The belief that “sex sells” may only be half right

Industry News By Rhys Little, 6th December 2013

The old adage that “sex sells” may not quite tell the full story, as gender and price will play a part too, marketing professors have noted.

It has long been established that anything a little blue or risqué is likely to pique attention and therefore, make a marketing campaign more successful.

Now, three professors from the Carlson School have found this may only be half right after all, as sex sells to men, but not quite so effectively for women, marketingweek.co.uk reports.

Darren Dahl, Jaideep Dengupta and Kathleen Vohs tested a group of volunteers on how they reacted to different adverts for wristwatches, some of which featured “gratuitous” sexual references, whilst others were much more wholesome – being set on a mountaintop.

There was also a clear price difference, with the watches in question being advertised for between $10 (£6.12) and $1,250 (£764).

It soon emerged that women reported anger and disgust when viewing the sexualised ad for the cheap, $10 watch. Interestingly, however, these reactions were not noted when the timepiece was decidedly more expensive.

Men, on the other hand, reported no change in their perception of the ad based on price alone.

These results, it has been thought, could illustrate why cheaper products often face the wrath of complainants when using sexual imagery, but more luxurious, sought-after items do not.

Based on the study results, the researchers claimed that any businesses targeting a much more female-led audience could still use sexual imagery, but would probably be better off doing so under the guise of it being in a committed relationship, theglobeandmail.com claims.