Sex as a turn off?


It isn't really news to say that "sex sells" - everyone knows it's true. I know it, you know it, Victoria's Secret certainly knows it. And whether you agree with the moral implications of that or not there's no denying it, because at the very least it grabs your attention, whether for better or for worse.

But when an advertiser is looking to hold that attention long enough for the consumer to actually take note of the product and its benefits, they need to give some serious thought to their target market and of course the product's positioning. It makes sense for Axe to use sex to sell its product line - body fragrances in general only really serve to make a person more appealing to others (by hypothetically supplying an attractive scent or simply covering up an offensive one). Similarly, even though men are the typical target of "sexy" ads, Victoria's Secret is successful in marketing to women because of the product's actual function and its intended positioning; women buy VS because they want their lingerie to be sexy, so it's only appropriate that their ads emphasize this aspect of the product.
Rhinofly's Yes, We're Hiring! viral video also did well to attract a good number of new job candidates to the company. The video was successful because it appealed directly to its target market by presenting the company as an ideal working environment (being full of beautiful, suggestively dressed women). It made sense for Rhinofly to use sex appeal in this ad because of the image they wanted to portray and the target market they had in mind.
But contrary to seemingly popular belief, sex does not sell everything - at least not well. An article in Minnesota's Pioneer Press early last month addressed this issue in regards to women's professional sports. The key point to draw from this article was that although sexualizing female athletes serves to sell magazines to young men, it does absolutely nothing to attract that market to the sport itself. Additionally - and more pointedly - the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota found these kinds of images to be a complete turn off for the actual, current fan base: women and older males (men with daughters, for instance).
It's one of the first things you learn in your intro to marketing class, and yet it is so easily brushed aside by the popular "sex sells" mantra. But it's important that we remember our target market AND our brand positioning (remember your five P's!) before we photograph two women in a heated embrace or put teenaged girls into suggestive outfits in order to sell a product. Just as sports fans might not welcome the focus on sex rather than the talent of their role models, a family restaurant may be missing the point by hiring a scantily clad girl to flier for them. Ask yourself, "who will this appeal to?" "who will it offend?" and "does it communicate the image I want to convey for my product?" If the answers to those questions don't meet your expectations, it's time to revise your "tried-and-true" marketing strategy.