Over and over we hear the phrase “sex sells”. It’s certainly one of the tools in a marketers toolbox, whether overt or flirtatious, it always proves provocative. But how about actually marketing adult toys, that’s got to be pretty in your face, right? Wrong.
Liberator is branding sex in a whole different way, for a modern and discerning customer. First off, they have invented a new category called ‘adult adventure gear’- nope, they’re not selling sex toys in colorful boxes with lipstick laden, buxom beauties spilling off of the packaging. Liberator’s branding is sophisticated, chic and seductive. Their imagery is far more high fashion than lowbrow T&A. Any creative team that can make models in nude lingerie as hot as they can, certainly gets our vote.
The company began selling positioning pillows for adventurous lovers 12 years ago and has since expanded into sex toys, erotic art, massage oil, candles and other accessories as they’ve grown. Located in Atlanta, GA the company is dedicated to U.S.A. produced goods and expanding jobs in their 140,000 square foot headquarters. They employ over 130 sewing artisans and production team members in their factory- all of these individuals are also shareholders- and are focused on bringing job security to domestic workers that are being phased-out in so many other cost-cutting industries (70% of adult toys are made in China). When they have to reach outside their own facility, Liberator works with suppliers to uphold the same high standards. Additionally, because they have so much control over their manufacturing process, Liberator has been able to reduce their package size by 60%, helping to slash their environmental footprint, effectively, for the long term. Now that’s smart….and sexy.
Liberator’s positioning pillows have even snuck into feature films with A-list stars- remember George Clooney’s accessory of choice in Burn After Reading? Yep, that was Liberator. American pop culture is embracing a more adventurous sexual appetite these days with the runaway success of Fifty Shades of Grey- the books and movies have done more to inspire new adult adventures than anything before or since. A licensed line of Fifty Shades adult toys went in to family-friendly, big box retailer, Target, to support the movie’s release.
The adult toy industry sells $15 billion in toys and accessories every year and has seen industry growth of 20-30% in the past three years. We’re fascinated by the industry’s incredible growth and the secret to Liberator’s massive success, both. We recently caught up with April Harmon, Creative Director at Liberator, who gave us a look behind the brand:
Can you tell us how Liberator started and where the initial product idea came from?
April Harmon (AH)- Liberator was the brain child of our CEO, Louis. He was reading an article about how pillows can be used during sex, but can slip or flatten out. He starting developing a better sex pillow and Liberator was born.
How does marketing bedroom adventure gear differ from other marketing other consumer products?
We think our product is universal—after all, everyone has sex—but we face a lot of opposition breaking into mainstream markets. It has been Liberator’s priority to be sex positive and show how intimacy is the true benefit of our products, and with this messaging we have been able to reach a broader audience through ads in mainstream magazines like Rolling Stone and Esquire. This push to be more accepted in the marketplace has affected every aspect of our messaging, from the language we use to the photographs that show how to use our products. With this refocused direction we have had more opportunity to market in a wider variety of places and to an audience that may not be aware of sex accessories.
We saw Liberator’s recent ad in Rolling Stone magazine. Can you tell us about the channels you’ve found most effective for building business?
Word of mouth has always been the most effective method. When your girlfriend tells you something is good, you are going to believe it. In the same spirit, we do a lot with bloggers to get them to review our products and share their view on social media. Print advertising has also been effective for us. We are a small company, so many modes of traditional advertising are unavailable to us, but print seems to have the most bang for our buck.
Have you ever been surprised by the success of a specific product or category of products?
As you probably are aware, with Fifty Shades of Grey becoming popular, it is very exciting to see couples become more open to exploring the kinky side of sex. We have a line of sex furniture that include cuffs for bondage, as well a a line of leather blindfolds, paddles, and whips. It is all about fun, so we are happy that people are not shying away from trying something new and different.
Liberator has some unique products and you originated the positioning pillows that have been extremely popular- where do new product ideas come from today? Do you ever look outside your industry for inspiration?
For our new products, we generally try to find something that we would like and then improve upon it. Take for instance the Talea Spreader Bar (pictured above, left). Spreader bars are super sexy, but they are often uncomfortable and make a lot of noise banging around. We added a foam bolster around the bar so that you can use it under your hips or head and stay in the moment. Plus it gives you a little lift for better sexual positioning. Like all good design, we saw a gap and filled it with a solution.
Finally, any new trends in bedroom adventure gear we should know about?
We’re going to be everywhere soon. If you look in mass market retailers now, you will be surprised at the number of sex goods you can find in their stores. Retailers seem to be coming around to the idea of selling sexual wellness products, a category that did not even exist a few years ago. Liberator is in a great position to be included in this category because we are a product for couples with elegant artwork and packaging.
We couldn’t agree more. Open your mind, get your credit card out and shop Liberator’s extensive range of adult adventure gear now!