We finally had the opportunity to catch up with one of the true legends in the adult novelty industry, Doc Johnson. With more than forty years of experience, Doc Johnson has seen the adult market through the changes and political pressures that have shaped the market. We are delighted to have their participation in our feature article series.
Doc Johnson has answered the market demands for higher grade materials such as silicone and more creative designs such as the TRYST, which has won praise across the board.
Chad Braverman, COO/CCO, and Scott Watkins, VP of Sales and Marketing, shared their insights on product development, history and future of not only DJ but the industry as a whole.
Because we share this philosophy of sexual wellness, we will donate 10% of sales for Optimale products to ZEROCancer.org that supports the fight against prostate cancer.
What is the appeal of your product? What differentiates your products from those of your competitors?
CB: Our brand is 40 years old, well-known with a great reputation and we are the largest pleasure products manufacturer in America. We also make over 75% of our products in America, at our North Hollywood campus in California.
Considering the length of time we have been a leader in this industry, we have had plenty of time to search out the best products and materials for the changing times. For decades, most American pleasure product companies have outsourced the majority of their manufacturing work overseas. Benefits of our local manufacturing include real-time access to the factory floor, more rapid responses to product or process changes and better quality control.
Adult toys have gone mainstream. We see them everywhere from Walmart and Target to RiteAid and of course on Amazon. How has mainstream acceptance affected your business and how you develop products?
CB: Sex Toys are 100% more mainstream now than they ever have been in the past. This is due to the commercialization of sex toys, especially on TV in ‘Masters of Sex’, ‘Sex in the City’, and ‘Broad City’ just to name a few. Pleasure products are now thought of as more acceptable and not as taboo as they were in the past. And we’ve found that more mainstream vendors are carrying our products now– bridal shops, boutique gift shops, smoke shops, etc. There was a time when you wouldn’t see lingerie shops in a mall and now there are Victoria Secret’s in every mall. We believe the same situation will happen for pleasure products.
We know that the more we can build the visibility of our brand, the more consumers will look for Doc Johnson products when making purchases. We want Doc Johnson to be the go-to brand for consumers.
How has Amazon affected your business?
SW: Amazon has opened up our products to a new consumer. There’s an increase in consumers whose primary source for all goods is online shopping. There are also those who, in the past, wouldn’t step foot in a retail store, and now have the privacy and anonymity afforded to them by shopping online. Consumer reviews and pricing drive the Amazon engine. The spike in Amazon sales for adult products has forced the traditional brick and mortar stores to become more conscious of their online presences to cater to the online consumer. Though online sales continue to grow, there is nothing better than human interaction. The education and buying experience that a retail store provides cannot be emulated in a virtual world. This is why we see continued growth on the store level.
Because of increased demand, markets tend to see more counterfeit products available. Have you seen a lot of cheaper knock-offs particularly from overseas
CB: Unfortunately, we don’t have to go overseas to see our product being knocked off. It’s happening right here at home. But one of the major areas of growing concern for counterfeit products in general is on the internet, where people are attempting to take shoddy, lower-quality copies of our product, and sell them online at a lower price—right down to even using our packaging art and brand name.
Besides wider acceptance, how has industry changed in last 10 years? 20 years
CB: Without even having to think about it, I can confidently say that the most important development for the pleasure product industry has been the expanded use of the internet. You can browse thousands of sex toys without leaving your house, and rest assured that your sex life will remain as private as you want it.
What are three products in your line that you think do not get enough recognition
SW: From a general perspective, cock rings, because most men just don’t know how to use them, so we spend a lot of time educating men about cock rings, and how they can help men last longer. We also think prostate toys, like the OptiMALE™ P-Massager, are sometimes underrepresented as a product category because many straight men still see anal play as off limits. Times are changing and more men have discovered the pleasure and benefits of prostate simulation. The third category of products I feel doesn’t get enough recognition includes anything we sell that is produced from silicone material. Men can be cheap, but while silicone products cost more, the benefits you will find in Doc Johnson lines like Platinum Premium Silicone are more than worth the investment.
The adult toy industry is largely unregulated from a medical perspective so there are some manufacturers who market their use of "body safe" and "medical grade" materials (e.g. the industry has moved from rubber, to PVC to Silicone among others). Does your business encounter stricter regulations and more oversight in other countries?
SW: Doc Johnson specifically does because we are a California manufacturer, so we are in adherence with Prop 65, which limits the use of carcinogenic products and/or materials.
Because Doc Johnson manufactures its products in California, we are in adherence with Prop 65, which is the Toxic Enforcement Act. This law requires labeling that calls out over 750 chemicals commonly used in the production of commonly used household goods known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. We are proud to say that we don’t have to list these chemicals on our products because none of our products contain them. International requirements which tend to be as strict as California requirements create challenges for most companies to comply, but do not present an issue for Doc Johnson thanks to our of our 40 years of regulatory experience in producing body safe products for consumers world-wide.
How do you test/evaluate your products?
CB: It really depends on the product, but sometimes the best way to test a product is to actually use it. We have a full team here that is willing and open to trying products and reporting back. I test the products I can test. We have a network of friends that also help us. With sex being so personal, different toys will suit different personal preferences. What gets one person off is not always the same for another.
Customers (okay me really) are curious as to how you do product research. How do you develop products? Are there focus groups? Are there online discussion groups? Do you use market trends? Is there a futures market in vibrators or dildos of which we are sadly unaware?
CB: At Doc Johnson, we really have an open idea policy. What always helps us tremendously in ensuring the success of our products, whether we’re working on developing new products or marketing our classic bestsellers, is to listen to our customers’ feedback. Many of our products and collections have largely been shaped by conversations between our sales team and our customers, who regularly give us feedback or tell us what they wish existed on the market. That kind of regular face-to-face interaction leaves us well positioned to identify gaps in the market, which has always been a great driver for us in terms of product innovation.
Of course, we also stay on top of market trends, but it’s much more important for us to follow our own instincts rather than try to blindly cater to all the latest trends. Integrity is everything. For example, not so long ago, BDSM products were considered very niche; but since the massive popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, more and more consumers were asking for products like whips, restraints, masks, and so on. We wanted to introduce something to market that would fulfill this demand, without just imitating what everyone else was doing, so we partnered with Kink.com-- the world’s largest producer of BDSM entertainment-- to create a fully comprehensive line of fetish/BDSM products with top-quality materials, thoughtfully-crafted designs, and a stamp of approval from the most trusted BDSM/fetish brand in the world.
In another example, when we noticed there was a growing demand in the market for male toys that address both style and functionality, we created the first ever comprehensive Men’s Sexual Health + Wellness Collection, called OptiMALE™. Every aspect of the 30-piece collection, from the naturally derived body products, to the smart designs and the sleek packaging, makes OptiMALE™ the perfect essential, ‘go-to brand’ for men.