Oakland, California (EastBayDaily) — Some say it with flowers. Others, with chocolates. And then there are those who prefer more stimulating tokens of their affection. So in the holiday vibe, this Valentine’s Day the brand naming specialists at Catchword decided to take a look at some of the sex toy stores around the country, and the way their brand names either create sparks—or leave you cold. “Adult toy store names need to walk a fine line,” observed Catchword partner Laurel Sutton. “Too vague, and you’ve no idea what they’re about. Too direct, and they’re likely to repel all but the die-hard enthusiast.”
Here are the ones that hit the spot—or killed the mood—for Catchword.
Coined What could be more natural than creating a whole new word to describe the mysteries of pleasure? TurnOn: Libida Nice twist on “libido” that deftly suggests a toy store geared to women, the main target for adult toys. The airy “a” also adds a touch of romance, while its semantic roots keep it grounded in the realm of desire. TurnOff: Sediva Whatever the intent, the name evokes “sedative”—probably not the best association for merchandise designed to get you up and running.
Upscale We’ve come a long way from the seedy porn stores of yore. TurnOn: Xandria An abstract name that does a pretty good job of suggesting an X-rated fantasyland (here the X at the beginning works well). TurnOff: Adult Toy Shoppe What’s next—Ye Old Adult Toy Shoppe? This attempt at class comes across as très cheesy.
Biblical You’d think with a Biblical name you might as well hang out a sign saying “You will not have fun here.” So the good executions came as something of a surprise. TurnOn: Adam and Eve Friendly, human, and the evocation of a garden of delights and naughty exploration between men and women is spot-on. (Adam Male is their gay spin-off store.) For the record, we also liked Forbidden Fruit (from Texas, of all places). TurnOff: My Beloved’s Garden Pretty stiff (and we don’t mean in a good way). Biblical tonality manages to squelch any suggestion of fun, in keeping with the store’s stated purpose of “Marital Aids to enhance your Christian Marriage, while keeping Christ at the center.”
Double Entendre Taking a phrase that’s already familiar and using it to carry some additional sexual freight can be a smart play. The gay store Tightass Toys, for example, speaks both to value and, um, usage. TurnOn: Good Vibrations Memorable, fun, and oh so West Coast. Besides cleverly telegraphing the vibrator message, the name suggests a friendly, sex-positive attitude. TurnOff: Burning Rubber For a store that sells paddles made from tire treads, this name is curiously descriptive. But the smell of burning rubber . . .
Good For You Ya gotta be careful here—if it sounds like it’s too good for you, it stops sounding like fun. TurnOn: Earth Erotics The alliteration gives this one a little lift, and the green angle is an interesting slant. (Although the juxtaposition of the image of dirt and one’s privates isn’t exactly ideal.) TurnOff: Healthy and Active It’s nice to be sex-positive and all, but could we have a little spice, please? This sounds about as exciting as an energy bar.
Conversational A name that sounds more like a snippet of conversation can go a long way towards humanizing a brand in this space—and helping it to stand out. TurnOn: Does Your Mother Know? This gay toy store name engages the consumer with a wink and forges a sense of shared understanding of the particular dilemmas of gay men. TurnOff: Too Timid For the truly timid, rather than seeming understanding, this name may come across as judgmental. Besides, why bring up fear when you’re trying to suggest pleasure?
Playful Humor’s always a good way to break taboos or defuse embarrassment. Take Freddy and Eddy: a name that instantly establishes a lighthearted personality for this gay toy store. TurnOn: Babeland (formerly Toys in Babeland) Clearly targeted to women, with appropriately racy overtones. And there’s something empowering in the way it lays claim to a term usually used by men to describe women. (Plus the play on “Babes in Toyland” is a hoot.) TurnOff: Supreme Research We’re guessing this was meant to be playful . . . but it comes off as deadly serious—and about as inviting as Science Lab 124.
Discreet For the squeamish who fear discovery, a name with no sexual connotations can work—but the store will need to work harder to get the word out about who they are. TurnOn: Myla The “my” conveys personalization, the tone says high end, and it sounds like the store could offer lingerie (which it does) or something similarly feminine and innocuous. TurnOff: Stockroom The naming equivalent of the plain brown wrapper. Only problem: unlike a brown wrapper, a brand name needs to communicate something!
The Place Whether it’s a website or your friendly local retailer, focusing on a sense of locale is one way to go. TurnOn: The Pleasure Chest Deft twist on “treasure chest” that brings a sense of discovery (and found treasure) to the whole shopping experience. TurnOff: Porn Palace We’re sorry: something about “porn” and “palace” don’t quite seem to match up. (Maybe because there are too many associations between porn and confined, poorly-lit spaces.)
S&M Spartacus, SeekingO, Fetish Falls, Happy Tails (for spanking gear): we don’t know why, but some of the most memorable toy store names were in the S&M category. Go figure. TurnOn: A Taste of Leather Hard to make S&M sound elegant, but this name manages to pull it off. TurnOff: Madam Giggles’ Whack Shack The “whack” is appropriate for a store that sells floggers, but does that really make you giggle?
Overall, says Laurel Sutton, “Names are getting more playful and inventive since internet shopping became the norm.” As for future trends: as the industry is commodified by the likes of Amazon and Drugstore.com, Laurel speculates (only half-jokingly) that toy stores might turn to designer names to differentiate. Lady Gaga vibrators, anyone?
As a naming consultancy with over a decade’s experience, Catchword knows a thing or two about how to create vibrant names that engage customers on the deepest level. For more information about Catchword, visit catchwordbranding.com, or contact Laurel Sutton, 510-628-0080 x105 / laurel(at)catchwordbranding(dot)com.