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Using sex to sell proves anti-climactic

Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti
31 July 2017 1 minute readShare
Shirtless man, torso

Businesses looking to cash in on the idea that ‘sex sells’ may be left sorely disappointed, with one business owner’s experience proving such a belief is not always true.

For Sean Ashby, founder of men’s swimwear and underwear brand aussieBum, the nature of his products lent themselves towards using sex appeal as a marketing tool.

“We’re selling swimwear, selling underwear, so it’s cheeky, it’s sexy. And because it’s the male form, I’m going for it,” Sean says on the My Business Podcast.

However, he found that despite the perception of Australians as fun-loving, beach-obsessed larrikins, such advertising – particularly in aussieBum’s early days in the 2000s – only had a very niche appeal here.

“In different countries, people have, let’s call it, different tolerances for different ways of marketing. Australia is very conservative,” he says.

“[When it comes to sex sells], in Australia, we’re not used to that. So when they started to get a taste of my marketing and with the brand, it was automatically pigeonholed as “Oh, you know, that’s just a little bit too ... No, no, no, no.”

Somewhat surprisingly, Sean says his overt marketing has much more success in the likes of America and Europe than here in Australia.

“What’s interesting is that there are billboards that we run in the UK, Germany and LA that run without any incident. In Australia, we’re not even allowed to put those images up because they feel that people will find it offensive, which I find ridiculous.”

However, Sean says that attitudes are slowly changing in Australia, meaning that more overt marketing and advertising are becoming increasingly accepted.

“Today it’s matured a little bit more, and we’ve got a bus campaign for example running, and there’s a man with a pair of underwear and he’s very beautiful. The Australians are warming to that more,” he says.

Hear more insights from Sean, who took $30,000 in savings and turned it into a business that delivered $150 million in sales, on the My Business Podcast below:

Using sex to sell proves anti-climactic
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Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the former editor of MyBusiness and a senior freelance media professional, specialising in the fields of business, personal finance and property. In 2020, he also embarked on his own business journey – inspired in part by the entrepreneurs and founders he had met through his journalistic work – with the launch of customised pet gifting and subscription service Paws N’ All.

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