Is sex persuasive?

It’s no news to anyone that sex and advertising are closely related. The fact is that advertising has been using sex to sell for decades: we are used to seeing sweaty, scantily-clad men and women selling perfumes, deodorants, diet sodas, etc?

However, using sex as a tool for persuasion can be risky. We can use it, but only as far as necessary. Let?s use fashion as an example.

A “conventional” store like H&M uses it in a more or less subtle way.

H&M catalogue for summer 2006

American Apparel, a brand which prides itself on being more alternative, offers a slightly more explicit image:

American Apparel catalogue for summer 2006
But if there is one brand that crosses the line, using sex to cause a real impact, it?s Sexpacking. What they are offering is a fairly odd clothing catalogue: an interactive porn video which lets us access the items of clothing the couple are wearing.
A proposal like this, of course, does entail risks.  If what we are trying to do is sell clothing, isn?t this drawing the consumer?s attention elsewhere? Let?s be realistic: who is going to look at the girl?s dress or the boy?s sweatshirt ? for the short time they are wearing it ? given the other images in the video? Not many, that?s for sure.

Interactive catalogue for summer 2006 (Not suitable for under 18?s)

But this video clearly manages to do two things:

  • Attract attention. Obviously, the video is kinky and captures our interest. It won?t be hard to generate virality when marketing this video, when spreading the word.  The first thing it will do is to attract attention, and that?s quite an achievement.
  • Position the brand. The Sexpacking clothes store will make us look daring, uninhibited – like modern, young risk-takers. A list of adjectives which is not to be treated with contempt, if what we are trying to do is position ourselves.

Luc Dupont, in his book 1001 Advertising Tips, says that sexual attraction can be useful when it comes to positioning a product. Although Dupont warns us that the use of sex in advertising does not always bring satisfactory results.  Obviously, sex will catch the eye of our target audience, but that’s no guarantee that they will buy the product. We must use sex in advertising as intelligently as possible. For a young audience, the one that the Sexpacking video is obviously aimed at, this kind of positioning is useful, because ?Persuasion based on sexual attraction is particularly effective in markets where there are many teenagers among the buyers?.

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