Soft, crescent-shaped and Barney-purple, the We-Vibe could pass for an air freshener in its unremarkable plastic package. It’s not what most people imagine when they think of a sex toy. Launched four years ago by an Ottawa husband-and-wife team, it’s a vibrator for couples that stimulates both partners at once—and outsells its competitors by three to one.
Now in its third generation, the We-Vibe has become the most successful branded sex toy since the Rotating Rabbit gained fame on Sex and the City . Ex–Nortel Networks engineer Bruce Murison came up with the idea for the device after being laid off in 2003. His wife, Melody, was the one with the marketing brainwave. Then a stay-at-home mom, she wanted people like her to feel comfortable buying and using the invention. The Murison’s company, Standard Innovation, set out to become a cornerstone of the domesticated, wellness-oriented side of the sex industry.
Since its 2008 debut, the toy’s innocuous curve has graced sponsorship banners for an annual sexuality conference at the University of Guelph and the feminist led Momentum gathering in Washington, D.C. There, couples in search of a bedroom rejuvenator learn that open sexual communication—aided by the We-Vibe, of course—leads to stronger marriages and better dispositions. Targeting academics and doctors has paid off. In 2010, Dr. Laura Berman extolled the vibe’s love-making virtues on Oprah spinoff The Dr. Oz Show. Sales exploded, and the toy won a spot in celebrity swag bags at both the Oscars and the Super Bowl. More than 1.5 million We-Vibes have been sold in 50 countries, and it’s been named a national best-seller in the U.S., Australia, England and Germany.
The We-Vibe has always been made from medical-grade silicone, challenging the idea that sex toys are by definition cheap, plastic and sold in stores with neon signs and nylon bunny costumes in the window. “The We-Vibe was at the forefront of a shift in the industry in terms of manufacturing and development,” says Charlie Glickman, education program manager for pioneering San Francisco sex shop Good Vibrations. “It’s rechargeable and made of bodysafe materials and has a powerful motor. And it came out when people wanted sex-toy technology to catch up.” The C-shaped buzzer’s motor and casing are patented in Canada and the U.S., and patents are pending in Europe as well. Standard Innovation, which now has 25 full-time employees, has also responded to customer feedback, says Glickman, incorporating user requests like waterproofing and a remote control into the latest version.
At $150, the We-Vibe is an affordable luxury for middleclass couples often intimidated by sex shops. “Traditional adult novelty stores tell us that people come in, ask for the product by name, buy it, and walk out,” says Standard marketing manager Sarah Bobas. Now they don’t even have to suffer that indignity, since mass marketers including London Drugs, Rexall and Walgreens agreed to stock it. Quality, discretion, and monogamy-based sexual enhancement—these three qualities keep the We-Vibe a hot seller. “It helps that it doesn’t look like a penis, too,” says Glickman. “It looks like a Bluetooth earpiece.”