A Few Proven But Simple Marketing Tips for Not-Safe-for-Dinner-Table Brands Who Need Help Creating Exposure


Frances Tang, CEO of Awkward Essentials

Marketing a brand that’s “not safe for work” can be a little tricky. When you have to be mindful of the audiences your products are exposed to, you may not get the attention or respect that other brands command. 

Fortunately, you can market your products effectively if you get a little creative. 

Get an In-Depth Understanding of Your Target Audience

The first step of marketing is knowing who you’re marketing to – no matter what your product is. Customer personas are an important part of this and offer a profile of the people that define the segments within your target audience. 

Think of customer personas as semi-fictional archetypes that represent the key components of a big segment of your audience, based on the data you’ve collected from research and analytics. Once you know who you’re talking to, you can create content that resonates with them.

Create a BIG Personality – and Stick with It

Every brand has a unique personality – just like people – that offers something for customers to relate to. Think of these traits as adjectives like innovative, family-oriented, edgy, humorous, or controversial. 

When you have a firm handle on your brand personality, you can make sure your messaging is tailored to that personality and reflects your brand accurately. 

Here are some pointers to creating a brand personality:

  • Know your brand, inside and out. Create a clear set of brand traits and values. 
  • Determine what you want your target audience to feel when they learn about your company and use your messaging to engage those emotions.
  • Think big and bold. Your brand is controversial, so you have an opportunity to use some boldness, playfulness, humor, and edge to get the point across.

Consumers also appreciate openness and authenticity, which comes naturally to NSFW brands. If audience is looking for wit and sass, let it shine.

Embrace Humor

Humor is a great way to break the ice and release the tension with awkward topics. It also makes a brand more relatable, especially if your brand or products are related to topics that most people are uncomfortable talking about.

You’ve already seen this in action with commercials for adult toys or hemorrhoid creams. Most likely, those brands did something to make you laugh and relax a bit.

Humor matters, but here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Comedy is suggestive. What’s hilarious to some can be offensive or hurtful to someone else. This is why it’s vital to understand your target audience. 
  • If you have a brick-and-mortar location, you can use humor to make customer visits more fun. Humor can break down awkward barriers and bring people into your store, even if they find it embarrassing. For example, someone may visit the adult bookstore as a “joke,” but if they feel comfortable, they’ll stick around and maybe make return visits.

Get creative with humor in your marketing. Here’s some inspiration:

  • Use self-deprecating humor about yourself or your brand
  • Create shareable content, like memes or infographics, that have humorous content. People like to share funny things, so you’ll get plenty of exposure for your brand. 
  • Create a marketing video that showcases your brand’s comedy.
  • Surprise your customers with unexpected products, like small branded items, when they subscribe or attend events.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ruffle Feathers (You Will!)

NSFW brands are controversial because they don’t, and can’t, appeal to everyone. If you attempt to please everyone, you’re bound to fail. It’s inevitable that you’ll have to embrace the lovers and the haters. This is true of every brand, but controversial brands are more likely to encounter some friction.

With the right marketing, you can attract your ideal customers, even if you make everyone else mad. But no matter what, remember that you can’t make everyone happy and plan for criticism. 

Keep these points in mind:

  • Show sensitivity to the feelings of others, but don’t be a doormat.
  • Use discretion when deciding what content is good for your brand.
  • Include a warning before showing content that may be offensive to some, such as “Parental Advisory” or “NSFW.” Even someone who loves your brand in private may not want it on blast while they’re at work.

You can gauge your audience’s reaction by testing out different content and messaging. 

Test Everything, Again and Again

With any brand, it’s vital to test marketing efforts and use data to refine messaging. Traditional marketing channels may not work for NSFW brands, but you may find plenty of new channels with an audience. For example, OnlyFans is a great place for a controversial brand, but Facebook and Twitter can be restrictive with content.

When testing, think about:

  • How are customers reacting to content? Focus on the successes instead of the failures.
  • How are your competitors reacting? Have they changed their messaging?
  • Are you gaining new customers? Losing customers?
  • Does the marketing cover each stage of the buyer’s journey, from early awareness to customers ready to make a decision?

Testing is a lot of work, but it pays off with your marketing efforts.

Market Your NSFW Brand

Marketing a controversial brand can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. You just have to be a little more creative than the average brand and find new and innovative ways to promote your products. Show your bold, daring, and humorous brand personality and you’re sure to increase your exposure.

About the Author: Frances Tang is the founder/Captain Awkward/CEO of Awkward Essentials, a company that makes products that address the unspoken parts of hygiene. She is also the inventor of the dripstick — an after sex cleanup sponge. Frances Tang never intended to build a company around a post-sex cleanup tool, but the Awkward Essentials founder saw a need — and an opportunity — for an entrepreneur willing to go there. Now, Frances is leading a revolution for female founders, showing that fearlessness is a founder’s most important value.