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Does sex appeal have a place in marketing in 2022?

Why use sex appeal?

I’ve always noticed that fragrance companies choose female celebs who are well-known sex symbols to advertise their perfumes. Sex appeal is one of the most popular advertising strategies used to persuade customers to constantly buy new products. This is because the desirability of an item is enhanced by the model representing it, which makes the customer instantly interested in learning more about it. As we all know, the ways in which a perfume brand advertises their product is crucial to how it sells. In recent years, sex appeal has been the key to success as it plays on the customers desires to fit a certain image.

In this blog, I talk about the ways perfume brands appeal to different target audiences based on their aesthetic and choice of model. It's apparent that portrayals of romance and relationships are common in many of the TV ads we see on our screens, which is why I want to discover the impact sexual imagery has on the audience.

Perfume brands

In women’s perfume, brands like Marc Jacobs tend to represent their products in a sophisticated, flirty way. Take Kai Gerber’s feature in the 2020 ad for Daisy for example. Kai Gerber was their choice of model, a renowned California girl and daughter of 90's supermodel Cindy Crawford. The ad didn’t necessarily try and capture the sex appeal of the product as it was a floral spring scent. Instead, it used the feminine image to produce a playful and free-spirited depiction in the ad. As a result, the perfume was described as ‘Charmingly simple. Effortlessly timeless'....'the essence of youthful spirit’.

In the ad, Gerber stares thoughtfully into the camera in the field full of long grass that surrounds her. She's then filmed dancing with her friend hand in hand, as the models capture the joy of lazy days spent outside in the sunshine. All in all, the video is a perfect 10 second snippet to draw in their intended target audience of young girls who crave that summery, LA image. As a brand, Marc Jacobs isn't famous for its sexy, enigmatic vibe, which is why there is such a drastic difference between this ad and other luxury fragrances.

In 2019, YSL's Black Opium featured Zoe Kravitz, DC's new Cat woman. At the start, the text 'YSL' advertised the brand, which featured over NYC's skyscraper backdrop at night-time. After, the camera zoomed into Kravitz's eyes to show off her smoky and sultry charcoal eyeshadow.

Zoe's makeup artist (Nina Park from Chanel) gave her these 'siren eyes', to create a mysterious and sensual expression. However in the Marc Jacobs ad, Gerber was sporting a 'doe-eyed' innocent look, as her makeup was fresh and minimal. Marc Jacobs created a fresh and floral scent for 16-year old girls, whereas YSL created a perfume for women in their 20's and 30's that love the night-life vibe. (Side note- the makeup look makes all the difference to the celebs sex appeal).

Before we've even seen the perfume YSL has already created a bestselling product through the model's persona, who reflects the sensuality of her scent. Pretty clever, right?

I must admit- when I saw the ad, I walked straight towards the YSL makeup counter at Selfridges and bought a bottle. With its notes of Lavender, Mandarin Orange, and Blackcurrant I couldn’t resist (and they’re just the top notes!).

So to answer your question- yes! Sex appeal does have a place in marketing in 2022. Oozing sex appeal, Kravitz sprays the perfume on her neck, showing off her glittering highlight and a nude lip. The Weekend’s ‘The Hills’ plays in the background before she hits the club with her group of stylish friends. Under the purple haze of the glass perfume bottle, life seems full of energy and inspiration. Who doesn't want a night of dancing spritzed in YSL's latest perfume?

Savage X Fenty

Launched in May 2018, Savage X Fenty's lingerie brand was created by Rihanna to promote inclusivity (and for people to catch her contagious amount of energy). Designed for all races, genders, and sizes, the brand instantly topped Victoria's secrets sales because she caters to everyone. Renowned as a certified bad-gal, 'Riri's' fan base flooded to Amazon to watch her first fashion show (including me- I've loved her music since her 'Girl like me' era). All of the models used their seductive aura and alluring sex appeal on the runway to promote the Savage Fenty Brand.

Celebrities like Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, Rosalia, Laverne Cox, and Demi Moore all modelled in a highly stylised and elegant sequence. There were also dance performances from Normani (or Rihanna herself) showing off the brand-new matching sets.

After watching the show, I remember thinking that everyone in that show looked so strong and confident. For a lot of people- those that are transgender, non-binary, or plus size, Rihanna has created a community that feels sexy simply by being themselves. Promoting self-love and self-acceptance is also important when advertising a product. Who wants to compare yourself to others, when you can just be yourself?

On Rihanna's Instagram, she always promotes her new Savage X Fenty collections to her 124million followers. On Valentine's day, she posted a look with black and red striped hair, and a short fringe (only Ri could make this daring look work). To match, the singer wore a stunning red bodysuit with a sexy cris cross design running up the front, purely made up of ribbons. The bottom of the set was super flirty and lacy, with a maroon design running over a lilac silk material. The caption 'Valentine's Day is for me... but you can watch' exuded the singers confidence and sassy nature, selling the product through her daring attitude. With over six million likes, I'm sure every single one of those Insta users wanted to own that stunning set.


So, I'm sure we can all agree that sex appeal definitely takes a place in marketing. Usually, the celebrities that promote the product already have their own sexy image, whether that’s from Kravitz performance in Cat woman, or the models that walk for Rihanna's lingerie brand. However it's important to note that by creating Savage X Fenty, Rihanna has proven to all brands that you can still advertise your product in an extremely sexy way whilst remaining inclusive.


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