I’ve noticed a definite polarising of industry opinion regarding Fifty Shades of Grey in recent months. Those closest to the brand – and it has been a brand, not just a book, for almost a year – and those selling it are no doubt delighted that it is continuing to extend its reach into almost every conceivable adult sector. June saw it move into personal care products, for instance, and in July it was the turn of lingerie.
It’s actually hard to think of a product category where there isn’t an officially licensed FSOG product now: that distinctive logo can be found on everything from board games to butt plugs. Perhaps silicone genitalia and inflatable dolls with printed faces will follow after the film’s release next year, when the licence holders have an on-screen coupling to base them on.
But signs of ‘FSOG fatigue’ is setting in among some of those excluded, for whatever reason, from capitalising on the phenomenon. “Enough already,” I overheard someone at ANME saying in relation to Fifty Shades. And even those who an outsider might expect to have profited most from the brand’s mainstream success – other writers – are making their frustrations public. The flood of me-too ‘billionaire erotica’ and self-published ebooks that inevitably followed in the wake of FSOG has been responsible, according to one well-respected author, for “drowning out” some previously established writers.
You won’t hear me knocking it though. EL James gave the pleasure products industry the biggest boost it has ever received, albeit inadvertently. And the way the brand has been exploited over the past year has been an object lesson in management. So much so that it’s worthy of a case study for future students of marketing.