Breast pumps, boilers, drinking straws and mattresses don’t tend to scream ‘buy me’. They are functional, useful products, but it’s rare for consumers to search for items like these by brand. More often than not people buy them out of necessity rather than desire, to satisfy a specific need rather than make a statement.

But a raft of new businesses are looking to change that by turning practical (but often boring or taboo) products into aspirational household names.

One such brand is Elvie, which initially launched a pelvic floor trainer and has just unveiled a breast pump. Neither are products women really want to shout about but that’s partly because most manufacturers discuss them in a discreet and almost apologetic way. Given pelvic floor problems affect one in three women and up to 70% of new mothers, that’s something Elvie founder and CEO Tania Boler was keen to change.

“Our brand ethos is to get people talking about what have previously been taboo topics,” she says. “Making these products accessible gives consumers a more positive perception. We had so many naysayers in the beginning who thought we would never get Elvie Trainer into retailers but we’re now stocked in some of the biggest retailers there are.”

The fundamental thing we’ve realised is that [beating the competition] comes down to building a brand.

Simon Phelan, Hometree

The fact people can easily pick up a product like Elvie Trainer indicates “it’s clearly an issue that many women face” and will help to remove the stigma, she adds.

Design has played a key role in helping to shift perceptions and simply using pink was a definite no. “I wanted to give [women] the same experience they would expect from any other premium tech company, regardless of gender. These are intimate and personal products and I wanted them to look desirable,” she says.

Elvie Trainer is a discreet device that connects to an app and helps women visualise pelvic floor movements in real time using biofeedback, while Elvie Pump is a silent, wearable breast pump with no wires or tubes.

The branding for both is sleek and modern, quite different from what consumers might expect for products of this nature, which is also reflected in its tongue-in-cheek marketing. Its debut ad, created by Mother, features four women rapping about the negative associations of breast pumping, referring to the brand’s research which suggests existing methods make mothers “feel like a cow”.

For sleep brand Eve, treating mattresses as a lifestyle purchase has been key to shifting perceptions. Co-founder and chief brand officer Kuba Wieczorek explains: “Sleep is as important as the food you put in your body and the exercise you do, yet people can name millions of sports, food, diet, juice and wellness brands but sleep just wasn’t part of that conversation.”

“Mattresses have always been seen as something you buy, cover up and then forget about. You don’t tell anyone what mattress you sleep on because it’s just weird. That’s what made us start thinking about this idea of creating a cool and…