Sex Sells – Cause Marketing vs Responsible Marketing

Do you remember this PETA ad?


Here a celebrity is shown posing naked with a tagline I am a vegetarian.

It would be appreciated by some for the cause PETA is trying to promote.

Some would see it as objectification of women in the same manner as other Brands like Ford, American Apparel and Axe are doing, despite PETA’s cause.

Others may even criticize since there doesn’t seem to be a connection between nakedness and being a vegetarian.  So a consumer may leave the main message behind and take the nudity with them????.


Finding famous attractive people, making them take their clothes off and styling them with icons for their mission is not Cause Marketing. Just because you have a cause sex cannot be used as a tool…Cause marketing is not a staged PR stunt. A Brand’s intention might be good but they need to understand that Cause marketing is null without social responsibility.

And if you assume that celebs posing nude will effectively highlight your cause then how do you set yourself apart from rest of the gang.But, yes if the celeb in question carries ‘expert’ authority or relevance for the brand, the cause will become more powerful. For instance, I still remember Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s appearance on public awareness film on eye donation where she pledged to donate her eyes.


I see a pattern here…

According to Brands: Sex + Celebs = Eyeballs

Whereas I think the Brands suffer the double whammy of being denigrated at all social levels because of branding sex + celeb element.  One may argue that such ads create viral pyramids and amplified attention.  I agree attention for one’s cause is very good but not all the attention is positive, and in many cases the consumer is attracted away from, rather than toward, the product or cause. The brands need to pay equal attention to the consumer verbatim that drives emotional benefits.


Let me impute my point further. Incorporating sexually charged imagery into your campaign to sell your cause is not responsible marketing.  The so-called shock value of this strategy overpowers your cause and the focus is shifted.

Cause marketing is psychologically linked to credibility. Especially in the era where consumers are armed with flow of information the need to be authentic in your approach towards them is more vital than ever.Empowered, savvy, and willing to make a point with their money, these consumers are calling the shots. Consumers do business with Brands they know, like and trust. The Brand involved must also be perceived to be credible in its support of a certain cause in order for the campaign to be effective.


According to me the motto of your marketing strategy should be to improve attitude towards company-cause alliance and not mix sex with activism to garner attention.

There were days when public health posters on AIDS used to be informative and appealing to a sense of parental responsibility. AIDS Action committee in Boston came out with ads showing a parent teaching his child with a tagline “Don’t Forget the Chapter on AIDS”. While today, campaigns run by Quebec has replaced elements of family value by using sexed up brazen images.


To sum up, as a Marketer I believe Brands should not invest in making campaigns steamy to set off fire alarms instead they should bring about substance to promote their cause and connect with ethical values of consumers.


3 thoughts on “Sex Sells – Cause Marketing vs Responsible Marketing

  1. Great writing…

    On the other note.. I wonder how you deducted that “What you sow is what you reap” into Karma. Karma is crap..literally. With all due respect. We might have a lot to talk about if you are interested.

  2. Hi Raj, happy to know you liked the blog.As for your thoughts on Karma, i believe we all have our set of beliefs and i as an individual have strong faith in Karma. Thanks for respecting.

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