Sex Still Sells

2 10 2008

What would it be like if you put your brand on a canvas carry bag and sold it for $10? A bag that without the brand would sell for maybe $4 or $5 fetches twice the amount simply because of the logo on it. That’s what Victoria’s Secret carry bags are selling for on eBay. Victoria’s Secret sells sex. And sex still works to bring in ’da moolah. Who else can sell a pair of sweatpants (decidedly unsexy) for nearly $30 just by putting their logo on the butt?

Probably Abercrombie & Fitch. There’s no subtleness about the fact that A&F uses sex to draw in crowds, namely, teenage crowds. A&F have been under fire for all the sex-laden ads, but that’s what draws the teens in. A&F has become known for its good-looking models who are all scantily clad. Many are sporting plumber’s crack, which I suppose is sexy on a young male model. A&F is also notorious for its catalog, which is sealed in plastic covers to keep young eyes from looking at it – much like Playboy and other racy adult magazines.

So, we see that sex sells.

Sex coupled with controversy sells even more though.

In December 2003, A&F’s catalog was withdrawn from the market within a week of its release because more than 100 photos allegedly promoted group sex. The “lucky” few who got copies of the catalogs before they were pulled were selling them on eBay – the high price was $150. The forbidden controversy sparked more and more people to hit the stores and the cash registers just kept getting more and more full.

Seventy years after the first scantily clad (which is probably fully clad in today’s terms) lady was used to advertise a car, sexual suggestiveness and innuendos still work.

If you can couple sex with a controversy you’ve got the ultimate ad campaign. The tricky part is keeping yourself from going too far. Go too far and you could see legal action and/or consumers turning on you. A&F angered a lot of people when they showed Santa Claus in “sadomasochistic” poses with elves. Now who wants to think of Santa like that? That’s just wrong, I say. But then again, it got me to include it in this post.
So is all publicity good publicity? It depends on how stable your company is. A company that’s been around for over 100 years, like A&F, can take it. The new small business that’s only been around a couple of years?

Probably not so much. 

If you can push the sexual envelope without ripping it, you’re likely to see awesome results. In 2007, A&F revenues increased by about 13 percent. Not bad, considering that GAP, A&F’s closest competition, fired about 3,000 people last year. I’d like to think that as intelligent human beings we would be past the carnal desire for sex, but obviously we aren’t. So give the people what they want! Even those who say they don’t want it will be intrigued (who’s driving all these kids to the mall and buying them A&F clothing?).

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