Does Sex Still Sell in Content Marketing?

By November 12, 2014Content Marketing
Sex Sells

After Paris Hilton’s infamous 2005 Carl’s Jr. commercial boosted in-store sales by only 1.7%, marketing experts began to rethink the “sex sells” maxim, reasoning that in the modern hypersexualized marketplace, spicy imagery is no longer enough to motivate consumers to buy.

Why then, nine years later, did Carl’s Jr. produce another commercial starring not only a barely-dressed Paris Hilton but also Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Hannah Ferguson? Was the ad useful in ways that the in-store sales didn’t reflect?

Is Racy Content Marketing Still Relevant?

Does Sex Sell?

It All Depends On What You’re Selling

Studies show that audiences have a negative reaction to provocative advertising when the product that is being sold isn’t very sexy. So if you’re selling cold medicine, adding risque imagery is probably going to turn your audience off. But if you’re selling something more sensual, like perfume or wine, you might benefit from adding provocative imagery into your content marketing campaign.

Brand Enhancement vs. Brand Recall

Carl’s Jr. CEO Andy Pudzer claims that the 2005 Paris Hilton ad was “maybe the most successful ad of the decade” and praised the advertising effort for increasing brand awareness. If this is the case, it may be the exception, because a study from University College London suggests that sexual imagery has no impact on brand recall. So it may have been the case that the controversy caused by the gratuitous ad may have helped Carl’s Jr. to gain a (maybe less than wholesome) reputation without really compelling many people to run out and buy a burger.

Quirky is the New Sexy in Content Marketing


Essentially, the problem with provocative content marketing today is that it screams “manipulation.” Audiences are sophisticated enough to recognize the familiar formula used to create risque content marketing and they realize that there is something manufactured and self-serving about it. That’s why the most successful modern content marketing campaigns have supplanted scandalous sexual content with content that is just, well, weird.

Quirky content has the advantage over sexy content because it gets attention without trying too hard. It appeals not to the same reptilian part of the brain that responds to racy images; rather, bizarre content challenges the cerebral cortex to understand its strange message, making it a more effective choice for enhancing brand recall.

 Strategic Content Marketing Services

Creating content that is freaky enough to help consumers recall your brand and compelling enough to get them to act isn’t easy when you’re already running a business. That’s where we come in. To learn how Turn the Page can help you achieve your content marketing goals, call (816) 527-8371 to talk to one of our online marketing experts today.

Author Amanda Hall

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