DEMAND GENERATION: Does sex sell in B2B?

Sex symbols, hot women and provocative poses. It might work for B2C brands but does sex really sell in B2B? Claire Weekes investigates

Okay, so you’d expect the use of sexual imagery to help along sales of a bra. But sex doesn’t just help to sell obviously sexy products. Virgin Media is famous for the use of sexy actors in its ads to promote air travel (flying might have glamourous connotations, but we all know that unless you’re in first class it’s just exhausting and uncomfortable). Then there is that Specsavers ad featuring bikini-clad women running towards (and then backing away from) a geeky man wearing terrible specs – a classic example of the use of sex to sell a non-sexy item. But can the same tactics work in B2B?

“Broadly speaking, it’s more likely to be successful in the B2C space, due to the more complex nature of purchasing decisions in B2B,” argues Alan Newton, global supply chain director at Grass Roots. “You’re often dealing with several decision makers in the B2B space, whereas this is less likely in B2C. Trying to use the lowest common denominator with a whole group, especially one with diverse backgrounds, is less likely to be successful. Purchasing has matured and there are complex reasons behind buying a product or service on behalf of a business.”