OPINION: Thinkpiece - A bit of passion can help spice up campaigns

Peter Maple, director of Kew Quorum

Commercial advertisers have for many years used sex to help sell products and differentiate brands. Yet in 2002, although deemed unacceptable, demeaning to women and reinforcing sexual stereotypes, it still goes on, albeit with more subtle executions.

Early television advertising was full of innuendo and suggestion - the glamorous girl sucking slowly on a Cadbury's flake. Even now tobacco companies' sponsorship of Formula One racing, with all its overtones of machismo and sexual activity, is a clear acknowledgement of how the continuing power of sex can help sell products. Sex continues to be used by advertisers to put over images of attractive lifestyles and is a way of building brand recognition.

So where is charity in all this? Surely the two are mutually exclusive?

After all, the root of the word charity is caritas - representation of the divine purpose or altruistic love: how can this square with passionate love, sex in all its guises? You can't use overtly sexual messages to help raise funds for a good cause, can you?

The answer has to be a resounding yes: you can harness the power of passion.

Bob Geldof's passionate plea, "just give us the fucking money" at the Live Aid concert in 1985 is unforgettable. It was aggressive, powerful and really quite seductive. The Band Aid record that preceded the concert happened because Geldof himself had been watching television scenes of the terrible famine in Ethiopia.

It is debatable whether sexual passion has a place in the non-profit marketing strategy. Nevertheless, as many charity supporters will attest, without passion it becomes hard to differentiate one charity from another.

Aggression, anger, outrage, desperation are all powerful, appropriate emotions for those seeking to communicate the messages of the non-profit organisation. These can and should evoke passion in the communicator and the recipient. The call to action then becomes irresistible. The call to action through sexual attraction, though very potent, can usually be resisted.

The above article is a partial excerpt from Maple's new book Marketing Strategy - For Effective Fundraising, which is due to be published by the Directory of Social Change on 29 April.

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