Building a strong brand is no walk in the park. It requires time, effort, (a good deal of) money — and the ability to effectively connect with consumers. Now, not every brand or industry need function the same way, as different brands fulfill different roles in consumers’ lives.
Consider the fact that your insurance company meets different needs than your favorite apparel brand — but, for a well-rounded life, both are important to consumers. However, some brands and industries have a harder go of it — for example, consider the sexual wellness industry.
A budding industry with a growing market around the world, the sexual wellness industry faces many a challenge. From social and cultural taboos to a lack of education, there are plenty of areas where the sexual wellness industry is experiencing — and will continue to experience — growing pains.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the obstacles that might stand in the way of your sexual wellness brand’s growth as you seek to increase your awareness and market share. We’ll also provide a few tips that will help sexual wellness brands of all kinds increase their chances for success in 2022 and beyond.
Starting With The Basics
As we already mentioned, not every brand will have the same goals or measure success in the same manner. For example, U.S. brand Avocados From Mexico measure its success by how well it’s been able to grow awareness for the avocado in the U.S. — whereas e-mobility brand Lime looks to ride count and revenue to measure success.
But, regardless of how your brand defines success, you still need a strong brand identity to get where you want to go. And keep in mind, that your brand identity is about more than just your logo or slogan — it’s formed in the minds of consumers at every brand touch point they experience.
Everything from their first visit to your website to their 12th order on your app informs consumers about your brand identity. And your identity — think tone of voice, brand messaging, brand values, etc. — needs to remain consistent throughout it all.
So, when it comes to the sexual wellness industry, what challenges arise when creating and growing a brand — and what tips can we offer to help your brand succeed? Let’s take a look.
1. Why Sexual Wellness Brands Must Focus On Education
While brands from various industries would be smart to focus on educating consumers about their products and services, it’s absolutely paramount for sexual wellness brands.
But before we get into the “why”, let’s consider the “what” — as in, “What is sexual wellness?” In short, the Phanes Clinic defines sexual wellness as “a blend of physical state, mental state, and social well-being that has a connection with sexuality.”
Thus, the sexual wellness industry covers many issues — ranging from sexual health to sexual orientation to sexual pleasure. And brands within this industry sell everything from contraceptives to BDSM gear. It’s a wide-ranging, varied industry that meets many consumer needs — and has been gaining popularity over the last few years
However, even in 2022, knowledge levels surrounding sexual wellness are surprisingly low. Just consider this 2021 study from SKDK and Thinx Inc., which revealed that 76% of female teenage students in the U.S. were “taught more about the biology of frogs than the human female body at school.” According to the same study, another 77% reported that “there needs to be more in-depth education about menstrual health.”
For young men in the U.S., a shocking 30% never received “any sex education before their first-ever intercourse”. And it gets even worse when looking into queer sexual education in the U.S. According to the GLSEN 2013 National School Climate Survey, “fewer than five percent of LGBT students had health classes that included positive representations of LGBT-related topics.”
Clearly, education around sexual wellness topics is severely lacking in places like the U.S. — and though many other countries boast comprehensive sex ed programs, it isn’t a topic covered universally. Therefore, for sexual wellness brands to overcome the challenge that this lack of knowledge creates, they need to step up and provide comprehensive education for consumers.
After all, you can’t expect to increase demand for products and services that consumers have little to no understanding of.
How Sexual Wellness Brands Can Provide Education
In 2022, there are many ways that sexual wellness brands can provide consumers with education and support. First and foremost, they can offer easy-to-understand, accessible educational materials on their websites.
Access to sexual wellness experts
In a study that Latana conducted in July 2022, we found that 52% of U.S. adults want sexual wellness brands to “provide more educational materials for adults”. This insight proves that consumers actively want sexual wellness brands to play an educational role in their journey.
But supporting sexual wellness education isn’t just about providing materials for adults — it’s also about supporting movements to increase sex education in schools for teenagers.
While sexual wellness brands definitely need to provide educational materials for adults, they also need to be proactive about the next generations’ knowledge levels — thus, ensuring future demand for their products and services.
2. Why Sexual Wellness Brands Must Promote Inclusivity
For many people, the sexual wellness industry can feel intimidating — there’s so much to learn and experience, and many people are looking for a place where they feel like they belong. And this is especially true for queer consumers, who are often faced with an overwhelmingly heteronormative approach to sexual education.
Queer teens want to feel included in sex ed — and queer adults want sexual wellness brands that cater to their needs. Everyone wants to feel seen and as if their wants and desires are worthwhile.
According to an interview with Chloe Macintosh, the Founder/CEO of sexual wellness app Kama, for The Industry, “the attitude of the younger generation is driving and forcing the change. (...) Our generation is a very binary structure, we make binary decisions, ‘are you in or out?’ There isn’t a lot of fluidity or flexibility”.
In 2020, Gallup found that Gen Z boasts the highest percentage of those who identify as LGBT+ in the U.S. at 15.9% — compared to only 2% of Boomers. Macintosh and the Kama team understand this trend, stating:
“Gen Z’s different way of seeing the world, dressing up, their make-up, is what is affecting the consumer market. We need to move away from the taboo, the shame, the oppression. Now, more than ever, those things are starting to become more visible. They want to identify with new models. Models that are current, inclusive and forward thinking, where people can fully explore and develop their potential.”
And as time goes on, the percentage of consumers that identify as LGBTQIA+ will likely increase, as more people will become comfortable with exploring and expressing their sexuality. Sexual wellness brands can get ahead of the curve by providing a safe, inclusive space for consumers of all genders and sexualities to explore.
How Sexual Wellness Brands Can Promote Inclusivity
Promoting inclusivity in every aspect of their brand experience is an excellent way for sexual wellness brands to get ahead in 2022. This means having a product range, educational materials, and brand messaging that cater to all sexual orientations and needs.
In order to form an emotional connection with consumers, brands need to show them that they understand their wants, needs, and painpoints — and they’re ready to exceed their expectations.
For example, consider the sexual wellness brand Cake. Founded in 2020, one of its main goals is to make “the pleasure market (...) a more inclusive place” — which it is achieving “by creating specialized, high-quality products that are accessible to all genders, sexual preferences, and relationship structures.”
In an interview with Well + Good, Cake’s founders explain their approach, stating:
“Cake's lubricants are geared toward different sexual activities, rather than just a ‘his/hers’ approach. This not only validates varying identities, but also acknowledges a range of preferences and experiences in a way that maximizes pleasure for all.”
In the same article, author Mary Grace Garis quotes sex educator and trauma specialist Jimanekia Eborn, who shared the following:
"Psychologically" gendering sexual wellness products "can cause folks to distrust and discount their own feelings and desires, which, over time, can lead to folks struggling in many other ways sexually”.
Thus, it’s clear that sexual wellness brands who want to grow and connect with consumers in 2022 and beyond should make it a priority to create an inclusive brand experience — from the way they advertise their products to the products themselves, brands should focus on making all potential customers feel welcomed — just like UK-based brand WooWoo does.
3. Why Social Taboos Means Your Sexual Wellness Brand Must Work Harder
It’s no secret that sex and sexuality are taboo subjects in many places around the world. Even in 2022, it’s difficult for anyone to speak openly about sexual health, orientation, and pleasure without getting censored, fined, or admonished.
As a small case study, let’s consider the difficulty that faces menstruation brands who want to accurately advertise their products in ad campaigns. But first, a little background.
Did you know that while tampons became popular in the 1930s and 40s, it wasn’t until 1972 that a commercial for a tampon aired on TV? But don’t be fooled — that didn’t mean that the visuals and language used weren’t heavily restricted. Think back to any menstruation ads you’ve seen in the past — do you remember anything resembling actual blood being used?
Fast-forward to 2022 and people still respond negatively to ads that dare to show a hanging tampon string. Just a few years ago, the social platform Facebook banned ads that depict realistic period blood. So, how is a modern menstruation brand supposed to advertise its products and educate consumers if it can’t break past social taboos and antiquated rules?
Well, we don’t have a perfect answer for you. But we do know that exposure, education, and acceptance can go a long way toward breaking social and cultural taboos of all kinds — those surrounding sexual wellness included. Let’s look at a few ways that sexual wellness brands can help change the status quo.
What Your Sexual Wellness Brand Can Do To Break Barriers
The sexual wellness industry’s best weapon against social and cultural taboos is accessible education and the willingness to engage in uncomfortable conversations. Nothing changes if people — and, in this case, brands — aren’t willing to go the extra mile and confront outdated taboos.
Many sexual wellness brands are at the forefront of breaking down such barriers — providing educational materials, financial support, and a place for everyone to belong. Remember, your brand can’t thrive in a market that heavily censors your ads or one where consumers have little to no knowledge about what it is you sell.
In order for sexual wellness brands to grow and expand in the coming years, they’ll need to work together — be it with other sexual wellness brands, relevant organizations, or even lawmakers — in order to achieve true, lasting change.
Changing the status quo isn’t easy, but as time goes on, people’s views evolve. According to our own research, Millennials* are by far the most knowledgeable and interested group when it comes to the sexual wellness industry — far exceeding their older counterparts.
This proves that, with time and effort, there’s likely a bright future for sexual wellness brands — but you can’t rely solely on changing values, you have to be proactive and work to create the best conditions for your brand to thrive.
Creating a successful, long-lasting sexual wellness brand isn’t for the faint of heart. This industry faces many challenges and will likely experience more growing pains over the next few years.
But for brands that are willing to put in the work — which means realizing the pivotal role they play in providing education, promoting inclusion, and breaking centuries-old taboos — then there’s a real chance they can find success.
And for companies that want to really understand their target audience — what they want, need, and desire, how they view your brand (and competitors), and what drives them to make purchases — we recommend trying out brand monitoring software. With access to accurate, reliable consumer insights, you can build a more data-driven brand strategy and make better marketing decisions.
Finally, if you want more exclusive insights into the sexual wellness industry in 2022, you can check out our Sexual Wellness Consumer Insights Report.
*In our research, Millennials refer to respondents aged 26-45.