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The Age of “Wood in” Advertising

Yes, what sells has changed over the years. But sex is undefeated. Here’s an “Exhibit A” example - and what it should mean for your marketing strategy going forward!

By David WyldPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 13 min read
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The Age of “Wood in” Advertising
Photo by Joel & Jasmin Førestbird on Unsplash

Introduction

Yes, I am a strategic management professor who is “of a certain age.” So, sometimes my reference points can be a bit dated, no matter how hard I strive to keep up with the times. In conversations with students, colleagues, and clients, I know that I’m going to miss some references and not quite “get” what is so funny - or alternatively - horrible about a story, an advertisement, a social media post, etc. And at the same time, I know that some of my references from my youth, young adulthood, and now, even my parenthood days won’t resonate with today’s students who were born after September 11th and consulting clients who may not have been alive to see the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

But across the ages and across generations today, sex sells - full stop! Always has, and always will. Sex appeal works. Sex appeal garners your attention, and yes, it will hold it like nothing else. That Cromagnon survival drive works - and literally, our inner caveman - or woman - and sometimes yes, our “inner teenager” just comes out! But the bottom line is this: Sex does heighten interest in what you are offering, and as such, sex does help move products (or sell services - and I’m not talking about any of those services!).

So here is an abject lesson to make you think about how yes, maybe you can - and should - use a little "smart sexiness" - a little “outside the lines” thinking - to help your business move more merch - whatever size and type of business we’re talking about! And yes, this is coming from a management expert whose personal frame of reference was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, when strict censorship on the media and mores in our culture meant that ads for bras had to show the product on a mannequin, not on a person…

Sure, there are limits. Maybe you don’t want to go for the “too adult dentistry” like in the classic Seinfeld episode…

…but here in the 2020s, when we are in the age of the “bent carrot”...

… and the “manscaping”...

…. there may simply not be much of a boundary anymore between parody and effective, sex-appealing-based marketing and advertising (maybe with just a bit of humor thrown in smartly for good measure though)!

So here’s my story that began with this text from 2:37 a.m. one recent morning - which is the best time, of course, to send a promotional text out to wake up someone just for an ad on their phone! You know the drill, you sign up for the 10% discount on your first order ifffffffff you will only supply the online advertiser that you clicked on their social media ad to learn a bit more about their product with your email and your phone number (and for some, birthday, anniversary, favorite color, etc.). PRO TIP: ALWAYS "USE THE CODE," PEOPLE!

This text came from an apparel company called the ortc Clothing Company, with whom, I must say, I was unfamiliar with their oeuvre! So, I clicked on their pre-pre-pre Black Friday sale link, and wallah, I saw something that I knew instantly would become the basis for this article - an article that hopefully resonates with you - and I just know will make my 87-year-old mother, my wife, and yes, my Dean, well, maybe not proud to say: “Yep, he’s mine!,” not quite seeing the marketing implications at first glance!

By Ben White on Unsplash

As you will see in the section ahead, the ortc Black Friday Sale page presents you, the reader, with what should be both an intriguing and cautionary tale at the same time for anyone who markets anything or any service, depending a lot - a whole lot - on your personal perspective and yes, your sense of humor! If you’re a bit prudish or worried about what your coworker, your boss, your students, your spouse, or simply the person sitting next to you on the plane or train might see on your screen in the next few minutes, then you might want to jump down to the concluding analysis section in 3, 2, 1. But, please do bookmark this article or email the link to yourself so that you can read it in full later, of course!

Simply put, the company’s advertising/marketing folks quite obviously had to know what they were doing with their - checks notes - “Pecker”-branded underwear listings. Did their advertising work? No doubt, it did with me (the non-salacious details on that to come though…)! The central question then is this: Could you, should you, would you - no pun intended - try and pull a similar thing off in your marketing, promoting, and advertising of that thing or service that you sell, for yourself, your small business, or your Fortune 500 company?

By Oliver Paaske on Unsplash

ORTC’s “Wood in” Advertising

Okay, there I was a few mornings ago, sleepily making my first cup of coffee to start the caffeine flowing in my veins to get through the day. While waiting that agonizing 90 seconds for the K-cup to brew, I picked up my phone to go through my morning ritual of checking first my messages and then my email to see what I had missed overnight.

Fortunately, nothing reached the “DEFCON 1” level, and I had no real emergency to deal with at 5:30 a.m. So, I noted that 2:37 a.m. text message from ortc Clothing Company. Yes, I had actually signed up for their emails and texts for the promise of a “special” discount on my first order. Their Facebook ads (and yes, you see almost incessant ads from the ortc Cloting Company while you are in the process of writing an article about ortc - thanks Zuckerberg!) first caught my attention as with our son’s upcoming wedding, sparking an idea in my mind about ordering one of their letter ballcaps for the wedding party! Yes, I had the vision of outfitting everyone with a “W” cap for fun - and yes, for pics - as the Wyld family expands!

My mind raced! My adrenalin surged. Maybe, maybe this was the ideal moment to order a dozen or so of their letter caps to make this happen - at Black Friday prices, of course!

My interest was heightened. So, I clicked hoping that I would be soon ordering my dozen hats in that predawn hour. And so I then did what any good, experienced online shopper would do in such a situation, I looked at what was included in their “special” Black Friday sale. And there it was - literally! It leaped off my screen, seared into my retinas, and took up a valuable synapse or two in my increasingly mushy mind. There it was - the ortc Clothing Company’s “Peckers”-branded underwear - in its “full” glory - in Blue Polka Dots, no less!

I gotta admit, my first thought was something along the lines of: “Naw! This has GOT to be a parody account!” I mean, the product was officially named “Burleigh Blue Peckers!” It was, no doubt, impressive - the product layout and marketing that is - what were you thinking? I mean ortc had a total of four photos showing their Burleigh Blue Peckers underwear from every possible angle!

And the photography was high quality - I mean admit it, even you noticed the freckles on the model’s legs!

But I knew that I had signed up for the ortc Clothing Company's emails and texts to try and get that discount on their hats for the wedding! Then, I thought that maybe, just maybe, the Peckers underwear layout was something that was worked up for "fun" in the office, but NEVER meant to ACTUALLY be put on the Web and seen by potential customers. Or maybe it was a hack by those Russians living in their Moms' basements in Minsk?

But then, I scrolled on, and quickly I saw that no, this was not a parody - or a marketing mistake! Sure, the ortc marketing team had their Peckers-branded underwear mixed in with some of their other pre-Black Friday sale items, like t-shirts, and …

…and dress shirts (hey, that model has the same look on his face many days when I show up at work!), and ...

… pants (or is it more correct to say “pant” in this case?), and ...

… swimsuits (for us a bit more modest fellows), and finally ...

… even $195 “sale” shoes, but ...

… to my surprise, there were no hats to be found (not even an “E” or an “O” or a “Y,” no less!).

But then, I saw that the Peckers-branded underwear came in different colors and styles! As I scrolled a few items down, I saw the rest of their Peckers-branded line of underwear (yes, I had to “soldier on” in the name of “research” for this article!). I then came upon what had to be the ortc marketing team’s pièce de résistance, the “Manly Pink Peckers!” Yes, they - and I - will drop the mic!

Analysis

Okay, so I know the question that is first on your list: Did I buy any of this underwear? How did I choose between the “Burleigh Blue” and the “Manly Pink” varieties of Peckers underwear - or did I buy them both? Well, the answer is no - because I am of a certain age - and a certain build as well!

However, I must, in the final analysis, take my hat off to the marketing folks at ortc Clothing Company! They were definitely able to capture my attention, which, after all, is the goal of any good marketing effort. Just because that attention didn’t result in action (i.e. buying the underwear) was not because of anything they did or did not do. Rather, it was a matter of this potential customer’s demographics (now if they see this article and want to send me those 12 “W” caps, quarter-zip or something else…).

What can - or should - you take away from this admittedly unusual case study about the ortc Clothing Company and its Black Friday ad? Certainly, I’d recommend not sending your big sale text at 2:37 a.m. and risk waking your prospect up! That’s the obvious one!

More importantly though, from the perspective of this management expert, I think the real lesson to be learned here is not necessarily that sex sells in a generic sense. That’s an easy one. What “worked” here was admittedly a combination of creative naming and photography that created something that was eye-catching (some might even say “eye candy”), and yes, their products stopped my scrolling and got my attention. As Alec Baldwin so masterfully explained in his soliloquy - authored by David Mamet - in the classic movie, “Glengarry Glen Ross,” any marketer’s, any advertiser’s, and any salesperson’s primary goal, bottom line, is to walk their prospect(s) through the AIDA (Attention, Interest, Decision, Action) process…

Sex does draw interest - no doubt! One need look no further than the list of most visited domains (See Table 1 - Top Tracfficked Websites in the United States, September 2023) to see that sex does arouse attention, attracts interest, and yes, entices users to make decisions and take action - whether just to read, to watch, to search, to view, or yes, to shop and purchase!

Table 1 - Top Trafficked Websites in the United States, September 2023

Source Data: Semrush, Top Websites in the US by Traffic (September 2023), November 2023.

As you can see, adult sites like pornhub.com (the 5th most visited website in the U.S.), xvideos.com (11th), and xnxx.com (18th) currently comprise some of the most trafficked sites on the Internet (no, I’m not linking to those sites guys - you’ll have to find them on your own!). While not outranking sites such as Google and YouTube, it is still amazing to think that pornhub - yes, pornhub - today outranks Amazon (the 6th most visited website in the U.S.) in traffic, as well as Yahoo (7th), Wikipedia (8th), and even Twitter (or X) (10th) and a whole host of “name brand” search, news, sports, and even social media sites, like a little thing called Instagram! These adult sites are also more “sticky” - again please, no pun intended whatsoever - in that people stay longer on these websites, look at more pages per visit to these sites, and show far lower bounce rates (meaning that people leave a website without taking an action of some sort [i.e. clicking, viewing a video (or two), and/or subscribing/purchasing services]) than seen on the vast majority of these other sites that are among the most popular domains in our country - and on the planet!

To me, as somewhat of an expert with a good bit of “street cred” on marketing and strategy matters, I must acknowledge both the sheer audacity - and the simple genius - of what the marketing and advertising team at ortc did with the way they went about marketing their “Pecker” underwear. Granted, this underwear did not meet my taste, likely again because of my age, marital status, etc. However, their marketing worked! It certainly spurred my interest, if not to buy, then to write this article!

Now, ortc is not by any means trying to corner the “sexy underwear” market! If one were brave enough to Google those two words - well, just don’t on your work computer or other device! However, with some really adult sites offering such things and then mainstream firms today, like MeUndies

…and Tommy John

… advertising all over podcasts (and TV) in looking to serve your underpants' needs (and wants), the market is just going to bulge - okay, last one, no pun intended there (well, maybe!).

And yes, I will hold the company and its marketing prowess up as an example in my classes of what you can do for your own business with just a little “out of the box” thinking - and yes, maybe a bit edgy, if not risque, advertising and promotion! Be creative - as we might just be in for the “Roaring 2020’s!”

And with more and more mores falling away each and every day - sexual mores, drug use mores, ethnic mores, social mores, etc., the formerly off-limits could well be your marketing “secret sauce” and what was once taboo could be the way to reach your target market. In other words, the time for timidity is over! In an evermore crowded, noisy, turbulent and even angry marketplace, sex, well, sex - used creatively, and especially with a sense of humor - will sell! Funny will bring you more real American dollars! And as a corollary, edgy marketing and advertising will - of necessity to be seen, heard, and yes, most importantly, acted upon - need to be edgier! Marketing is definitely going to go places that we would have never thought possible just a few years back, let alone in the days of that Jayne Russell bra commercial. As yes, a cigarette ad (for a brand called Virginia Slims, that targeted female smokers - yeah, that was a thing back in the 1960’s) famously put it with their advertising tagline: “You’ve come a long way, baby!”

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About David Wyld

David Wyld is a Professor of Strategic Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, publisher, executive educator, and experienced expert witness. You can view all of his work at https://authory.com/DavidWyld. You can subscribe to his Medium article feed at: https://davidwyld.medium.com/subscribe.

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About the Creator

David Wyld

Professor, Consultant, Doer. Founder/Publisher of The IDEA Publishing (http://www.theideapublishing.com/) & Modern Business Press (http://www.modernbusinesspress.com)

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  • Mark Graham3 months ago

    Interesting in many ways and got to be careful out there in all ways.

  • Babs Iverson3 months ago

    A+ advice, humor, business, and humor!!!❤️❤️💕

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