Does sex appeal have a place in marketing in 2022?
What is sex appeal?
Sex appeal is defined as "the personal appeal or physical attractiveness, especially for members of the opposite sex.
The earliest use of sex appeal in advertising was by the Pearl Tobacco brand in 1871. It featured a naked woman on the packaging of cigarettes and it was exclusively aimed at men.
Since this use of sex appeal in marketing, many companies have also followed their lead, take Victoria’s Secret, for example, they lean heavily on the advertising of sex itself with their provocative adverts and lingerie. Their whole brand is based on fantasy and what a woman could look like if they wore their garments.
However, Victoria’s Secret has failed to maintain its success due to its lack of body inclusivity and lack of representation of all races and identities. With exclusivity, equality, and representation at the forefront of social discussions, it is now more than ever, that brands must improve and change with the times.
Savage X Fenty is a lingerie brand similar to Victoria’s Secret that also leans into sex appeal marketisation, instead of falling into the same trap, they recognised the gap in the market for body inclusivity and seized the opportunity to cater to everyone. Despite this being their unique selling point, sex is a major part of their brand, and it continues to sell.
Why does sex sell?
There is no question that sex sells, it has been used as a tool in marketing to promote and sell, products, fantasies, and ideals for years. Sex attracts attention and desire, it is taboo but it works and continues to work.
But why is that?
We are constantly exposed to sex as people daily, whether it is on the internet, in movies, or music. Whether you go searching for it, it can be at times difficult to avoid this. In songs and music videos, there are constant references to sex, and the songs mostly perform well in the Top 10 of the billboard awards normally contain these references.
Researchers enlisted female and male students in college, and they were asked to track their thoughts. The study showed that the men had thoughts about sex at least 19 times a day on average in comparison to the women who had 10 sexual thoughts on average.
Is sex appeal more catered to men?
Some researchers suggest that people that are more comfortable with their sexuality are more likely to think about sex than the average person. This could suggest that sex appeal in marketisation is more aimed at men, advertisers can capitalise on this information and use it for their advantage. However, the idea that sex appeal marketing is only, advertised to men is false. Women are the biggest buyers of erotic novels, which says a lot. Sex does sell and it is not specifically targeted at either women or men it is advertised to everyone.
Many brands do have good sex appeal marketing, one being Durex. They created a campaign aimed at the stigmas surrounding STIs and STDs, this is a positive use of sex appeal in marketing. As a lot of people suffer from sexually transmitted diseases this allows more people to feel comfortable and speak out about their experiences. As we grow as a society, people want to see more authentic and honest portrayals of sex.
The rise of sexual content online
Entrepreneurship has been on the rise and many people used many creative methods to make money. During and after the pandemic there has been a rise in the amount of sexual content found online. OnlyFans originally started as a platform where creators could sell their videos and pictures to subscribers, these videos and pictures were normally gaming, cooking, and music content. However, the majority of the content on Only Fans began to change in 2020 and became more sexual.
Content creators who produce sexual content on Only Fans have used this as a lucrative way to make money and as a way to enter the sex industry from the comfort of their own homes. Many people have made thousands on the platform and as everyday people join and speak about their sexual content; small baby steps are made to destigmatize sex work overall. The rise of sexual content on Only Fans, speaks to the demand from consumers
However, there are negatives to Only fans as the pay is very unpredictable. Some have complained that they could make up to £1000 in one day and the other day it could drop down to £200. Others have claimed that it took them months to make any money at all.
Overall, women have taken power over their bodies and become bosses in their own right.
Sex appeal does have a place in marketing in 2022 when it is done in a tasteful, respectful way that does not objectify anyone.