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Why Men Never Buy Flowers After Condoms

Relevant topics Archive, Advertising

  • Neuromarketing Principle:
    Sex and romance trigger quite distinctive purchase intentions in men
  • Application:
    Selling romantically oriented products to a male target market? Don’t use sex appeals; it makes them devalue romance.
  • In the last decade, psychologists have uncovered many fascinating spillover effects of television genres making people more susceptible to different forms of advertising. A block of commercials isn’t processed in isolation. Instead, it’s tightly connected to the thoughts and feelings activated by the previous show, movie, news story and surrounding ads. This knowledge is solid gold for advertisers, as it allows them give their commercials an extra edge when buying media time.

    Did you know that a scary movie makes you more susceptible to social proof appeals such as testimonials? When scared, people feel an increased need of affiliation with others.

    Or did you know that a romantic movie increases the attraction of scarce products, as it activates the motivation to stand out from the crowd?

    Recently, a team consisting of two marketing scientists set out to investigate the hot topic of romance a bit further. More specifically, they explored whether romantic and sexual content yield different effects to subsequent choice and preferences. And – oh my – it certainly does.

    Sex and romance are two very different things – for men, that is

    Based on the previous example of goal activating television content, you might expect both romantic and sexual cues to increase the allure of products that boost one’s attractiveness to the opposite sex. For women, that’s indeed the case. Seeing a romantic or sexual movie makes them somewhat more likely to subsequently purchase romantic products and spend more attention to commercials with a romantic storyline. Similarly to how a comedy makes you more attuned to all feel-good products out there. Sex-related cues, however, operate in entirely different ways for men.

    Similarly to women, romantic programming increases men’s preference for romantic products. But as soon as the male eye hits something sexual, their preferences shift dramatically. They can’t be bothered with romantic products any longer. For men, the thought of sex seems to instill a romantic blind spot.

    Interestingly, this effect is unidirectional. When a man watches a romantic movie, his preferences increase for romantic as well as sexual products. But when we replace that movie with something a bit more naughty, the man’s preferences narrow to sexual products only. So, for men, sweet romance can turn into sex but not the other way around.

    It’s in our genetic make-up

    The gender difference in people’s response to romantic and sexual content makes evolutionary sense.

    Generally, our romantic and sexual motives are in sync. They are strongly interlinked in the minds of both men and women. But there’s an occasion when the sexes start to behave quite differently: when facing a direct sexual opportunity. Men tend to favor the pursuit of instant sexual gratification. This makes them temporarily devalue anything romantic as nothing more than a slow obstacle obscuring their goals. Women, being the ones to bear the consequences of sex, are a tad more cautious. The thought of sex still makes most women long for the romantic road that precedes it.

    Smart media planning strategies

    This research bears clear-cut guidelines for advertisers targeting a male audience.

    First of all, the allure of both romantic and sexual products increases after romantic programming. But when it contains sexual elements, romantic ads perform tremendously poor, whereas sexual ads hold their strength. It’s a bad idea to advertise your Valentine’s flower service after an episode of Temptation Island.

    Second of all, this principle helps to explain why sex often doesn’t sell in advertising. Yes, it attracts attention. But it does an incredible poor job in selling a product to men, unless that product helps in attaining sex.

    When the advertised product itself has a sexual overtone (such as condoms, lingerie and perfume), advertisers can select either romantic or sexual content to boost their effectiveness. 

  • Why Men Never Buy Flowers After Condoms
  • Reference:

    Ma,J. & Gal, D. (2016). When Sex and Romance Conflict: The Effect of Sexual Imagery in Advertising on Preference for Romantically Linked Products and Services. Journal of Marketing Research, 53 (4), pp. 479-496.


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