BLA: How to brand a taboo niche product
The importance of branding in bondage
Brandhome HQ in downtown Antwerp is located next to a boutique for fetish toys and accessories. As a marketer, you have to challenge yourself to stay curious. One day, we couldn’t restrain ourselves any longer and entered the shop. We stumbled upon a wide variety of specialized brands for whips, masks, and leather outfits. This got us thinking about the huge market of “officially unknown” brands.
In recent years, there has been a remarkable rise in sales in the fetish industry. Why? Does Fifty Shades of Grey ring a bell? The books by E.L. James, followed by the Hollywood blockbusters, have recently sparked an increase in demand for quality sex toys. Not surprising when you know that Fifty Shades of Grey has topped best-seller lists around the world, selling over 125 million copies worldwide by June 2015. Research by the University of Antwerp in 2017 found that 7 out of 10 Flemish citizens show an interest in using fetish objects in the bedroom, while an astonishing 50% already live out their fantasies. Western society as a whole is slowly becoming mature enough emotionally to discuss uncommon and anti-establishment needs openly. People are enjoying their lives to the fullest, refusing to be inhibited by outdated taboos; now it is up to fetish brands to turn it into more than just a hype.
Why does one brand a taboo niche product?
A brand is much more than a name, a logo or an ad. A brand is a story in your brain, which tries to appeal to certain emotions and personal beliefs. Branding is especially important for fetish objects, as it asserts deeply felt personal needs. These objects create an intense emotional bond between the users and serve as tools for expressing complex emotions. Many brands claim uniqueness that is largely non-existent. However, this will never be the case in the BDSM niche, since each brand and each product caters to a unique and extremely personal desire. When marketing such products, a clear indication of values must be demonstrated to ensure that consumers feel a real and meaningful connection with the brand.
Selling to a faceless community
Brands in the fetish sector face a peculiar challenge: namely, how do you address such a niche target audience? These are not your run-of-the-mill products. They are part of the consumers’ longstanding or newly discovered identity and are an integral part of a hush-hush lifestyle. Within the target audience, sexual, physical and emotional needs vary greatly, yet market research on this sector is virtually non-existent. These brands sell their products to a – sometimes literally – faceless community. Setting up an online campaign to target them through Google and Facebook is nearly impossible. That’s why these brands are actively establishing communities for like-minded individuals. Social media groups and real-life events are the perfect channels for these brands to get to know their consumers and their way of life.
Quality above quantity
Perhaps the most important aspect of branding fetish products relates to the original function of brands in general, which is to serve as a benchmark of quality that evokes certain feelings and creates a match in values. When browsing this specialized shop, you are looking for a quality product, perhaps even locally produced. We can imagine that lovingly whipping your partner with a cheap-looking black snake whip “made in China” does not give the same gratification as using a custom-made bullwhip in kangaroo leather.