Two recent articles, the first in BusinessWeek, the other in Golf for Women (a Golf Digest title), raise the question of whether or not sex sells and if so, to whom and at what cost? The BusinessWeek article, written by the new all girl run and approved marketing agency 3iYing, blasts apparel makers Abercrombie & Fitch and American Apparel for overt, porn-like sexuality in their advertising, which they say is a total turn-off to teen girls. With plenty of A&F logos on the back-to-school crowd in our corner of the world (and recent reports of a 17% net sales increase over last year) it seems some are not as turned off as others. However, while the numbers may not reflect 3iYing’s assertion that sex doesn’t sell, their request that marketers reach out to girls more in more intelligent ways is refreshing and more than valid. It’s not to say that sex doesn’t sell, but what if something else, something more soulful and relevant, actually sells better? With so many brands falling back on that old stand-by of close up shots of hard-bodied youths in suggestive poses (more lazy marketing than some break-out strategy) what an opportunity for a brand to set itself apart by changing that dialogue. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of a collaboration between a major apparel maker and 3iYing. Whose brave enough to step up?
Golf for Women’s insightful article entitled “Sex & the LPGA,” examines the long-running debate on using sex to sell women’s sports, something the tour is currently struggling with as they look to drum up fans and lucrative sponsor support. Both sides are given plenty of ink to make their case, with current and past LPGA members divided in their opinions. What isn’t clear is the audience the LPGA is ultimately trying to attract. Some men might enjoy looking at sexy pictures of female golfers but would it really get them to pony up to attend a tournament? The cheesecake approach surely can’t be a ruse to attract female fans. Some theorize that it’s male sportswriters whose attention the tour needs to grab. So when the “it” girl goes away coverage of the sport does too? Not a very good long-term strategy. Former pro volleyball player Gabrielle Reese (currently trying to get her own LPGA card) brings up the point that personality and charisma are what sells players, and by association, their sports. "Forget sex -- just make it cool," is her advice to the LPGA. Not as easy as issuing regulation short-shorts, but it has a lot more staying power.
And the oldest marketing debate? C’mon, say it with us: Does advertising really work?