Artisans d’amour - creative marketing consultancy for more than a sensual erotic shop
It is definitely the female gaze that captures more and more the trends and attention. It started last year with the Wonder Woman movie that made headlines for taking $103.1 million in its debut weekend in the United States alone. It was pioneering not only for being the first Marvel superhero film to feature a female protagonist, but also because its director, Patty Jenkins, is one of only three women to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million.
Not only the film, media and photography were subject to feminist movements. In the previous year trends report, J.Walter Thompson spoke about “vagina-nomics”, a trend made visible because female genitalia was finally taking center stage as part of the ongoing untabooing of womanhood. The Lady Garden campaign starring Cara Delevigne aimed to increase awareness of gynecological cancers and Topshop was there to support the cause with its Lady Garden collection.
It felt somehow natural to let the empowerment movement go further to exploring women’s sexual fulfillment and celebration of all aspects of their bodies.
During one of my trips to San Francisco, I accidentally bumped into one interesting concept store. Good Vibrations is a sex-positive San Fracisco-based corporation selling sex toys and other erotic products. It was the first sex-positive and women-friendly store in the United States, founded in 1977 by sex therapist and educator Joani Blank.
Two years later, I was invited to a blogging conference in Timisoara, Romania. This is where I met Estela Velazco, the owner of Artisans d’amour, a place that reminded me of Good Vibrations from San Francisco. Estela is Peruvian, she has been living in Timisoara for a decade and she is an international sales specialist in the medical field with 17 years of experience in developing global distributor networks, sales processes and operations.
After I delivered my presentation as a creative marketing consultant, she joined me for a talk. She shared her baby project - the erotic shop and the online version - as well as her willingness to grow her business. She has always been passionate about luxury lingerie - Atelier Bordelle, Chantal Thomass or Fleur of England. Starting from her passion she discovered some interesting boutiques in UK that were selling fine lingerie together with erotic accesories. This is how she got inspired and started her own business dedicated to the health and wellbeing of women.
One second after you whipe out your knowing smile, let me tell you my side of the story. I took Estela’s advice and visited her shop. I did not do it on my own, but took some of the conference and afterwards workshop participants to have a girls experience.
1. The shop assistant was the first good impression. In her mid 40’s or maybe 50’s (she looked so well that you could not guess), a very decent and natural lady invited us to the first room of the shop. This is dedicated to lingerie exclusively and the brands sold here are unique: the british Bluebella and Playful Promises and the brazilian Seducao Lingerie that is used by all stars from the REDE GLOBO telenovelas. The idea of a first room is to avoid all curious, but still underaged teenagers to cross the line between what they should buy and what they should not. In this first room everybody is welcomed, but not every Alice gets to the Wonderland of the second or the third room. The shop-assistant said it very clear: I do not want my 15 year old daughter to have easy access to the sex toys, she has the whole time in the world!
2. The shop concept was the second appeal. The three room shop, organized like a labyrinth takes you from the first room dedicated to lingerie to the second one focused on special love-cosmetics and sophisticated erotic accesories and finally to the third one which is exclusively for LELO adult sex toys.
3. The products quality and care - designed by women for women. To be clear, this is not a sex shop. There is no similar place in Romania that would so finely mix erotism, sensuality and fashion. It is a place for premium quality. It is about sensuality, not sexuality. Product selection is very rigourous based on quality, international certification and reputation. Products are designed by women for women. That doesn’t mean that men are not welcomed. On the contrary:) Private shopping sessions and special events are dedicated for men so they could pick the best gifts for women.
It was definitely a go-go situation. I fell in love with Estela, her shop and her shop assistant - you have to meet her and listen to her product recommendations that are clear and fun in the same time. How many women from this part of the world are so easy with a conversation on sex related products? Just think of your mother for a bit.
If I assume the role of a creative marketing strategist, I should be able to deliver it regardless of industry as long as my values meet the customer’s values. We run figures, but we should first run principles. And I ticked this pre-qualifier condition with Estela and Artisans d’amour.
So we started the work. This is what I did for the business to grow - particularly the online shop which was the focus for this year.
1. A brand evaluation - including the classical SWOT, a customers quiz, a social media inspection and competitors overwiew (as a great reference, check the Xmas campaigns from Coco de Mers or Good Vibrations)
2. A brand strategy - positioning, communication, content calendar, tools for Facebook & Instagrams, merchandising, partnerships
3. An Xmas activation
4. and of course, an Implementation plan
What I discovered while working on this consultancy project is that I got a lot of sex-related targeted posts from Google:)
More surprinsingly, I spotted the shyness that Estela keept talking about when it came to customers limitations for her business. I organized a Facebook girls group to ask for feedback related to Artisans d’amour site and products and I got no more than 10% response rate, even if it was a closed and relatively close friends group.
“Why did you put me on that list together with some of my subordinates, are you crazy to expect feedback on such a topic?”
“Why do you think I have any idea about that, I am just a regular, normal woman?”
These were some of the remarks. In the same time I am thankful to those who were intrigued by the topic and really helped with their feedback which was part of my marketing evaluation.
Is Artisans d’amour still a taboo? Maybe yes. But they are aiming high to transform themselves into an informative platform, not just a selling one. They have plans to organize workshops for women together with gynecologists and psychologists, as well as pop-up stores across the country. This is more like a movement, not just a concept store. I am happy I was a part of it.
My personal lesson on this marketing consultancy project (to avoid any potential confusion with the wording consultancy) was that I could indirectly contribute to happier sex lives for more couples. It was not just about helping to grow a small business, but helping an empowering women movement.
Credit photo: Anca Dumitrache