Many board meetings, strategic sessions and brainstorming before, some wise marketer has thought of a simple strategy – take a beautiful, scantily dressed woman out it in the same frame as the product you are trying sell. And voila! You have the attention of every testosterone driven males who are looking for eye candy and every women who are looking for glamour to imitate. There is no denying – sex and glamour sells. It sold millions of cars in the 60s and it continues to sell millions of face wash in the 21st century.
If selling sex, beauty and glamour is the industry standard – at least some people are making it a lot interesting. Let’s consider some of the coolest cats in the business – Abercrombie & Fitch, Calvin Klein and Victoria’s Secret and their prime driver: sex.
But, is it really that simple? Does the beautiful people + sex combo routine really sell? Isn’t it kind of lame?
Sad but true. Outrageous behavior, gorgeous look seasoned with sex, seems to be an ever-effective formula. Seventy years after the first scantily clad woman was featured in advertising (for an automobile advertising) sexual suggestiveness still seems to do the trick every time, regardless of the category. It’s like the Pied Piper. All we can do is follow.
There’s another essential item that goes together with sex. And that’s controversy – the drug that fuels word of mouth.
In December 2003, Abercrombie & Fitch’s Christmas catalogue was withdrawn from the market, only days after its release, because of more than 100 photos ostensibly promoting group sex.
Prices for the catalogue soared on eBay, hitting a high of $150. The forbidden-fruit notoriety seemed to be paying off. Queues in the stores grew, and the cash registers kept buzzing in sync with the Christmas tunes.
Abercrombie & Fitch is not alone in this joy ride. Remember when Calvin Klein’s billboard was banned in Times Square (and made Brook Shields a global icon); when theVatican railed against the United Colors of Benetton’s advertising (and made everyone worried what’s wrong with Benetton); and when Madonna’s “Like a prayer” music video was removed from MTV? What all these had in common was sex and controversy.
As old fashioned as it may sound, the world’s longest-running advertising gimmick is still running strong like the magician’s old hat trick. Sex plus controversy may well equal the world’s most powerful marketing cocktail. The mix guarantees to create a handful of enemies and an army of fans.
The conclusion may be confusing for some and disturbing for many, but we need to face it: Sex sells—even in 2011. And there is nothing out of the box about it. It’s just plain old vanilla.