In the beginning, the pleasure industry was geared towards a certain type of customer — cisgender heterosexual couples — but it has expanded exponentially since then. Back in the early 1990s, people weren’t asking the same types of questions they are now, or expecting products to cover a wide range of sexual preferences as they do today.
We’ve learned that, in order to stay relevant and current in our industry, you really need to broaden your understanding of what pleasure may mean to your customers. And we’ve found that the best way to do that is by identifying different customer personas.
Why is this so important? Well, if you create products for just one specific kind of customer, you risk pigeonholing your brand and limiting your customer base. When you don’t include certain customers, you risk turning them off to your brand indefinitely. Even if you change your tune down the line, chances are they will have already formed an opinion about your brand, which can be very difficult to change.
Where Customer Personas Come In
When you start any creative process, whether it’s creating a brand-new product, establishing sub-brands, or crafting well-thought-out marketing materials, it’s incredibly helpful to have specific customers in mind, even if they are fictional stand-ins for your real customers.
Giving your customer personas names can help to humanize them. At our company, we have Arthur, Dionne, Macy and Gabriel, to list a few. Then we can break things down further., Are they a secondary customer or a primary one? Are they cisgender, transgender or nonbinary? What about their sexuality: Straight? Gay? Bi? Pan? Next, we’ll focus on the bio, motivation and needs of each customer persona. I like to think of it as coming up with a main character’s backstory. By the end of the process, we’re looking at someone you may know or have met before. It’s not so much a stereotype as a character study.
Based on each customer persona’s needs, motivations and other details like their favorite brands or “nightstand essentials,” we can get a really well-rounded look at a potential customer. We can change the way we craft copy, the visuals we use, and so much more to play into what this customer is looking for.
For example, our customer persona “Cameron” is a cisgender, heteroflexible male whose motivation is intimacy and sexual exploration. In fact, he is so focused on these things that they largely define his lifestyle. He and his wife of 31 years have explored all types of play to keep things spicy, eventually opening up their marriage. His needs are high-quality products that suit one-on-one and multipartner play.
Cameron isn’t real, but he might as well be. There are plenty of Camerons in the world and based on this character study we can tell you what brands he’ll gravitate towards and what marketing he’ll respond best to. And Cameron is just one of many customer personas. You can create a stable of unique customer personas with their own individual needs, motivations, bios and more.
Once you have a clear understanding of the personas you are dealing with, how do you accommodate them?
In our industry, it can be easy to fall into old habits by catering to “the male gaze” or playing to gender stereotypes, especially if doing so is lucrative. But if you end up effectively ignoring people, you stand to lose a lot of potential customers in the long run. Out-of-date website content, dated evergreen emails and stagnant social posts are all areas where we can reimagine who we’re targeting.
For instance, some brands cater exclusively to cis-het couples without realizing it. Are we only using images of heterosexual couples in those recycled campaign emails? Is there enough racial and sexual diversity in our existing content? These are important questions that companies can easily forget to ask if they’re focused on one specific customer profile. And while you may not have given much thought recently to your existing web content, oftentimes it’s the first interaction you’ll have with a customer.
Rethink Your Packaging
Another thing manufacturers can do to be respectful of how varied our customers are is to be mindful and more inclusive in our packaging. It’s one of the first touch points for our retail customers and we need to set the right tone from the get-go.
People tend to respond really well to seeing a variety of representation. All sorts of folks want to be represented in the products they use, and understanding where they’re coming from is the first step in really representing them as a brand.
Remember: no product is really stagnant. Just because you’ve had a product for 10 years doesn’t mean the packaging can’t change and evolve. Customers will adapt to it.
Customer personas offer insights that brands need in order to create and effectively market their products. By knowing who your customers are and understanding them at their core level, you can make products, packaging and marketing materials that cater to a diverse group of people — and let them know that your products really are for them.