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July 15, 2016

Doc Johnson at 40: A Family Portrait

This article originally ran in the July 2016 issue of Intimate magazine. Click here for a link to the digital edition. Click here for a chronological photo gallery. The Doc Johnson team will be attending the ANME Founders Show, taking place July 17-19 in Burbank, Calif. In 1976, when Ron Braverman bought a small adult novelty company in North Hollywood, California, he had a vision. He knew what he wanted to create and what he wanted to do with the company and its products. But no one, probably not even Braverman himself, could have imagined the powerhouse Doc Johnson would become four decades later. Braverman, founder and CEO of Doc Johnson, was in adult before he entered the world of adult novelties and pleasure products. “Early in my career, I got into the adult bookstore business,” Braverman told AVN. “I was based in Europe at that time, and a few years after that, I decided to move back to the United States to start an adult toy business there. The idea to found a sex toy company was largely based on my time in Europe. It seemed that Europeans had a different attitude toward the profit potential of the pleasure product industry, whereas American buyers were still more skeptical. Today, Americans have largely accepted the pleasure product industry as a legitimate business, and our success continues to grow both internationally and domestically.” The small company Braverman eventually purchased originally sold some adult toys, as well as gag novelties and rubber fishing items. “My plan from the beginning was to focus exclusively on creating a top-quality pleasure products company, with all manufacturing to be kept in America,” he said. “So, while we had a few novelty items early on, gag gifts were quickly phased out of the equation. Since day one, we have always truly been an American pleasure products manufacturer.” The company’s growth was exponential, and Doc Johnson quickly came to be known as one of the Founders—five of the largest American sex toy manufacturers in the early years of the industry; CalExotics, Pipedream Products, Nasstoys of New York and Topco Sales rounded out the group. For many years, it wasn’t unusual for stores that sold sex toys to only stock items from those five companies. Yet—as they do—times changed. More and more pleasure product manufacturers began entering the industry. Materials used to create the items changed through the years. And consumers became better educated and much more savvy about the products they used. To stay at the top of the heap, Doc Johnson not only kept up with the changes, but took more than a few risks to be an innovator in the industry. The company was among the first to carry more unisex items that could be packaged to appeal to the straight and gay markets, as well as among the first to create niche products and lines. The company was among the first to offer toys molded from popular adult performers; and it was the first to offer a line of products molded from a TS performer (Wendy Williams). “Staying ahead of market trends has always been a priority at Doc Johnson, but it’s much more important for us to follow our own instincts rather than try to blindly cater to all the latest trends,” said Chad Braverman, Ron’s son and the chief operating officer/chief creative officer for Doc Johnson. “Integrity is everything. The success we’ve achieved in working with new product concepts largely comes down to our deep-rooted understanding of the industry: its past and its present, while keeping a strong pulse on the future. “Sometimes it is a challenge to work with concepts that don’t necessarily come pre-approved with an established track record for success, but our efforts have certainly paid off,” he said. Though the years, through the ups and downs, though the changes in the industry, one thing remained almost constant at Doc Johnson: it was a family business, in more ways than one. While even the best mainstream companies these days might struggle to retain employees, Doc Johnson has kept many on for years—of roughly 500 workers today, the number of those who have been with Doc for the past 20, 30 and even 40 years reaches into the double digits. “Nurturing employee relationships has been a constant during the company’s history, and that remains true to this day,” Ron said. “Personally, it makes me proud to have a family of people that I look forward to working with every day. All of us at Doc Johnson take enormous pride in our legacy and ensuring its future success.” And Ron, who still will visit the manufacturing floor and chip in when needed, brought his children into the fold in more recent years. In addition to Chad, who has risen through the ranks at the company, daughter Erica is Doc Johnson’s marketing coordinator. Spanning generations and representing the past, present and future of the company—as well as a segment of the pleasure product industry—each of the Bravermans brings a different perspective on where the industry, and Doc Johnson specifically, has been and where it’s headed. “There really wasn’t an erotic market in 1976, in the traditional sense,” Ron said. “Sex toys were being lumped in with other types of novelty products. The market was prime for a business that was devoted solely toward sensual needs. Doc Johnson was the natural response to that demand. “In 1976, the Doc Johnson factory in North Hollywood was just 1,500 square feet and had nine employees. Now, 40 years later, Doc Johnson is the largest pleasure products manufacturer in America, with a family of more than 500 team members, multiple buildings on a campus of more than 250,000 square feet, and a catalogue of more than 2,000 products,” he continued. “We’re especially proud of the extraordinary results we have achieved while keeping the great majority of our products manufactured in the United States. Today, not only do we make over 75 percent of our products in America, but we also strive to create the most innovative and highest quality, body safe products on the market.” For Chad, as the pleasure product industry continues to make waves and progress in mainstream, Doc Johnson can easily to continue to be an innovator and major player in the game. “Society is becoming more and more open-minded and liberal when it comes to sexual health and wellness. I imagine that sex toys will become increasingly accessible to the mainstream, as far as social norms go. Packaging and design will also move towards the mainstream, with industry growth facilitating greater diversity and room to target more specialized demographics,” he told AVN. “Though the pleasure products industry has grown and evolved, originality and innovation have always been at the core of Doc Johnson’s business model—and that’s where we will continue to focus our energy in the future. “We’ve produced some of the most groundbreaking products on the market since our early beginnings (our Original Pocket Rocket and iVibe Rabbit vibrators have both become household names), and we continue to raise the bar with developments like 2015’s TruSkyn, a pure health grade silicone that emulates the feel of real skin,” Chad continued. “Going forward, the public can expect more of what they love about Doc Johnson—exciting upcoming collections, new partnerships with top stars, and original creative marketing campaigns—as well as an overall betterment of our processes in all facets.” Erica noted Doc Johnson—which has long been known in mainstream—will continue that relationship with fans and customers, utilizing every avenue available. “There have been huge developments in both technology and societal perspectives since the 1970s. Not only are there more material options than ever, there have also been far-reaching changes in marketing and design preferences, as well as attitudes towards sex and sexuality,” she said. “One of our roles in the marketing department is to determine what drives our consumers, and how to make Doc Johnson’s products more accessible to the public. In recent years, we have increased our focus on outreach and branding. The marketing team spends a considerable amount of time interacting directly with customers through channels like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Another top priority for us has been nurturing and strengthening relationships with journalists, bloggers, and other major influencers in both B2B and B2C sectors. We’ve secured high-level mainstream media placement on a number of top-tier platforms in 2016, and that will be a continuing theme for Doc Johnson going forward.” Ten Turning Points at Doc Johson 1976—Doc Johnson opens its doors1980—The company lays claim to creating the world’s first product to capitalize on a porn star’s fame. The John Holmes Personal Enlarger penis pump may no longer be on Doc Johnson’s website, but there are two replicas available of the big man’s biggest asset.1989—The Vac-U-Lock patented harness system debuts, and to this day the company continues to add new models and features.1991—The Realistic Cock is first released—another line that has grown along with Doc Johnson.1993—The Pocket Rocket blasts off. And to date it still rides high in sales. 1998—Doc Johnson racks up more than 2,000 products in its inventory.2002—Jenna Jameson turns to Doc Johnson for the creation of Jenna’s Vibrating Vagina and Ass. “The Most Famous Pussy in Adult” is the tagline on the box, and the stroker is made of UR3.2007—The Lucid Dream collection arrives, and receives mainstream love—including an award from Women’s Health magazine.2010—Doc Johnson expands into silicone production at its North Hollywood campus.2012—The Doc Johnson workforce hits the 500 mark. Doc Johnson All-Stars: Ten All-Time Top Sellers The biggest sellers at Doc Johnson run across the pleasure product spectrum: three strokers modeled on adult stars, three items from popular Doc collections, and four classics. For more about these items, visit DocJohnson.com. Back to Basics Around since 1989 and 1993 respectively, the original Pocket Rocket and items from the Vac-U-Lock system are still in the list of top sellers, along with such basics as the Pussy Pump and the Classic Butt Plug. • Pocket Rocket—The Original (Ivory) • Classic Butt Plug (Smooth Medium Black) • Vac-U-Lock Ultra Harness With Plug (Black) • Pussy Pump - Pink Porn Star PrivatesMade from Doc’s UltraSkyn, a lifelike material that is phthalate free and produced in the U.S., three strokers molded from two porn stars who no longer shoot in the business are all still top sellers.• Sasha Grey UltraSkyn Cream Pie Pocket Pussy • Sasha Grey UltraSkyn Deep Throat Pocket Pal • Jessie Andrews UltraSkyn The All American Girl Masturbator Winning Lines Doc’s GoodHead line of products to enhance oral sex contributes one of the top sellers, as do the Crystal Jellies and Lucid Dream lines. • GoodHead™ Deep Throat Spray (Sweet Strawberry) • Crystal Jellies® Anal Starter (Purple) • Lucid Dream 14 (Purple)

 
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