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New Research Says Sex Appeal Doesn't Sell As Previously Thought

Michael McGrady
|
July 5, 2017
sex appeal, sex sells, business, marketing strategy

Sex appeal — does it work in marketing your business?

According to researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, utilizing sex appeal in a business’s marketing strategy isn’t as effective as it once was.

The study, entitled “The effect of exposure to sexual appeals in advertisements on memory, attitude, and purchase intention: A meta-analytic review,” is a first of its kind study, according to the head author of the study John Wirtz. The study was conducted with Johnny V, Sparks, a journalism professor at Ball State University and doctoral student Thais M. Zimbres of University of California, Davis.

Wirtz, who serves as a professor covering topics of advertising, said that his team’s research concluded that participants in the study felt as if there were not more likely to memorize brands that used certain forms sexual appeals in advertisements. The participants, in fact, were more likely to maintain a negative view on such brands and participants showed barely any additional interest in purchasing a product.

“We found literally zero effect on participants’ intention to buy products in ads with a sexual appeal,” Wirtz said in an official press release. “This assumption that sex sells – well, no, according to our study, it doesn’t. There’s no indication that there’s a positive effect.”

The study based its findings on a broad definition for “sex appeal.” The term was openly defined to include sexual appeal such as partially or fully nude models; models engaged in sexual acts; innuendoes, and others.

One of the key findings indicated that men were most likely to consume sexual appeals in advertising versus women, of whom are less likely to do so. This was baffling to the researchers because they “we were surprised at how negative female attitudes were toward these ads.”

“The average number of participants in each individual study was about 225, but by using a meta-analysis, we could combine studies and conduct some analyses with more than 5,000 participants –  in one analysis, with more than 11,000,” Wirtz said.

Wirtz further explained that the large participation pool provides a more accurate depiction of what happens when someone is confronted with a sex appeal in advertising.

Have you noticed sex appeal becoming less effective in marketing strategies? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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