(Note: This story appears in the December 2021 issue of SE Magazine)
*Story by Lauren Schwartz
Thao Luu-Brinberg talks Nu Sensuelle’s rebranding, which amounts to infinitely more than a new aesthetic.
Nu Sensuelle is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable adult retail brands in America. But while the company is widely praised for delivering extreme power and versatility, less commonly known is Nu Sensuelle’s journey in becoming a market leader.
Back in 2009, co-founder and lead product engineer, Thao Luu-Brinberg, established Nu Sensuelle — a brand which embodied her spirit of adventure. Her willingness to take risks and continually innovate has since enabled her to discover uncharted avenues for building intimacy and intensified connection. This overall philosophy, sparked by the completion of Thao’s Bachelor’s Degree in Manufacturing Engineering at Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology, later served as the foundation for Nu Sensuelle’s wider mission.
“Back when I was in university, you rarely saw females studying engineering, computing or science,” says Thao. “Not to mention, I grew up in Asia where culturally, girls were expected to be more passive and fill a certain role in society. But I was extremely good at math and science and decided I wanted to study something that challenged what I was conditioned to believe girls were supposed to do. I felt proud going into a field that very few females were a part of. And at that time, Swinburne University was quite advanced in their thought process of supporting females in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), being one of the first universities to join the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot.”
While Thao has always been inclined to chase after her aspirations, SAGE was integral in her willingness to take risks and challenge the status quo. Today, Thao uses this sense of individuality when conceptualizing new products for Nu Sensuelle.
“I don’t feel compelled to use other brands’ ideas. I’m adamant about coming up with original designs that have yet to be attempted, even if there is opportunity for failure. Sometimes I see products that are completely unrelated to the adult industry, and I think to myself, ‘Wow, that could be really cool to incorporate into a new adult product somehow.’ I think having that mentality gives our brand an edge.”
Alongside her focus in manufacturing engineering, Thao fueled her creative passions by studying fashion and design. With her diverse educational background as a cornerstone, she eventually relocated to Canada and charted a career in various industries.
“My biggest mission was always to start my own business, specifically one that would allow me to use my creativity to help people,” she says. “So, I made it my job to learn every facet of business in each company that I worked for.
“I was working for Toshiba Whitegoods at the time, and my husband, Barry, had started doing product labeling for one of the big distributors in the US. I didn’t particularly enjoy living in Canada and got Barry on board with moving to Australia, where we determined we would start our own brand. We both had backgrounds in fashion and engineering and so we had a wealth of contacts to make launching a business seamless,” Thao continues.
Upon relocating to Australia, Barry and Thao made a concerted effort to schedule appointments with retailers across the continent to pitch and cultivate their business. After a series of successful endeavors, the couple landed on the name “Novel Creations” and discussed expanding their business to the United States in 2014. While Barry and Thao eventually anticipate branching out and launching other brands under Novel Creations, Nu Sensuelle’s success has largely surpassed the couple’s expectations.
While some may argue the option of remaining in Australia was less daunting, the couple knew they were in dire need of change.
“In 2011, we had our daughter, Tienna. Barry was traveling back and forth quite a lot between the U.S., Australia, and Canada, and we even made trips to Asia at times. He would come back and Tienna had reached a new milestone. So that was hard,” explains Thao. “There’s also a huge trust factor with opening up a business in another country when you’re not really there. So, we felt like it was better for our business endeavors and for our family to all move together to the U.S.”
“I don’t feel compelled to use other brands’ ideas. I’m adamant about coming up with original designs that have yet to be attempted, even if there is opportunity for failure. Sometimes I see products that are completely unrelated to the adult industry, and I think to myself, ‘Wow, that could be really cool to incorporate into a new adult product somehow.’ I think having that mentality gives our brand an edge.” — Thao Luu-Brinberg
It wasn’t until officially relocating to the United States that Barry and Thao understood the extent to which their decision would positively impact the growth of their business.
“Adult retail was much more intimate in Australia. There were fewer stores there, so it was much easier to develop personal relationships with sales representatives and accomplish tasks quicker,” says Thao. “In Australia, Nu Sensuelle was one of the top five most influential adult brands in the industry. Even though the trends in Australia were very comparable to those in America, we knew coming to the U.S. would be challenging because our boutique brand would have to compete with larger, more established brands.”
To cut through the industry, the couple began developing proprietary motors that were unique to Nu Sensuelle’s products and launched their ecommerce website.
“I find the most fascinating part of working in adult retail to be the information you can analyze from your web sales alone,” says Thao. “The adult industry offers a ton of room for growth and change because we’re able to see the breakdown of who our consumers are through our website orders. Knowing which demographics our sales are being driven by allows us to cater our marketing and future products more towards that target audience. Had we just stayed in Australia and confined our products to stores, we wouldn’t be able to see that information and would likely be missing the mark on a ton of prospective sales.”
Amidst adjusting to the intricacies of adult retail in America, Barry and Thao further established their dynamic of working as a team.
“Barry and I are very different people,” Thao says. “It poses challenges at times but for the most part I think it really works well for us. I would say we complement each other with our different personalities, as well as how our minds work and how we approach and see things. Obviously, our ideas can clash but I think that’s a good thing because if you are working with someone who always agrees with you, then how are you ever going to grow? There aren’t too many husband-and-wife teams that are designing and manufacturing. I think that even if we weren’t married, having a mix of both male and female brain power helps enhance the creative process.”
Within the past year, the couple has appointed a small team of seasoned colleagues to join them in advancing Nu Sensuelle’s mission.
“I love how diverse our team is — we definitely cover the gamut as far as our ages, genders, and sexualities are concerned,” beams Thao. “We’ve recently undergone rebranding to align our image more accurately with changes in the social climate, as well as the company’s overall growth over the years. We’re trying to make more of an effort to promote inclusivity going forward, and I think that the heterogeneity of our team allows us to really hone in on that pillar and address the needs of a wider population of users.”
At the forefront of their rebranding efforts, Thao and her husband have set out to continually innovate versatile, ergonomic products that suit users of every body type, relationship, gender identity and sexuality, as well as level of experience with adult products. Reimagining the company logo and brand colors have allowed Nu Sensuelle to adjust to the ever-evolving social climate and foster the brand’s values of innovation, intensity, and inclusivity, which have become of higher importance to the pleasure community since the company’s launch.
“Our new heart logo and rainbow brand colors capture this,” says Thao. “While I, myself, am the heart and essence of the Nu Sensuelle brand, my proprietary motors are the heart of Nu Sensuelle’s products and help foster intimacy and true human connection.”
The company’s recent brand embellishments have also enabled Nu Sensuelle to reposition itself in the market and disengage from misconceptions that the brand only delivers extreme power. While Nu Sensuelle is now known for being a leader in the super bullet category, the company understands that not everyone values industry-quaking intensity.
“There’s no doubt we offer some of the most intense products on the market. But what’s just as important as being recognized for our power, is ensuring that there is a product out there for every type of user,” explains Thao. “With that said, all my proprietary motors have varying levels of ferocity. We even offer a product that is catered specifically towards novice users, which further allows our customers to grow alongside our brand.”
“I find the most fascinating part of working in adult retail to be the information you can analyze from your web sales alone. The adult industry offers a ton of room for growth and change because we’re able to see the breakdown of who our consumers are through our website orders.” — Thao Luu-Brinberg
As Nu Sensuelle’s customers transcend the exploratory stage, they can turn to the company’s new motor classification system to determine which product they should experiment with next. All Nu Sensuelle motors now correlate to a specific color.
“What’s so amazing about this new system is that, if a customer has a positive experience with one of our products and wants to purchase another toy of that same intensity, it’s very easy to determine which products produce like sensations,” says Thao. “Likewise, if a customer is seeking a product with slightly more power, the classification system aids in understanding how certain products compare to others.”
There’s no doubt the company’s new color-coding system is creating a ton of buzz within the adult industry. However, the Nu Sensuelle community can expect to see other exciting advances pertaining to their product packaging. Say goodbye to Nu Sensuelle’s outdated, white boxes and hello to their brand new sleek, black casing. Although retailers are still transitioning to only carrying the company’s refurbished packaging, this shift will allow Nu Sensuelle’s aesthetic to better align with the distinction of their products.
“Nu Sensuelle has always done really well for a boutique company but we still very much like experiencing change,” declares Thao. “The rebranding has been so well received and everybody has really loved it. I love the new packaging and think it fits us more now than the older logo and packaging. It shows the industry how we have grown. We really took the time to rebrand with thought. We didn’t just slap a new aesthetic onto our products and call it a rebrand. We changed our values and developed new products. It took a lot of work and a lot of research and was definitely intended to have meaning.”
While Nu Sensuelle just released a great deal of exciting developments, pleasure product fanatics can expect to see even more from the company soon. Nu Sensuelle is committed to perpetually innovating and will continue to search for new ways to satisfy consumers’ concerns and needs for empowerment. The company has evidently made great strides since their launch back in 2009. Still, with the ever-evolving social climate and continual advancements in technology, it is clear that Nu Sensuelle’s rebranding is just the beginning of their journey in empowering users worldwide.
Lauren Schwartz is the communications coordinator for Nu Sensuelle.