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Why sex sells, but your website doesn’t

First, if you were hoping to see some nudes in this article, I have bad news;
do not even bother reading further. Those of you who decided to continue
(my audience is probably 80% female by now), smart move.

Sex sells. That is a fact and should not be a secret anymore by now. If you use it in the right context, it works. Popular men’s magazines for example have done tests with semi-naked women on the cover. They always outperform a celebrity on the cover, even if it is someone people wanted to read about.

What is it than that makes sex sell? It is simple genetics. The reptile brain.

The part of our brains that is intuitive and associative. It is fast, always on, has a large capacity and requires no effort. The other part is you; aware of itself, it is conscious, self-aware, rational and logical. The latter part wants to let us belief the first one is not there. Yet, as it turns out, we use our old, reptilian brains to make most of our decisions. Sex in marketing is the perfect example, but there are other ones. Activism for example, which is nowadays even more popular than sex in advertising. We have never seen so many brands take a political stance.

Cogito ergo sum? Nope

We are never dependent purely on rationality. Pure rationality does not exist. It is called Descartes error, as written in the ’94 book by neurologist Antonio Damasio. Emotions guide (or bias) behavior and decision-making. Rationality requires emotional input.

Knowing this, why do we continue to optimize our digital platforms for rationality almost only?

Being in digital, we are all guilty of it. Never have there been more possibilities to gain insights in our customers behavior. We can measure online shopping funnels. We know the pages our customers visited, how much time they spend on a page, where they came from, and so on. We keep track of the products our customers bought and the interactions they have had with our company. We even know what the fastest way to a sales is (X clicks).

It has become a natural reflex of marketers these days to think about usability or user interface optimization, conversion rate optimization (CRO), personalization, and many other buzzwords when sales needs to be improved.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Where it goes wrong is that we lose ourselves in kpi’s and metrics, often overlooking the core of the problem. Remember that rationality requires emotional input.

Work at two speeds for your web presence

Use smart data to fuel emotion and creativity. Make stunning designs and create an experience for your customers. Whilst doing so, analyze in order to be able to optimize. There should be no excuse, regardless of your product or service to be boring.

Let the crazy creatives become best friends with the shy data scientists. Success is at the intersection of emotion and rationality. Move people. Inspire them. And whilst doing so; sell to them!

Want to know how we approach this at The Reference? Or you just want to talk dirty after reading all this?

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