Sex sells. It’s practically the first thing you learn in advertising courses in college. It’s one of the things that’s wired into our brains at a very low level – safety, food, shelter, and sex. Lots and lots of sex. If you wanna get people’s attention, sex is one, sure-fire way to hit those neurons firing the primitive portion of our craniums. But in the new millennium, using sex to sell things is a particularly tricky.
In a time where reaching customers is more difficult, if only because of the the virtually limitless number of TV channels, radio/satradio channels, magazines, newspapers, and the Web, it’s essential to make marketing dollars return the biggest bang for the buck – and to avoid alienating any significant portion of your prospective customer base.
I spent a number of years in the software publishing industry, in the early days of peprsonal computers. At the time, I had no perspective on the industry – how “new” everything was, and how immature the market – and marketing – was. If you take a look at a PC Magazine from the early 80’s you’ll see some really crapalicious ads. They were either waaaay too technical (1,000+ words, selling features and not benefits), or blatantly sexy. Tradeshows were cut from the same bolt of cloth. Breaking up the majority of the booths populated by pocket protectors and propellerheads as far as the eye could see, were some eye-popping booth bimbage.
Gradually, the industry matured, and as it did, booth bunnies in bikinis gave way to runway models in Donna Karan and Calvin Klein. In many ways, the maturing of the market witnessed another phenomenon – when the computer “Boy’s Club” was invaded by the fairer sex, in not just sales rep positions, but C-level jobs as well.
In my experience, the minute you get women involved in positions of authority, all that sex stuff goes right out the window. And with good reason. Men and women look at sex differently. (Okay…they look at EVERYTHING differently. But especially sex.)
With women in leadership positions, we also saw women buyers, and lemme tell you, women that have the power of the corporate purse over your sales forecast tend to take a dim view over being marketed to as a pair of boobs and a nice, tight little ass. Kind of offends them to be reduced to sex objects.
Having learned that this lesson applied to software back in the 80’s, I’m kind of surprised that the firearms industry hasn’t learned in in the new Millenium.
You see, guns aren’t all about guys any more. Women have discovered the necessity of self-defense, as well as the joys associated with blowing small holes in large pieces of paper and other assorted targets. They get it. And the number of women getting into the shooting sports (Cowboy Action, IDPA, IPSEC, et cetera) is growing. So why are gun manufacturers marketing as if they wanna Party Like it’s 1999?
I dunno. Where manufacturers already have (some) products that would ostensibly appeal to women (guns with reduced recoil, smaller grips, easier disassembly for cleaning) their marketing is…well.. kind of Neanderthal. Hey, baby…look at this one. It’s a girls gun…you can tell because it’s PINK. Um…not so much. Most women I know are far more concerned with features like weight, recoil, and stopping power ratios, far more than what color the bloody thing is. You know. Just like men are.
Now I’m not here to slam Kahr Arms. They are but one example of using sexy women to sell their product. There are plenty more companies doing the same thing (and, might I add, not doing it with the same relative class and restraint practiced by Kahr.) But I wonder just how these ads strike women, and how many sales they win…and lose…with ads like this.
Maybe I’m wrong. But in casual conversations with women who shoot, I don’t think so. The days where you can sell a gun as a phallic symbol are over – unless you simply don’t care about selling your products to both sexes.