September 28, 2008
In this well-written post over at Branding Strategy Insider, a compelling case is made for what most of us intuitively know…sex sells. Especially, sex + controversy sells.
Let’s assume that it’s true. Here’s the question any marketer now has to ask, just as they had to ask as a teenager: Should I??
The answer to that will come from the basic ethical decision-making foundation you stand upon. Choose your ground – the pragmatic approach, or the (defined) right/wrong approach.
The pragmatist will ultimately boil it down to this: if it works, why not? Now maybe, for your target audience, it won’t work. But if you’re going after the teen fashion market (as outlined in the linked post above), and it succeeds in increasing sales, and your goal as a business is to maximize profits…well, then, why not? All other considerations can be set aside, because this is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of effectiveness.
However, let’s say you believe that a sex-saturated culture coarsens itself, that people should not be treated as objects, that titillation as a method of money-making is creating more cultural havoc long-term even if it boosts the bottom line short-term. To distill it down: let’s say you think it’s just wrong. Now what?
It’s the dilemma every business person faces. From the temptation to misstate financial results, the opportunity to rip off a customer, even the possibility of influencing a sale by showing a little more cleavage to the male executives in the presentation, we’re faced with short-term gain and pragmatism versus doing what’s right regardless of the consequences.
I know what side I’m on. What do you think? Is it OK to take advantage of the power of sex in selling?