Does Sexualizing Outdoor Brands Sell Product?

For many outdoor companies, even kayak companies, the question will eventually come up. “Will a scantily clad woman in one of our [kayaks] sell more of our products?” We haven’t seen it yet, but with the trends of Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram fame for women repping products moving the way they are, it could be around the corner. Lots of views and impressions but to what end?

You see it in the fishing industry, hunting industry, car industry, frankly just about everywhere else. Companies hire women, willing to wear a string bikini and pose in “alluring” positions to try to squeeze more sales out of the marketplace. While it is popular as a marketing tool, does it actually equate to greater sales?

I remember at ICAST seeing meet and greet lines set up for these women that bow fish, in very little clothing. The posters were 10 feet tall. The lines looked long. Frankly, I don’t know what those women have done to revolutionize archery other than missing a few meals and hitting the treadmill. Another group of posters was of women fighting blue water pelagics in limited coverage attire. It was reminiscent of the old beer joints with cardboard cutouts of Kathy Ireland in a swimsuit and near a beer bottle for this brand or that. I don’t think for a second miss Ireland was chugging down the Bud Light. Just like I don’t think for a second that if dollars weren’t attached, the bikini babes wouldn’t be 30 miles out to sea fighting a Marlin. At least not dressed like that. The bottom line question is still will bikini babes sell a kayak?

The answer is variable and vague at best.

For a company that is well established, why would you need to do that? Will your product not stand alone to sell itself on its merits and features? For a new company, it seems like a desperate ploy for attention. And let me be clear, you WILL get attention. But is it attention or sales that you are after?

I am fairly certain I have never bought a kayak because I saw a swimsuit model paddling that same one. I am fairly certain a swimsuit model, in uniform, would not convince my wife to buy that particular kayak simply from a photo.

I am not saying the photo won’t get attention (and not all attention is good attention) but what I am saying is for many people, especially in the kayak fishing world, the idea of buying a kayak because some tiny woman who misplaced many of her clothes and looks in need of a Double Whataburger, thinks I should is farfetched.

Now, if you are looking for web clicks and video watches, you will get that. There is a reason the porn industry grows every year and makes billions (yes, with a b). But aren’t sales the thing that will keep you in business? Aren’t sales how you keep employees employed? So why? Are dollars not better spent by true advocates of the sport being able to get your message out? Aren’t professional fishermen at the highest levels a way to bring attention from their audience to your product?

I am not saying that ankle length dresses and sun bonnets should be in your photo catalog. What I am saying is that by sexualizing your brand, you ostracize most women, lots of men, and become the favorite catalog of people looking for a little titillation.

Will those that you haven’t driven off buy a kayak? Maybe, maybe not. Chances are they will use your brand for gawking and ask their Facebook friends which kayak will work best for them. I still have not seen, in all of the myriad kayak buyer questions, someone to ask “Which of the brands will get me that girl in the yellow bikini?” or “I’m looking for a kayak that will get me laid. Which one is that?”

Haven’t seen it.

I think the risk for a company going that direction is much greater than the potential gain, at least in the kayak fishing world. I’m not saying you won’t get clicks, but I think it will hurt your brand image and tell the general public you are more about sex than you are about developing a quality product.

But what do I know? I’m just an old married dude paddling some plastic.


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