Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Chapter 15: Sex Sells

Executive Summary:

What’s the most popular search category on Google?

Porn. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The Internet makes it easy, private, and free to consume porn and Google makes it easy, private, and free to find it.

Sex.com once sold for $14 million and Porn.com went for $9.5 million. Sex certainly sells in the domain space. And no-one knows this better than GoDaddy that sexes up its Super Bowl commercials each year with overt innuendos and scantily clad women. This strategy, while attention grabbing (100%+ increases in site visits and orders the day after the game), has caused some backlash with various groups boycotting GoDaddy.

AXE takes a more tongue-in-cheek approach to selling sex in its ads. But Unilever clearly positions the brand as the key to getting young men laid. This works (#1 grooming brands in the US excluding shaving) because the target audience is young men.

Along the same lines, Funny or Die – which also counts young men as its primary demographic — often includes sex-related themes in its video content and titles garnering it top placement on search engines and millions of views.

Marketers have been using sex to sell for years. Often, the approach has been more indirect, even subliminal.

Selling sex isn’t for everyone though. Keep your target audience in mind when thinking about sexing up your marketing. If you’re going to play in the gutter, prepare to get dirty.

Select Quotes:

“It’s true that sex sells. It’s also true that sex can burn your fingertips and char your brand.”

– Mark Goldstein, Vice Chairman and Chief Marketing Officer, BBDO North America, @MDGoldstein

Final Thought:

There’s a fine line between sex and ex. Make sure your marketing hits the spot.


Oct. 20, 2010: In this chapter, I covered the, ahem, escapades of Sex.com. Looks like Clover Holdings is buying the domain for $13 million. We’ll see how “lucky” it is for them.

Dec. 16, 2010: As discussed in the book, the adult industry is always the first to take advantage of new technologies. In the early days of search, the porn guys were everywhere. Now they’re taking over these newfangled video game systems that enable humans to be the remote controls. Here’s an example of turning Microsoft Kinect into a sex game.

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