The Swedish company Lelo doesn’t sell sex toys; they sell “pleasure objects.” Their “massagers” and “stimulators” are in sex toy stores, sure, but they’re also at Brookstone, where “massager” usually means something you use on your back. They make a vibrator (the Inez) that retails for $15,000 as part of a line that includes a gold-plated butt plug (the Earl). Lelo is, in other words, the classiest of dildo manufacturers, and this year, they decided to do something classy for April Fool’s Day.
“The best way we thought we could do that was to faux launch a product that they wouldn’t imagine and they’d never seen before,” their global head of marketing Steve Thompson told me. They settled on an outrageously eco-friendly vibrator, and soon everyone from product designers to copywriters were working on it. “It was a big buzz in the office,” Thompson said. “Appropriately.”
Thus, GÄSM was born. It was made of recycled car tires and wood pulp. It was powered by twirling an Allen wrench. It was sold in a set of separate pieces to reduce packaging, and had to be assembled by the customer, like an Ikea couch. It was green. Literally: Forest green was the only color it came in.
But the GÄSM prank worked better than they expected, perhaps in part because they sent the release out not on April 1, but on March 28. They fooled not just newspapers (like the Daily Mail), but their own retailers, who asked why there was no price or UPC code. They fooled the trade press, such as it is. Dildesign raved: “I hadn’t been this excited about a sex toy design in years.” “Even our internal sales team fell for it, which was interesting,” Thompson said.
Looking at the reaction to their little prank, they wondered if it was as farfetched as they had assumed. Recycled wood pulp is “not ideal,” according to Thompson, and as for recycled car tires? “I think we would stick firmly to silicone in that respect.” But using 100% recycled materials, a hand-cranked power system and a disassembled, low-packaging delivery: each of these are “100% achievable.” His product designers are now working on a product that would embrace all of these “eco-friendly” features. GÄSM, the joke, may become a reality and soon.
When I spoke with Thompson he was in Shanghai, overseeing the roll-out of a line of updated toys coming out the third quarter of this year. “GÄSM came just a little bit too late to influence this product launch,” Thompson said. “But there is next year.”