One of the oldest and most recognizable brands in the intimacy world, the Kama Sutra Company, distinguished itself early on by choosing to make quality products that were more about romance than sex.
From elaborate packaging reminiscent of that found in high-end department stores, to delicate flavors, and PG-rated descriptions on how to use the product, Kama Sutra developed a line that was unique and designed to appeal to a wide spectrum of customers.
Originally based in a minuscule building in Hollywood, Calif., where the first product in the line, “The Original Oil of Love,” was produced, the Kama Sutra Company developed quickly, growing in size from its inception in 1969. Today, the line is comprised of more than 60 items, and the company has moved into much larger headquarters in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
“We’ve had a loyal following since we opened our doors,” said Joe Bolstad, owner and founder of Kama Sutra, which was inspired by the 4th-century Indian text on lovemaking, The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana. “Somehow our products seem to work for each new generation, and we get the same reaction today from 20-year-olds that we get from60-year-olds who have been using our products since they were in their 20s.”
In 2005, current Senior Vice President Beverly Pollington-Sirjani joined forces with the company to help with a new mission – taking a national power to international heights.
With her European roots, Pollington-Sirjani was convinced Europe would be a vast market for the brand.
British by birth, she came to the United States in 1996 as part of a small team recruited to launch a then unknown brand that has since become an industry leader in its own right – Red Bull Energy Drink.
“Nobody got the concept at first, she said. “Everybody shut the door in our faces. They compared us to Gatorade, saying that nobody would pay such a high price for a little can when they could get a huge bottle of the market leader for less. We tried to explain that we were building a new category, one that didn’t exist. Not a traditional isotonic energy drink, but a new way to stimulate body and mind. It was a hard thing to explain, but today the results speak for themselves. I see the same thing with Kama Sutra. I believe that this brand can bridge the gap between regular bath and body products and traditional adult products.
“Just like Red Bull, Kama Sutra is the original,” she continued. “And no matter how many imitators come into the market, customers will always appreciate the authentic brand. Consumers vote with their checkbooks. It’s the same with Kama Sutra – we’re proud to have been the original innovators and inspired others.”
Pollington-Sirjani jumped at the chance to help relaunch the Kama Sutra brand when she was asked to join the company.
“It’s so much fun to be involved during the growth phase of a company – it’s what I thrive on,” she said.
Along with a talented and experienced team, Pollington-Sirjani has been proud to watch the rebirth of the company.
“Joe [Bolstad] has such a great vision. He is involved in every aspect of the design concept, from picking out materials to seeking out custom containers and testing hundreds of formulas to get exactly the right combination. His attention to detail has been what makes the brand so special. When I came on board in 2005, one of the first things he discussed with me was revamping the line. Our team got together and marked off what was good and what needed improvement. Many of our sales people, (like Cheryl Flangel, U.S. director of distributor sales) wanted to make sure we incorporated feedback from customers and store owners alike.”
To do this, the company conducted a full performance review, and even sat outside some stores to watch shoppers’ habits.
“We realized we had been resting on our laurels a bit,” Flangel said. “It’s easy to become complacent when you’re leading the pack, but it’s also dangerous, because that’s when you can start to lose your edge.”
The following year, the team emerged with a new look that remained true to the company’s roots, but added freshness. It included adding four languages to the packaging and making the ingredient list fully EU compliant and ready for a big push into Europe. David Braff, vice president of international sales, was hired to oversee the international division.
The new look and compliant packaging soon paid dividends on the home front as well.
“We saw results almost immediately,” Pollington-Sirjani said. “We experienced a 25 percent increase in business; not bad for a 40-year-old company.”
With increased European and U.S. distribution, and global expansion planned by 2011, Kama Sutra is already sold in more than 50 countries.
And while many companies have come on hard times and the recession has hit many companies’ advertising budgets, the people at Kama Sutra realize the value of maintaining a high profile. With an extensive background in advertising, Bolstad is a believer in promotion.
“Many people introduce a product line, but don’t back it up with any kind of advertising,” he said. “We realize having the product available is only half the battle; the other half is bringing in the customers to buy it.”
To that end, the company engages a full-time public relations agency. Celebrities, sports stars, and musicians are all regularly photographed with the products, and many stop by the company in person to pick up their favorite items.
Recently a leading honeymoon poll named “a Kama Sutra kit” as one of the top “must have” items for couples to take away.
“Kama Sutra is a staple. It’s a brand asked for by name, much like Kleenex and BandAid are,” Pollington-Sirjani said. “It’s one of the few intimacy brands that is acceptable anywhere. Our customers give our items as gifts to everyone from best friends to grandmothers. Our aim is to continue serving our long-time fans and introducing ourselves to those younger customers who may not have tried us yet.”
The timeless appeal of the brand seems to be one of the main reasons most adult stores and erotic boutiques set aside a dedicated space for Kama Sutra’s distinctive line. “We have an independent study showing that customers do ask for our products by name,” Bolstad said. “It’s amazing to see increasing sales in a 40-year-old brand in this economy. That confirms that Kama Sutra really is a heavyweight in the industry.”
For more information, visit KamaSutra.com.