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A phrase that has vastly been used in most industries, sex sells is today a term that fits perfectly in a campaign to highlight the right amount of attention needed in order to spike traffic numbers.
Whether it’s on social media apps, TikTok, Instagram, X, Facebook, or even the latest Threads, sex sells is a phrase alluding to the use of sex in advertising in order to help sell a particular product or service using sex appeal.
The definition is pretty clear, product or service and we add some form of sexy approach and the math should have a result.
Why does sex gain more traction online compared to the informative approach?
Consumers are naturally drawn to images and content related to sex, romance, and the taboo due to our biological evolutionary instincts.
This particular interest often translates to the needed attention for marketers, advertisers, retail outlets, product sales departments, and anyone with an intent to generate some form of hype around a particular offering.
The attraction often leads to increased engagement and interest in products, a social media platform or content associated with sexual themes. In simple terms, the advert or content with sex appeal is more prone to perform better.
Is this a good thing?
The use of sex appeal in ads more often than not outperformes the more informative advert in terms of engagement but not in actual sales.
Usually when directly examining the effect of sex appeal in advertising compared to actual purchase behaviour, it is often clear how sex-enfused advertising does not translate to actual purchase behavior.
Does this mean the users watch but do not buy?
Sexuality has in most cases been considered a taboo subject, and everyone tends to be curious about things that are otherwise kept under the rug. It is this curiosity that usually drives and translates to traffic and engagement for most streaming platforms and content creators.
This apparent phenomenon can be seen today in social media account holders who are attractive compared to their less societally attractive counterparts.
History of the theory
Magazines such as Playboy cash in on the taboo nature of nudity and back in the mid-20th century cashed in on the notoriety which translated to increased readership.
The taboo, grabs attention in online spaces and content that includes sexual elements tends to stand out and grab user attention. This translates to higher click rates and conversions.
Websites according to history have used sexualized headlines or imagery to lure readers into clicking on their content – just as this headline has led you here.
It’s the subliminal message, that sexuality suggests.
The sexually suggestive content most likely conveys subliminal messages about a product’s desirability, quality, or effectiveness.
This aspect in society has been leveraged in advertising for decades and sexual content can evoke strong emotions, including desire and excitement and these emotions can be harnessed to create memorable and impactful advertising campaigns.
The use of attractive models to market products is deliberate and does wonders for a campaign, but in some cases does not equate to sales.
Perfume commercials have long used this strategy to convey desire and passion.
While sexual content can be effective in advertising and overall content creation on platforms, it can also be a controversial and not well-received strategy.
There remains some ethical considerations and potentially negative consequences associated with exploiting sexuality for commercial gain.
Content creators, marketers, and advertisers need to find the balance between using sexual appeal and respecting the values of their designated audiences.