Conventional wisdom says sex sells. Here in the United States, we see it on television in advertising for everything from beer to razors to cars. We’re seeing more of it online, too, and I’m not talking about unsolicited email guaranteeing an improved love life or the soul mate you’ve been searching for. I’m referring to a voluptuous woman selling a distinctly unsexy item, such as a piece of computer software.
That leads me to wonder whether sex really does sell. Online, seemingly, it would be possible to prove the theory, as we can track recipient response. Today’s case study delves into this very topic.
SCOTTeVEST manufactures clothing for techies and those travelers who want “to carry and use their electronic gadgets without being burdened by wires and bags.” The brainchild of Scott Jordan, SCOTTeVEST makes jackets, baseball caps, and other gear with special pockets for multiple electronic devices, including cell phones, PDAs, and CD players.
Though interesting, techie clothing is not necessarily a sexy concept. As the company creates a buzz for its innovative products, it’s also creating a buzz over its use of a former Playboy Playmate in its marketing.
Meet Rebecca Scott. Jordan hired Becca in late 2001 to help sell his gear. SCOTTeVEST first began email marketing in October 2001. Jordan says response was satisfactory but not overwhelming. Then, Jordan began to include Becca’s photograph in email marketing campaigns. Using VerticalResponse’s iBuilder, he was able to track an increase in response.
Let’s compare two newsletters sent to roughly the same target audience. The March 2003 edition didn’t include Becca. It went to approximately 48,000 recipients. The open rate was 27 percent and CTR on opens about 31 percent. The following month’s newsletter featured Becca. The open rate was about the same (26.22 percent), but the real difference was in click-throughs. The CTR on opens was 58 percent. Nearly half came from the Becca section of the newsletter.
It’s worth mentioning Jordan learned an important lesson early on in his campaigns. Formerly, the link included with Becca’s picture transported recipients to Playboy’s Web site. After complaints from recipients who worried their bosses might think they were intentionally visiting porn sites at work, Jordan began linking to portions of the SCOTTeVEST’s site instead. Smart move.
It’s also important to mention that unfortunately, we don’t have tracking for the final result: conversion. But given the attention Becca generated, Jordan took the idea and ran with it. His company dedicated an entire section of its site to Becca. It even included free Rebecca Scott wallpaper for computer desktops. Jordan doesn’t have an exact count of how many copies of the program have been downloaded but estimates it’s in the hundreds of thousands. Another tactic was a tongue-in-cheek April Fool’s Day “press release” naming Becca CEO of a new company.
Because using a Playmate is controversial, Jordan wanted to check with his audience’s reaction. In the July 2002 newsletter, he asked if the marketing was too sexy. He included two articles from other sources: Rob Blackstien of Channel Business supported the approach; Mike Wendland of the Detroit Free Press opposed it. Jordan tallied reader responses here. As you can see, the informal survey generated a lot of mail.
I’d love to hear your comments on SCOTTeVEST’s use of Becca’s image in its marketing, not just the recipient’s perspective (does it go too far?), but from a marketer’s viewpoint (does the marketing sell the most product possible?). It’s clear Becca gets the company noticed. What’s unclear is the overall effect that has on sales. One thing is certain; Jordan’s happy with the results.
“Many people have begun to associate our product line with our use of Rebecca Scott. In fact, some people think we are married. I’m glad my wife has a sense of humor,” Jordan observes. “I think some folks are taking this way too seriously, but I’m having fun with it.”
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