Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Messaging Is Actually More Difficult Than Designing The Product

Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.Image via Wikipedia

While most non-Asian consumer electronics companies are either dead or a shell of their former selves after being unable to cope with razor-thin margins, at least one has tried to innovate itself out of the hole by leaving traditional kitchen machinery and living room HiFi behind. Philips, the originally Dutch consumer electronics giant that twenty years ago ruled by introducing the CD player and really only survived the 90s because of its lighting products portfolio, has been trying to stay relevant by stepping out of the race of me-too products they could not make a profit on anyway, and instead go for consumer electronics nobody else made.

Sure, they still make flat-panel TVs, but their TVs have a feature, or gimmick if you will, that they emit light to the sides that is the same color as the predominant color on the screen. They tried to turn color LEDs into a consumer product by releasing a flood light whose color could be changed by remote control. They create mobile phones with almost no features but batteries that last forever.

Their latest foray is trying to pull electronic sex toys out of the niche of candy-pink plastic ickyness of ugly cords and shapes that are either too crude for words (how many guys really want to see their partner play with an exaggerated enlarged cast model of some other guy's dick he can never match? Well I can kind of guess, but it still seems a small niche for a manufacturer) or a little too much on the humorous side (Yay dolphins. Bunnies. Or most often something that is best described as Shape by H. R. Geiger, Colors by Sanrio).

I think Philips is basically trying to put the 'adult' in 'adult toys'. Does the Audi-driving iPod generation really not deserve something that makes them feel sophisticated in the bedroom? Well, they are trying.

Philips' new range of 'Sensual Stimulators'. From left to right: the Warm Stimulator,
and the dual Sensual Stimulator set displayed inside and outside the case.

I couldn't find the press release in English, only in Dutch, and I will just discuss the highlights here.

They are introducing them under the product category of 'Relationship Care', and the Dutch prose for the press release tries very hard to take on an adult design-oriented tone about touchability, stimulation, design, and features like that the first one can be set to heat itself in the charging dock before use, the other two are made for Him and Her, they are all waterproof for use in showers and baths, and "made to get in the mood for more intimacy". Some copy-editors must have stayed up nights just to get this right. Interestingly enough from the gender-equality P.O.V, the clitoris is mentioned, but for men they only get as explicit as "his intimate contours". I can't help but wonder what the meeting was like in which this difference of approach to anatomy was settled on.

Anyway, more power to them. Philips wants to try to get sell these products through channels that are not traditionally associated with sex toys (like what, general product mail-order catalogs like Neckermann and Sears?) but has not disclosed price nor availability. Oddly enough, while the Dutch press release mentions a product website, at this time it is not live.