You can't sell pizza with porn

Mad Pizza E Bar don’t have the best marketing. That’s the simplest way to put it. Largely because their approach to getting people through the door looks closer to porn than pizza. From the naked women on the walls of their establishment to the close ups of breasts on their menus to the soft-core posts plastered all over their Facebook page, they don’t seem to spend much time focusing on their product – it’s all about the women posing around it.

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So what’s the problem? What’s wrong with using sexualised images in place of a marketing strategy? There’s a bunch of things.

When you sexualise one woman, you’re hurting everyone.

There’s a response to problems like this that many people think is pretty reasonable – if a woman chooses to pose in these kinds of photos, that’s her choice, and there shouldn’t be an issue. But the thing is, sexualised advertising doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It affects everyone. It affects the way we identify women, as people and as sexual beings, because the normalization of those images sets out what “normal” looks like.

That kind of thing damages women, because they’re expected to act and look the way sexualised images look. It damages men, because they’re taught to expect that, as if any less is unacceptable. It damages kids, because they’re exposed to a version of sex, and a version of womanhood, that is not only unrealistic – it’s frankly fictional.

Side note – sexualised images don’t get much more normalised than when they’re plastered on a fast food menu.

It’s actually pretty lazy advertising – and it doesn’t work.

Recent independent studies in the USA have actually shown that sex based advertising is incredibly ineffectual, particularly when compared to ads that embrace a more creative approach. The reason? Our brains are too distracted by that kind of imagery, and we disassociate the products and the brands from what we actually remember – the porn and violence.

Many winning advertising campaigns have started to recognise that, with positive results. Putting the product first and foremost, in a creative way, gets a good response.

For Mad Pizza, this means they’d probably have a more effective social media marketing strategy if they focused on finding a creative way to portray their actual product and what people could love about it.

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A selection of images from Mad Pizza's social media pages

It’s a limiting branding strategy.

I know some people see the sex as being a part of the branding for Mad Pizza – but that’s not a good enough reason to use it. As a branding approach, all it does is tie the company to their images and their women, rather than what they do and what they’re good at. That means people won’t associate them with great pizza – they’ll associate them with great breasts.

Branding is all about building associations. That’s why Nike spend millions of dollars to associate themselves with training, winning and striving. It relates directly to their products. That’s why Apple spend millions of dollars to associate themselves with artists, creatives and thinkers. Those users relate directly to their computers and phones.

The association that branding builds directs attention to the possibilities inherent in what they’re marketing and selling. The association that Mad Pizza’s branding builds diverts attention away from their product, away from their food and solely towards sex. That’s just not constructive branding.

It alienates a great big demographic.

Here’s a fun fact. Women eat pizza. If that’s shocking to a pizza company, they should really start looking at their data, but the fact is that while women statistically eat less pizza, it’s only about 4% less than men. It’s still a big demographic of potential customers, who are going to be alienated or made to feel uncomfortable by having to look at sex and porn while they’re trying to eat.

Put it this way. Men aren’t going to stop buying pizza because there’s no sex to look at. But women will stop buying it because there is. That’s an easy problem to solve.

When companies use sex as a shorthand, they’re not using advertising, marketing or sales in an intelligent or responsible way. They’re damaging their audiences, alienating their customers and not even helping themselves. There’s a lot more to advertising than just putting a woman in a bikini next to your product. There has to be more, or you’re going to fail.

Mad Pizza don’t do a good job of selling their pizza. They do a great job of selling porn, but that’s not their business. If they can’t recognise that, they’re missing out on a chance to grow, both as a business and with their customers!

Guest blog post by Collective Shout supporter Jon Westenberg


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