Why is Sex Appeal used in Marketing?
Written by Alexandrea Bourden

Almost everyone has heard the term “sex sells” when it comes to advertising, but have you ever wondered why? In a society that strives for gender-equality, sex appeal in advertisements are more prominent than ever. So what exactly is it that connects sex appeal to consumer behaviour? There are a variety reasons why advertisers turn to sex when it comes to selling their product or service.

Primal Instincts
In his 1996 study, expert Dr. Taflinger found that sex is the second-strongest of all our physiological appeals, only to be beaten by self-preservation. By using sex in advertising, marketers are appealing to a primal instinct we all carry. Biologically, sex in advertising triggers our desire to find a proper mate. This means fitting the criteria that humans look for in their potential partner. For men, a mate must be appealing reproductive-wise. This means she must be young and healthy, or in other words, able to conceive. For women, different traits are needed to meet her criteria. A woman knows she must be selective in her partner choice because her choice affects hers and her offspring’s life.

These biological factors make men more susceptible to advertisements that contain sex appeal. Men’s criteria are much easier to fill in a 30-second advertisement than a woman’s criteria. Although women also have sexual reactions, they are constantly considering long-term factors.

The Power of Sex Appeal
Let’s take a look at an example of the power of sex appeal in advertising focused on men. In 2000, Heineken launched a new marketing campaign called the “It’s all About Beer” campaign. This campaign was developed to expand their position in the United States beer market. Aimed at 21-35 year old males, the commercials were meant to be humorous and show the beer as one you could consume everyday. The following video, "The Premature Pour", along with the rest of the campaign helped Heineken's sales rise 13% in 2002's first two quarters.



Shock Value & Word of Mouth
Besides looking at it from a biological standpoint, why else do marketers use sex appeal in marketing? It’s all about shock value! The more sexual and shocking an ad is, the longer the memory of it will be imprinted in your mind. This in turn helps add to word-of-mouth advertising: even if you found the ad offensively sexual you can’t help but tell your friend about it. Then that friend will tell their friend & so on.


Works Cited

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"Heineken Beer Commercial "The Premature Pour" - YouTube ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. . N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RM9Sl8x0-Q>.

SalesPop. "10 Reasons on Why Sex Sells." Upload & Share PowerPoint presentations and documents. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. <http://www.slideshare.net/SalesPop/10-reasons-on-why-sex-sells>.

Suggett,  Paul. "Sex In Advertising – Does Sex Really Sell And If So, Why?." Advertising – Advertising Strategies, Advertising Careers, and Small Business Advertising. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. <http://advertising.about.com/od/advertisingprojects/a/Sex-In-Advertising.htm>.

Sunset, Bali. "Marketing Campaign Case Studies: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BEER CAMPAIGN-TARGET MARKET." Marketing Campaign Case Studies Collection. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. <http://marketing-case-studies.blogspot.ca/2009/12/its-all-about-beer-campaign-target.html>.

Taflinger, Richard F.. "You and Me, Babe: Sex and Advertising." Washington State University - Pullman, Washington. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. <http://public.wsu.edu/~taflinge/sex.html>.