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October 03, 2016

Engineering Pleasure: Fun Factory Marks 20th Anniversary

This article originally ran in the October 2016 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the digital edition. Take a quick peek into almost any adult boutique in the country and you’re sure to find vibrators and dildos in bright, vibrant colors and unique shapes. Shelves and displays feature pleasure products made from body-safe materials and quality motors. Pleasure products are designed with the user in mind, and boast features and details that make them well worth the investment of someone’s hard-earned dollars. But that wasn’t always the case. In the early days of the pleasure product industry—and, truthfully, up until the past few years—quality products that weren’t realistically shaped were hard to come by. It took the dedication of a few visionary manufacturers to change the industry, decidedly for the better. Among those pioneers is Fun Factory, a German company marking its 20th anniversary this month. Years before Fun Factory became a presence in the U.S. market, it began operating in 1996 from a garage in Bremen, Germany. The brainchild of two recent college graduates who wanted to help the customers of the adult store where they worked, Fun Factory started out as a passion project—and the first prototypes were created out of Play-Doh. Responding to the lack of body-safe, woman-friendly, non-anatomical toys on the market, founders Dirk Bauer and Michael Pahl offered up the Paddy Penguin dildo, a friendly silicone toy. “They didn’t expect Fun Factory to be more than a side job, but the response to the unique toys they created was so overwhelming that the company went from a tiny business run out of a garage to one of the largest sex toy manufacturers in Europe,” said Kristen Tribby, director of marketing and education for Fun Factory USA. The company distinguished itself by combining German engineering with a sense of playfulness, all while employing eco-friendly methods and fair labor practices. “Fun Factory is dedicated to operating in as eco-friendly and ethical a way as possible, and our manufacturing practices reflect that,” Tribby explained. “Everything is designed, manufactured, and packaged in our factory in Bremen, so Fun Factory toys are made sweatshop-free. Our factory employees receive fair wages and benefits. “In addition, the on-site production and packaging gives us one of the smallest carbon footprints in manufacturing, and our comprehensive recycling practices save about 40 tons of resources a year,” she added. After years of steady and sustained growth, the company looked to make the move into the U.S. At the time—in 2003—American adult retailers and manufacturers alike were starting to come around to the idea of selling higher-quality products. “At the time, we had already introduced real innovation into the European market, so we knew we were bringing something different to the table,” Tribby told AVN. “We were the first company to use body-friendly silicone and offer ergonomic shapes in bright, friendly colors. As the first high-end brand in the toy market, we hoped that our body-safe products, welcoming branding, and attractive packaging would give our B2B clients the chance to reach out to new customers and new target groups.” In addition to bringing a new look to the world of pleasure products, the company also brought a new sales strategy: Fun Factory USA sold directly to retailers, which gave the manufacturer a chance to successfully sell the products to customers. The idea helped Fun Factory develop lasting relationships with retailers, who in turn were able to grow their business with the unique product lineup. Fun Factory also benefited from the relationship by learning to adapt product development and marketing to the specific needs of the U.S. market, Tribby said. “The U.S. market is the biggest market in the world, so we were highly incentivized to succeed,” he said. “To minimize the risk, we started small, with very low costs. We grew the business organically, not by investing tons of money in it up front.” The approach paid off, in more ways than one. In addition to steadily growing a devoted retailer and customer base, the company also used feedback from its relationships to improve shapes, functions and features. Colors and shapes have been redefined throughout the years, and innovation has been a major part of Fun Factory’s identity in the past decade. In 2012, for example, the company started using advanced QR technology for point-of-sale materials. The Fun Factory instructional cards contained QR bar codes so customers could access product videos directly from their smartphones while doing their shopping. The following year, Fun Factory debuted the first of its pulsator Stronic vibrators, which featured a new type of motor—Driver Technology—that creates a powerful back-and-forth thrust as opposed to a buzz. And in 2014, the company announced the Amorino mini vibe, the first pleasure product to use a silicone band to conduct vibrations. “The market continues to evolve, and Fun Factory is committed to offering a variety of products for all consumers,” Tribby said. “When we started out, the consumer responded to character-style products, and in many of our markets they still want that style of toy. Additionally, entry-level consumers are often drawn to cutesy shapes, since a product like that can be an easy first step for a beginner. Now, we offer shapes and solutions for everybody.” To continue the momentum, she added, the manufacturer will unveil new products and innovations as early as 2017. “One thing that many people may not know is that all Fun Factory toys are created by engineers, and that they’re much more technologically advanced than most toys on the market,” she said. “It’s not just about finding a motor that works and putting some silicone around it. Fun Factory’s designers are constantly finding new ways to create stronger, deeper vibration, a motor that holds charge better, a more eco-friendly design, etc.” Tribby also said Fun Factory will focus on marketing and sales strategies and offer even more cooperation with customers with creative point-of-sale solutions and compelling gifts with purchase. In fact, one of the ways the company is celebrating its 20th anniversary with customers is to offer a gift with purchase. “Fun Factory collaborated with award-winning designer Karim Rashid to create a limited-edition toy bag,” Tribby noted. “Offering this unique accessory as a GWP has allowed retailers everywhere to take part in the 20th anniversary celebration.” Other plans to mark the special occasion include a celebration October 4 in Bremen with retail partners and staff. The fête will feature a full day of presentations from experts, starting with a keynote from Dirk Bauer, and including a factory tour, dinner, a show and a party. “Our retail partners who will be in Germany for the upcoming trade shows should contact their sales reps if they’re interested in attending,” Tribby said. In the U.S., Fun Factory USA is collaborating with retailers on pop-up shops and special events, such as a party at Babeland where customers created their own signature scents; an event at the Pleasure Chest highlighted by a wine and gourmet snack tasting and toy pairing; and a release party for the Moody vibrator at Good Vibrations. As for the future, Tribby said, Fun Factory will continue its dedication to creating innovative new products in all categories of sexuality. “Our principles—Passion, Performance, Innovation and FUN—will continue to be at the core of what we do and what we develop,” Tribby said. “Additionally, we’ll be finding new ways to use our marketing efforts to help support our retail partners. “We remain committed to supporting our retailers by maintaining our MAP pricing. Our retail partnerships have been a core part of our business, and we’re dedicated to structuring our business in ways that keep them strong,” she continued. “Above all, Fun Factory started out as two friends brainstorming ideas around a kitchen table. Our entire team still operates with that spirit—very approachable, friendly, and of course fun.” Above, the Fun Factory USA team at the July ANME Founders Show. Photo by Chris King/ReelSeduction.com

 
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