost 30 years,” Michael Trigg told XBIZ. “We started in Van Nuys, Calif., with a team of just three in a space of 1,500 square feet. I was only 28 when I started the company. Today, we have grown to a full-scale, FDA-approved manufacturing facility with millions in annual revenue and a team of nearly 100 people.”
We watch trends and do our best to evolve with them. One thing that hasn’t changed is we always have a lot of fun and laugh quite a bit during our meetings. A fun atmosphere inspires creativity.
Trigg added, “In the early years, there was far more guesswork. Now, there is so much more research and data that goes into the decisions. We watch trends and do our best to evolve with them. One thing that hasn’t changed is we always have a lot of fun and laugh quite a bit during our meetings. A fun atmosphere inspires creativity.”
Trigg Laboratories has developed many Wet products along the way; its current catalog ranges from Wet Hemptation Lubricant and Wet Organics Lubricant to Wet Uranus Anal Lube, Wet Naturals Gel Lubricant and Wet Warming Gel Lubricant.
Trigg asserted that while his company has always strived for quality, its products are enjoying much more mainstream acceptance in 2018 than they were in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“One thing that has changed dramatically is how the adult industry in general is more widely accepted from a cultural perspective than it was nearly 30 years ago,” Trigg stressed. “The tipping point was when it became cool for women to talk about sex; that was when the popular HBO show ‘Sex and the City’ first showed characters that embraced it. Intimacy products are available everywhere, and the stigma that used to be associated with buying sex toys and products has diminished over the years.”
Trigg continued, “The LGBTQ community is also more widely accepted now than it was 30 years ago, which has also changed the dynamics of sexual marketing. Even just over the past decade, there has been a major sexual health movement, which has made consumers more comfortable expressing interest in their sexuality, exploring their sexual health and being more assertive in seeking pleasure. This is great for consumers and for us as a sexual health business.”
During Trigg Laboratories’ 29 years in business, the changes affecting the adult industry have been not only social, but also, technological. Trigg Laboratories debuted during the adult industry’s preinternet era, when adult films were still being sold on VHS tapes and sex toys had yet to be sold online or promoted via Twitter and Facebook — and the internet, according to Trigg, has had a major impact on the sale, marketing and promotion of Wet Lubricants.
“The Internet really brought about a new way for consumers to shop for and understand adult products,” Trigg explained. “It provides anonymity; you can do it from the convenience of your home in your pajamas, underwear or nothing at all.
“A consumer can research and educate themselves before going into your retail store. It has brought a new level of visibility to what products are out there. Much like other industries, the internet completely changed the way we do business and how we think about our customers.”
Trigg added, “It has also given us a way to immediately connect with our customers to find out what they need, what they like or what they’re thinking. From a marketing and development perspective, this kind of data is invaluable.”
“We can ask what types of products are missing from the market, have them tell us via a direct conversation, then go out and develop those products and bring them to market,” he said. “It was extremely difficult to connect one-on-one with a customer and get this kind of information before the internet.”
As the market for pleasure products has become increasingly mainstream, Trigg noted, new doors have been opening for Trigg Laboratories’ products.
“We’ve seen our customer base grow at an incredible rate,” Trigg observed. “We have customers tell us all the time that the first lube they tried back when they were a teen or young adult was a Wet product. We gave those customers a quality product, and they have stayed loyal to us as they’ve grown up and matured over the years. It always makes me smile when I get into a conversation with an Uber driver and they ask me what I do. When I mention Wet, they almost always use or know of us.”
Trigg added, “We saw early on that multiple distribution channels would be critical to growing our business. Over the years, Wet has expanded from adult boutique and specialty stores to major big-box retailers, drug stores and pharmacies, grocery stores and online sellers.”
Trigg Laboratories, its CEO said, has kept a close eye on the evolution of brick-and-mortar adult retail and the popularity of the “couples boutique” model — although he stressed that both couples and singles are welcome to purchase Wet products.
“We haven’t focused as much on ‘couples-oriented marketing,’ since our products aren’t designed specifically for ‘couples’ or ‘singles,’” Trigg explained. “Since our products are designed to be used both alone or with a partner, we tend to focus on who the target audience is for the product, then market it to them based on their preferences and the enjoyment it will bring to their lifestyle.
“Whether they decide to use it as a couple or not is up to them,” he said. “We have, however, taken into account the change to a more boutique/couples upscale environment the stores have evolved to.”
Trigg continued, “One dynamic that has definitely changed is that women have become far more assertive in their sexual health over the past 20 years. Our all-female development team is focused on bringing new products to market that are specifically designed for women. To appeal specifically to them, we have expanded the Wet Elite Femme line — and that will be introduced at the 2018 AMNE Founders Show.”
Another change Trigg Laboratories has observed in the pleasure products sector, according to Michael Trigg, is consumers becoming more mindful of the ingredients in Wet products.
“The things we hear most are similar to the trends you see in cosmetics and other personal care products: consumers are becoming more educated about ingredients and are developing preferences based on their knowledge,” Trigg explained.
“The natural and organic movements are a great example of this. We also see a lot of interest in glycerin-free and paraben-free formulas. We offer a variety of lubricants with and without glycerin and aloe vera-based formulas. Ultimately, it’s up to the consumer to decide if they want a longer-lasting formula that includes glycerin, or a shorter-duration formula with ingredients they are more comfortable with.”
Trigg added, “We have developed options and products to meet everyone’s needs. Aloe-based Wet Organics is our very successful organic line. Another trend we’ve seen is the focus on hemp for its health and wellness benefits. We just launched a product on April 20 called Wet Hemptation, which is an organic hemp lubricant. This product can legally be sold in all 50 states.”
Trigg Laboratories’ Wet Elite and Elite Femme products, according to Trigg, reflect a growing interest in hybrid formulas.
“We’re also seeing a lot of interest in hybrid lubricants,” Trigg observed. “Hybrids are a blend of water and silicone. We’ve recently launched Wet Elite and Elite Femme hybrids; these formulas take the silky, long-lasting feeling of a silicone and blend it with the easy cleanup of a water base. As consumers become educated about this best-of-both-worlds type of product, we’ve seen interest and demand skyrocket for them.”
Trigg Laboratories spent most its 29 years in Southern California, but in 2017, the company relocated to Las Vegas — and the move, according to Trigg, has been great for business.
“What can I say, it’s Vegas, baby,” Trigg asserted. “Starting each day and going to bed each night overlooking The Strip is a feeling so great it can’t be described in words. The economic climate here is really friendly to businesses. Property is so much cheaper than in California, labor is less costly.
“Las Vegas is such a great place to do business; we’ve really settled in and love it,” he said. “It’s hard to complain about a place that offers over 300 days of sunshine, no natural disasters, the best entertainment and restaurants in the world and no state taxes. I especially like that our employees can afford to buy a house here for what they paid high rent for in L.A.”
Asked to describe some of the most important lessons he has learned at Trigg Laboratories over the years, Michael Trigg responded that at the top of the list is “to take everyone’s opinion seriously” and to “do whatever it takes to make customers happy — even if that means doing something for them not customarily offered.”
Trigg observed, “A happy customer is a loyal long-term customer, and the smallest of gestures can be so meaningful to how an individual perceives our brand.”
Trigg added that another valuable lesson he has learned is “don’t be complacent with past successes.”
“The world is always evolving,” Trigg emphasized, “and if we want to be the best, we need to feed that passion — that drive to be better and do better every single day.”
Equally crucial, according to Trigg, is “never sacrifice quality for profit.”
“A consumer will buy your product only once for the way it looks,” Trigg explained. “The quality is what brings them back again and again. Pay attention, stay involved, and keep an eye on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry. All of these are what it takes to innovate and identify what the market needs next and how to stay relevant as a brand to our consumers and our partners.”
The fact that Trigg Laboratories has stayed in business 29 years, Trigg pointed out, doesn’t mean there haven’t been some difficulties along the way. Trigg recalled that around 1997, his company encountered a major bump in the road.
“When the company was about eight years old, we had experienced nonstop, explosive growth — and our inventory created cash flow problems,” Trigg remembered. “Everything was tied up in receivables, and we were running out of cash. I had achieved a lot already and felt like I had it all: a big house in the Hollywood Hills, my own limo and driver that took me to work every day — and I was only in my mid-30s.
“The situation was pretty bleak, and I felt like I was at risk of losing everything I had worked so hard for,” he said. “I remember laying curled up on the floor of that limo, crying my eyes out and asking for some intervention from a higher power to show me what to do. I’ve never been the type to feel desperate, but I sure did then. I did end up bringing in a financial expert that specialized in inventory control, got our act together and learned some very valuable lessons.”
Trigg added that his courage was also tested when, in 2017, he went through health problems and a divorce.
“My other greatest challenge came last year, when I needed spinal fusion surgery,” Trigg recalled. “I struggled with being in bed, in terrible pain and on opiates for five months. I became a different person than the fun-loving, active guy I have always been, and it was definitely a low point. As a reward to myself for persevering through this time, I bought myself the dream car I had always wanted: a convertible McLaren. It really does feel almost as good as an orgasm revving up and rolling out in a McLaren every morning.”
Trigg continued, “I had finally become part of the living again when two months later, the screws and rods they put in caused a relapse. I was back in bed again for a couple months and unable to drive the new car. During this time, my five-year marriage also ended. For the first time in my life, I was really depressed. The divorce took its toll over the next six months, and during that time, I had a second surgery to remove the hardware. My close friends and family really helped me get through it all, along with counseling and the right antidepressants. Again, I persevered, got my health back on track and my life back to where it needed to be. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a pivotal fork in the road and reset my trajectory back to where it needed to be.”
Asked what advice he would give to someone who wanted to be a successful entrepreneur, Trigg responded, “Chose something that you are passionate about. If a product, make sure it fills a need or void that hasn’t been offered yet — or one that can be improved upon a great deal. Make sure it needs to be repurchased often. That way, you’re building a base of loyal and new customers and not looking for that new customer every time to make a profit. Do as much as you possibly can at first. Think, breathe and let the business live inside you. Once the business is established, find the areas you love and get in there and work side-by-side with your team.”
Trigg continued, “Things are not immediate, and drive is more important than anything else. You need to work long hours if you expect to succeed; my growing up period prepared me for that.”
“For the first 20 years, I worked crazy-long hours,” he said. “I focused more on what needed to be done than what would fit into a schedule. I’d go to the factory in the morning, work all day, go to the gym for my meditation/stress release time, then come home. While my partner or friends were watching TV or going out, I’d be at my desk at home doing e-mail, researching and planning until midnight. When something time-sensitive was needed, I’d coffee up and work through the night.”
Charity work, Trigg pointed out, has been an important part of his history — and as a result, he has met many mainstream celebrities over the years.
“Through my charity work,” Trigg noted, “I have been fortunate enough to meet Robin Williams, Harry Connick Jr., Pitbull, Donny and Marie Osmond, Dr. Oz, Mike Tyson, Mario Lopez, Cher, Britney Spears, Hillary Clinton, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Ryan Seacrest, Ricky Martin, and others. You can see them all @michael_trigg_wet on my Instagram. My two favorites were Oprah Winfrey and President Obama. To me, those two are more than just talented celebrities; they are more than that because of the huge positive impact they have made on this world and people who inhabit it.”
In addition to its CEO, some of the most important players at Trigg Laboratories in 2018 include President Simone Buntin and Sales Manager Bruce Fleming.
“One of the things I’m really proud of is the diversity of our team and the number of women in leadership positions,” Trigg emphasized. “Women represent such a large percentage of the sexual health market. I think having strong women in leadership positions is important for the future of the company. Collaboration and considering each person’s experiences and opinions is the biggest key to a company’s success.”
Trigg noted that along the way, Trigg Laboratories hasn’t been shy about “completely changing the look of Wet” when it felt the time was right — and Wet’s latest redesign, he said, is an important part of keeping the brand fresh and interesting.
“Why are we completely changing the look of Wet? This is something we actually have done around every five to seven years since the beginning,” Trigg asserted. “I watch how things change with Google, Apple, Amazon, Pepsi, Coke and other top companies to remain current. You have to stay fresh and relevant, or you end up looking outdated. All brands do this, even products like Tide. You’ll see with our new look that 3D fonts are out and flat is in. Shiny is out; matte is in. We take all the elements of what’s good, include traditional recognition elements, update to current trends, then add our own unique touches to be the best, most fun package on the shelf. We don’t rest until they scream out to the consumer, ‘You need me, must take me home. Buy me!’”
“When Wet was first introduced, we turned the lubricant market upside down and set a whole new, higher bar,” he said. “Here we go again! Others will inevitably copy, but that’s what happens when you innovate and lead.”