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Sex Sells – promoting your business

The Flake phallic classics were designed to appeal to a target audience of 16 – 34 year old women.   They see Flake as a way of escaping normal life – just for a while. Each Flake advert since 1959 involves beautiful women doing wonderfully exotic things while eating a six-inch length of chocolate ‘flavoured’ sweet.  When Deborah Leng put her tongue on the flake when she bit into it, whilst sat on the window ledge of a French chateau – sales shot up!


The appeal is not in the product but the symbolisations; the perceptions that have been generated by the visual impact of these TV ads.  If you eat a Flake you too can have a nice hot, old fashioned bubble bath with no screaming kids around.  Splash as much water as you like onto your marble floor which will mysteriously clear itself up afterwards and suckle on a lovely chocolate bar without smearing it all over your hands and face and thus needing a bath thereafter.

As Zig Ziglar said, people buy at the point of emotion and justify the logic later.  They buy because they WANT to feel like that – whatever that is to them. In other words, it is their perceived benefits that they buy, not the features.

“Features versus benefits”

This is back to real marketing basics.  It is not too difficult to identify the features and the benefits of a simple product.  It has a long handle so that it reaches the parts that other loo brushes etc etc which means that your toilet is 100% spotless and germ free etc etc.  But there are many service industry businesses that describe what they ‘do’ for a living (features) rather than what the customer wants (benefits). 

So in the first instance we need to identify why the customer chooses to buy the service.  Then we need to find the power-packed words to sex it up.  The aim is to trigger the emotions that motivate other customers to spend their money, time, or energy.  Remember the feature is what the company puts in and the benefit is what you get out.


Have you ever wondered why the Asda ad features a bottom pat?  It not only symbolises great savings but ‘bottom’ end of the market perhaps.  Whilst some of us are happy to shop at Asda others wouldn’t dream of shopping anywhere else but Waitrose or M&S.  And how many of us has ever looked at someone else’s shopping trolley and made a comparison, considered the corresponding lifestyle and habits?  It is so easy to make class and aspiration assumptions.

How closely does your marketing approach match your target client’s personal perceptions?  Do you really identify with their ‘class’?  Do you measure up to their ego expectations?  To make it easy for them to buy into your business you need to recognise the emotions that motivate them.  Then pitch your business that makes it sexy for them and win over the business.

The Flake ads have consistently been loaded with sexual symbolism to perpetuate the buying trigger. Even the idea of the lizard on the telephone came from the lighting cameraman who said “why don’t we add this touch of exotica” 

PS In a 1999 survey by Cadbury’s, women said “Yeh we like the lizard – and we are not going to tell you why”

With thanks to Linda Parkinson-Hardman and Alison Boyle for the inspiration for this post.

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