Liz Keener’s recent article, Are bikini bike washes limiting your customer base, sparked many comments, including this lively discussion on LinkedIn. I decided to dig into a few articles with research on the subject. I’ve also included a few questions for you to ponder at the end.
No, but yes?
In this article, Does Sex Still Sell? Or Does It Do More Harm Than Good?, the author’s first two points cite research about this type of advertising being ineffective with brand recall and many times seen as offensive. The last two points recognize that with certain products it does work, and that men are more likely to be interested than women (not a shocking revelation). Since men are the majority of customers for powersports products, is it okay to use sex to attract them? And will the customers you get be worth as much as the customers — women and men — you may lose?
Some men say they’re actually offended when a brand insults their intelligence by using women to sell their products, instead of real technical features or benefits. Many women agree and say they wouldn’t want to do business with a brand using this type of advertising.
How can you find out what your local customers think? Work with a professional research agency for third-party research. Another option is to engage a local university marketing program (MBA if possible) to do a market research case study on it with both your current and prospective customers. You never know what they may find.
According to this eyebrow-raising and well researched Huffington Post article, Why It's Unfortunate that Sex Sells, the controversy about whether sex sells can be found in nearly any industry. And despite some research that proves sex doesn’t sell, some brands or celebrities can definitely link increased awareness (and magazine sales) to sexually suggestive behavior and imagery.
Although, my favorite line in the article makes an important point, “Other advertisements focus on a woman's physical body rather than her personality, including the following AXE commercial which, as Annie-Rose Strasser says in ThinkProgress, ‘treats women as a series of body parts instead of a whole person with a brain.’”
Which leads me to ask …
Is it right?
Even if you do hold a bikini bike wash and get five times as many people as a bake sale, is it right? And don’t pass the buck and say, “Everybody is doing it” because you have your own brain and conscience.
Can you answer these three questions honestly?
- Is your business known as one that respects all women—those on staff, your customers and in the community?
- Are you proud to show your mom, young niece, or grandson, your advertisements and feel comfortable inviting them to ALL of your events?
- Are you leaving this generation better than the last?
If you need help with ideas for number three, read my previous blog post, 3 Ways to Promote the Positive.
A rider for 26 years, Leslie spent 15 years with Harley-Davidson (3 retail, 12 corporate) and created their marketing to women role in 2007. She spearheaded Women Riders Month and a Garage Party Campaign which drove 25,000 women to dealers. After 2 years at Trek Bicycles, Leslie now helps companies sell more to new audiences.