TENGA Inventor Interview vol.04The Successful Launch
Tell us about how your products grew from there.
KM: The TENGA Standard RED CUP Series were the first series of products that launched the TENGA brand. Right after these we made the Soft WHITE and Hard BLACK series. The WHITE Series is made of soft materials, and the BLACK Series is firmer, for a stronger stimulation. I got this idea from toothbrushes, actually – they are available with “Hard”, “Medium” and “Soft” bristles. Beer also, has many different varieties such as “Bitter”, “Light”… We gradually increased the product line this way to offer a variety of sensations to suit various tastes, as a brand we believe we should cater to everyone. Eventually the CUP Series has now grown into not only the Standard, Soft and Hard, but the UltraSize and SD, as well as various functions of the flagship Original Vacuum CUP including brand collaborations, a cooling lubricant type and even a reusable series in the AIR-TECH!
Talking of catering to various people, how did you enter the global market?
KM: Right after the Standard RED CUPs became a hit on the Japanese market, we received e-mails from 26 countries asking to distribute the brand in their markets. At that time we were paying off our investment funds and didn’t have much in terms of capital, but before launching into foreign markets I wanted to make sure our concept was properly conveyed to the national audience in Japan. Without focusing on simply numbers, I wanted to ensure the branding was there. The professional photoshoots would go online and spread across the globe, with even more interest from global distributors and even an interview for “Forbes” and other famous international publications. Even with the demand from the global community we were far from stable in the Japanese market in terms of production capacity and needed to settle fears for size problems with the UltraSize CUP Series, but importantly we wanted there to be a significant meaning to our first global export; eventually we began selling in Thailand, with a secondary objective of curbing their increasing AIDS infection rates.
TENGA is expanding all over the world. What does TENGA exactly mean?
KM: Everyone in this world regardless of backgrounds should be able to enjoy this product. We wanted to eradicate the image of taboo from sex toys to turn them into a lifestyle item to deal with human needs. So the whole concept of what an adult-oriented product used to be, had to be corrected. These are the thoughts and ideals behind the name “TENGA” – a Japanese word that means “Correct and Elegant.”
I see you are entering mainstream markets as well?
KM: Going mainstream is one of our big goals, and TENGA is the only brand we can see this happening. The design isn’t vulgar or obscene and that’s important, but we’ve always tried to fuse form and function. TENGA products do look great, but they also feel great, are ergonomically designed and have a variety of functions. We also work in our marketing to create awareness to normalize sexuality and masturbation, as well as provide clues to how we can help in areas we never originally thought of like aiding sexual rehabilitation or those with physical disabilities. A competitor could copy our shape or function, but without these ideologies and the core values, there is no heart to the product and consumers will see right through it. This all-round branding is what sets TENGA apart, and big stores are open to seeing where TENGA can take them.
A lot of your ideas remind me of old-school inventors – like an engineer from the 70’s talking about the “Walkman” – is this how you see yourself?
KM: I don’t know about that, but what is important to me in a product is “Innovate,” “Solve Problems” “Have no Boundaries.” Manufacturers have great responsibility to see their product through and create the best possible product from their original idea, that solves people’s problems and is accessible to all. The thought for the consumer is what makes great products great – think about unboxing an iPhone; it’s such a pleasure to do that it has created a whole genre of multi-million hit videos on YouTube, but this is because of the thought that goes into the package for the consumer. How it feels to open the box, how the earphones, the cables, manual and device itself are placed. That’s what I call a “Product” – the whole experience.