Forecasting Foreplay: How Trend Research Helped Us Create the World’s First Truly Adaptable Vibrator

Guest post by Seymour Powell. The past five years have heralded a seismic shift in society’s attitudes towards sex and vibrators.

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Jun 27 5 min read
Forecasting Foreplay: How Trend Research Helped Us Create the World’s First Truly Adaptable Vibrator

Guest post by Seymour Powell.

The past five years have heralded a seismic shift in society’s attitudes towards sex and vibrators. Issues as diverse as the fourth wave of feminism and the legalisation of same-sex marriage through to the proliferation of porn are all having long-term effects on the how, where, why, what and with who/s of sexual behaviour.

So when MysteryVibe approached us back in early 2015 to help them develop the world’s first truly adaptable vibrator, we agreed it would be vital to get up close and personal with the new sexual norms.

Safe search filters turned off, we began our research.

Telescopes to the Future

Forecasting Foreplay: How Trend Research Helped Us Create the World’s First Truly Adaptable Vibrator

Trends are a key influencer of our day-to- day work at Seymourpowell as we regularly help our clients determine ‘what’s next?’ for their businesses. By sharpening our focus on the horizon we are better able to glimpse a potential future and then craft product experiences that will resonate with the users of tomorrow.

Put more simply, by understanding new behaviours we can create an idea for something that people will love.

Forecasting is not an exact science, neither is it a wooly one. While there will always be unexpected events or scientific break throughs that no one could have predicted, there are ways to bring more clarity to the future. It’s a matter of using the right telescopes.

Working at both a cultural and individual level gives strong results. We validate our ideas with experts in the field we are excavating. We conduct in-depth interviews with progressive users who are living tomorrow’s lifestyles today and we explore data to uncover statistical signals that indicate change.

Forecasting is an ongoing activity. As a result the mind of a trend researcher is omnivorously curious; constantly monitoring the new and next across a multitude of categories and sectors to identify opportunities.

A Search History that Raised a Few Eyebrows

One of the first steps with our MysteryVibe project was to scope out what the right lines of enquiry would be.

Forecasting Foreplay: How Trend Research Helped Us Create the World’s First Truly Adaptable Vibrator

To bring a new perspective to the challenge we cast our net wide. We trawled political, economic, social and technological drivers along with a deep exploration of how shifts in sexual attitudes and behaviours were being manifested in sectors such as culture, media, the arts, fashion, beauty, and even packaging. A real boost to our research were the insights offered by the MysteryVibe team who have an expert understanding of their market and wealth of connections within the adult industry.

Balancing Contradictory Desires

As we uncovered information, we could begin to connect the dots between sectors and observe patterns emerging. These patterns were translated into our trend hypotheses, or dig sights, that we could then delve into.

Psychologists from Sigmund Freud to William Masters and Virginia Johnson have grappled with the complexities of human sexuality and it was exactly this multiplicity that made the research so challenging yet fascinating.

For example, we saw that the proliferation of hard-core porn has left people craving a more innocent expression of desire and sexual relationships, as reflected in the emergence of publications such as Jacques magazine and Hello Mr

Forecasting Foreplay: How Trend Research Helped Us Create the World’s First Truly Adaptable Vibrator

Yet, at the same time (and remember this was early 2015) we witnessed bondage hitting the mainstream as the notorious 50 Shades of Grey whipped up a storm on global cinema screens.

Casting a Cynical Eye

At Seymourpowell we like to apply what we call Hard-nosed Imagination to our work. This is a conscious balancing of the realities of business with the poetically creative. Within the context of trend research this approach ensures we don’t get swept up in the excitement of the new and next.

We apply a hard-nosed filter by stress testing our trends against their potential inhibitors, further still we cast a cynical eye on whether or not they will truly be embraced by our client’s target market.

Further still, we check that they have a good fit with the brand. For example, there has been a long wave trend towards burlesque glamour, however, as MysteryVibe is a contemporary luxury brand we sidelined this in favour of trends that felt more cutting edge and fresh.

Digital as a How, Not an It!

One of the elephants in the room with the creation of smart sex toys is a danger of over complication; the addition of tech for tech sake, which can be a turn off both figuratively and literally.

A recent study suggested that our growing social media fixation could be linked to lowering early morning sexual activity in younger generations.

People turn on their phones first thing, rather than their partners.

So a key question we had to keep asking ourselves throughout this project was how can we ensure the technology will enhance your thrill rather than kill it?

Forecasting Foreplay: How Trend Research Helped Us Create the World’s First Truly Adaptable Vibrator

Crafting Tangible Outcomes

It is critical that businesses do not blindly follow trends, but rather that they are aware of and responsive to them. Sometimes when everyone else in the market is zigging it’s a good idea to zag. For that reason our trend work doesn’t stop with identification.

The next step is implementation, where we explore how the trend might develop and how it should influence the innovation process.

 

For example, one of the first ways in which we applied our learnings from the MysteryVibe research was during the creation of Crescendo’s colour palette.

Insight around a growing desire for more ‘genderless’ fashion and beauty products inspired us to push beyond the adult industry norm of girly pink and lilac toys and explore more non-binary colours such as blues and aquas.

Forecasting Foreplay: How Trend Research Helped Us Create the World’s First Truly Adaptable Vibrator

Now that we’ve shared some of our process, we move on to revealing the trends we uncovered..

Questions we ask when conducting trends research:

  • Are you being omnivorously curious? Are you up to date with the new and next beyond your target sector?
  • Do you have regular conversations with progressive users? Are you aware of emergent behaviours?
  • What can the experts tell you?
  • Have you been hard-nosed enough? Do the statistics add up? How likely is it that your target market will adopt your identified trend? What factors could inhibit its growth?
  • Have you used your imagination? Are you shaping the future or following it? What is your new perspective?
  • Are you regularly testing your forecasting performance? How accurate are each of your predictions? Are you learning from your errors?

To find out more about Seymourpowell, visit their website.


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