The best tool in the marketing handbag is sex appeal. It is the kind of appeal that makes men drool over high end sports cars, it is the kind that makes some women dream about certain shoes. Sex appeal rules in marketing, but it is so hard to comprehend.
A challenge exists in marketing: how does something go from not sexy to very sexy? Can it be a science? Perhaps. There are three major distinctions, in this writers very humble opinion: Branding, Metrics and Application.
Can mayonaise be sexy? Probably not. There is nothing sexy about mayo. There is something sexy about whipped cream, as it is light, fluffy and can be used in nefarious ways, but in general mayonnaise stays out of most bedrooms.
Miracle Whip and their marketing team disagrees with this. They think their product, a condiment, can be sexy. This commercial they produced a few years ago is an example of their efforts:
Now, there are elements which can make a condiment sexy. Sriracha is sexy. It is hot, both literally and figuratively. Sriracha bars, books and methods are popping up everywhere. It has sex appeal because it does something to taste buds that enables a desire. Sex appeal is all about desire.
This whole concept is for sure nothing new. In tech, motoring or boating, often times people will name their products. This name is almost always a woman, whether it’s Elvis’ plane ‘Lisa Marie,’ or your old car, it is sexualized. Branding has been involved with this for years.
In order to market something as sexy, it is important to be familiar with how sex appeal is measured. It is entirely subjective. The only way to understand sex appeal is by reference. Let’s stick with the condiment example: If you are a man cooking up a romantic dinner for your significant other, and you have two choices to help arouse a romantic ambiance: one is mayonnaise and the other is sriracha. In no conceivable mainstream fantasy is mayonnaise going to win over the sriracha.
The same thing goes with anything else. In tech it is often hard to attribute certain products with sex appeal. The newest Brita filter is probably not super sexy, but the new iPhone is always sexy. Dividing the metrics into categories for sexy tech is crucial.
One category is the physical product (not including software). Architectural trends in physical products are a huge indicator of what is sexy. For many years a determinate factor of sex appeal was how thin a phone was. Consider the Motorola Razr. It was the beacon and pinnacle of sexy at the time of its release.
Form factor is directly related to sex appeal. Looking at cell phone form factors is the best way to convey what is ‘hot.’ The sleeker the phone is, the cooler it is, the more sex appeal it may have. The first iteration of the iPhone is arguably not as sexy as the most recent. In a macro scale there is a certain difference in sex appeal from the old Nokia brick phones to the shim-sham wow factor of contemporary phones.
Another category, and perhaps most sympathetic, is the desire to have something to feel included, to feel cool, and be hip. All of those needs are derivatives of sex appeal. The trouble with marketers these days is to not violate stereotypes. Someone who purchases a Ferrari 458 for instance is interested in a couple things, and transportation from point A to B is not one of them. The sex appeal that manifests with supercars is derived from status. Being powerful is sexy. Power has always been sexy and it is perhaps the one categorical element that bleeds the most sex appeal. Power and its expression (lets take owning a Ferrari 458) is by and large a primal activity observed by humans. So when someone pulls up in a Ferrari, wearing only the latest, most fashionable clothes with an incredibly beautiful significant other it conveys status. Measuring the sex appeal of this man is primal, particularly if an individual witnessing this experiences envy or jealousy.
The question and challenge for marketers is translating this into something inherently lacking sex appeal, like tech products.
So the best metric that can be applied to a product is how categorically powerful it is. Does Google have sex appeal? It is the most powerful search engine, has a full array of office programs, has a cool phone OS, etc… Well no. Google does not necessarily have sex appeal, unless you compare it to Microsoft’s Bing. Many can agree that regardless of effectiveness, speed or functionality, Bing is in no way sexier than Google Search. The number of users speaks for itself.
The best way to apply and utilize sex appeal is through referential points. “We’re Number 1!” is for real.
Choosing sex appeal as a marketing application needs to be done with expert precision. The goal is to evoke envy, jealousy and draw desire into a person sensibilities. Clearly that sounded like a brochure for a class called Evil 101, but this is marketing, it’s all kosher.
No one longer desires to have a Facebook, you’ve either got one or you don’t. Google’s Gmail launch was riddled with sex appeal. In their application of the new product it created an exclusivity. In order to be able to use Gmail back in the day you had to be invited.
(So much sex appeal)
The fact that Gmail was exclusive made the nerd world at the very least eager for an invite. Exclusivity fuels desire for those excluded, which in turn fuels sex appeal.
Branding and Metrics are only important in their application. In the end anyone can buy mayo, but not everyone can buy that Ferarri.