sex sells - do you need to know more?

Sex sells – do you need to know more?

by daniel on March 1, 2012

I’ve been reading marketing advices, especially on headlines that grab and sale. One advice I read was about learning from cosmopolitan headlines. I went out to see how the advice can be implemented and I was shocked, the old saying that sex sells is true in copy writing as well.

The advice is from an internet marketing forum – Warrior Forum

here are the resulting headlines

Before:The Dirty “Sex Rule” Happy Couples Swear By
After: The Dirty “Marketing Rule” Happy Marketers Swear By

Before: 5 Rules That Get The Truth Out Of Guys
After: 5 Rules That Get The Truth Out Of Buyers

So I took the advice of reading cosmopolitan headlines and modify. As source I found a list of head lines compiled from the magazine. It turns out that many of the headlines deal with one aspect – sex. They can be divided into categories:

  1. Secret information no one knows
  2. Something you must do to be better
  3. What other people do
  4. Celebrity focus and secrets

The first two categories appeal to the fear of people, not knowing what is right, especially in a topic so tabooed as sex. The other two categories appeal to the voyeur in each one of us, wanting to peep into the secret life of others. Seems familiar? Two basic feelings: fear and curiosity.

Why is important to understand the basic motivations? Because it can guide us in the value proposition of the product as well.  If we appeal to fear, the product must provide safety or unique knowledge that gives an advantage in handling the fear. If we appeal to curiosity, the product must provide something that seems to be of the inner circle surrounding that person or group. The word “must” should be taken with caution, as the promise is not of real value, but perceived value.

For a newspaper or magazine, selling perishable commodity (information) the tactic is plausible and for a specific audience it works. Does it work for other type or commodities? I believe it depends on the customer and how you value the relationship. Let me explain:

Relationships based on fear or curiosity are short term relationships – I will buy this issue of the magazine for the interesting article but I might not be interested in the next one. If the audience is low on self-esteem, or lacking interest in their own life the tactic might even be sustainable, but not scalable. For scalable relationships, the offering should be something sustainable like: trust, mutual support and most of all – belonging.

Back to the recommendations in the beginning; think on what is your value proposition for the customer and what is the wanted interaction. For attracting new people, the fear and curiosity tactics might work, but for loyalty and long term relationship clarity and honesty are much more valid.

Incoming search terms:

  • s e x sells

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