The look of love: The rise of aesthetically pleasing direct-to-consumer vibrators and sex toys

In a bid to remove stigma, modern sexual wellness brands are designing vibrators and sex toys that are sleek and unintimidating.

Sarah Drumm

Editor
Maude, launched in 2018, sells a selection of sexual wellness products including its sleek vibrators. (Photo: Maude)
BRAND ROUNDUP

Brands that sell products for the bedroom are expanding fast. In July, sexual wellness brand Cake, which sells a range of lubes, announced a deal with Walmart and a $1 million seed funding round. On June 30th, personal and sexual health brands Hims and Hers announced they would soon be stocked in Urban Outfitters. The news came the day after Maude, a pioneer of the modern sexual wellness category, announced a $5.8 million Series A round.

According to Forbes, Maude’s most recent fundraising makes it the first brand selling “sex-tech” products (vibrators and the like) to move beyond the seed stage in over five years, and its combination of beautiful packaging and a streamlined assortment of sexual wellness essentials has led sales to grow at over 200% year-over-year. Maude’s vibrators come in just two sleek, gender-neutral models, and customers can select from a sophisticated color palette of matte black, terracotta, sage green or cream.

A distinct look and feel has now emerged among modern sexual wellness brands – the Instagram-friendly vibrator, as Vox dubbed it – whose products feature uncomplicated designs, smooth curves, and are intentionally unintimidating. In October 2020, Tabu launched a slim “massager” aimed at women that have been through menopause, while Tango sells simple, gender-inclusive butt plugs designed for use by beginners. LBDO’s scalloped vibrators are designed to be easy to keep a hold of, and Dame Product’s Eva vibrator features flexible arms that tuck into the right places to hold it in place, for hands-free use.

“Of course there’s the direct-to-consumer modernization of the category,” Maude’s founder Éva Goicochea observes. “But what Maude’s real interest is – in terms of bringing the category forward – is to think of sex as sex, and as a human thing, not a gendered thing.”

What do consumers want in a vibrator?

Indeed, for consumers, the emergence of brands selling ranges online make selecting a vibrator even simpler while filling the gaps in what was previously an awkward shopping experience.

“The hook, especially for Maude, is the visual appeal,” says Goicochea. “It’s similar to how you pick anything – visually, does it appeal to you? Then you start to read the messaging, and then you look at what the products are.”

While some brands do err into copycat territory – something Goicochea says is difficult to combat – consumers can also look to other factors beyond product design when choosing between similar-looking vibrators to buy. Brands that can communicate their wider visions for the category – and think about what customers can buy next once they’ve warmed up to the idea of a vibrator – will be the ones that find sustained growth.

Maude, as one example, sells “mood setting” products such as scented candles and massage oils. Unbound Babes features a range of accessories, including silicone handcuffs and nipple clamps, and Dame Products has a firm, wedge-shaped cushion that can provide support during sex.

“In our case, and for any other brand that comes out with a similar assortment, the one place where there’s a lot of product education to be done is on products beyond the basic sexual wellness [ones],” Goicochea explains. “[People] know what to do with a condom, they know what to do with lubricant, they know how to use a vibrator. But when we’re starting to talk to them about massage candles, or any other mood setting products, that’s where education comes in.”

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