Sexy sells.

These days, stimulating the mind and the heart from the advertisement all the way through to the experience is hot, hot, hot. It’s what attracts people to products, what creates loyalty to brands. And it’s building across the luxury spectrum. Hermes, Prada, Ferrari, Burberry are booming while other less sexy brands sit unwanted, like wallflowers at the school dance.

Real estate has pheromones. It seems it just doesn’t know how to release them.

Understanding sexy

In my junior year of college, my advertising class was tasked with fabricating a company and delivering the creativity necessary to launch it on TV, radio and print (this was pre-Internet). The idea was to come up with something challenging. Not a Wall Street investment firm or uptown haberdashery. Our professor wanted us to stretch our imaginations.

I invented an airline, Flynite Air. It had no seats and flew only redeye, New York to Florida. Passengers flew like they rode subways, holding on to straphangers. For the ad campaign, I took the phallic imagery of an airplane and explored the Studio 54 that could be inside it — bodies against bodies brandishing cocktails and gyrating under the disco inferno as they “stood” for what they believed in. That was the TV campaign. For the print ads, it was “standing” up for what they believed in (cheap fares) as great men and women throughout history did.

The project earned me more than a good grade and a job referral to a Madison Avenue ad agency. My professor told me I understood sexy.

Sexy stirs the viewer beyond the impulse buy. It beckons them to evaluate the premise, to evaluate their choices, to think. My project created a connection for my professor between imagery and reality. I used people he admired and combined their actions with my premise. In his words, “If Moses could stand on the mountain for 40 days to receive two tablets, what’s two hours standing to save a few hundred dollars?”

Getting jiggy with advertising

Diageo last week revealed its “sexy” by inking a deal with international brand builder P. Diddy to develop Ciroc, their premium Vodka. Until last week, Ciroc was one of many premium brands (Ketel One, Armadale, Grey Goose, Türi, Belvedere, Zyr, Jewel of Russia Classic, etc.) that distinguish themselves by region, ingredients and process. Interesting elements indeed, but not very sexy.

Ciroc is a lesser-known brand than its counterparts, but Diddy believes that can change. He lives in trendy bars and has witnessed how sexy a cocktail can be when held in an ice-cold glass that sweats in the hard grip of slender, polished fingers. Diddy sees the allure of a glass, its shape and contour as it nears pouty lips that open gently and take in the frosted rim. Slowly. Lovingly. The throat, bronzed and velvet like, pulsating as it savors every droplet.

Ciroc. To life!

Sexy is a niche not one vodka has filled. P. Diddy will fill it. His jet-setting, hip-hop mogul lifestyle can be lived, vicariously, by the millions who will sip Ciroc neat, over, up. That’s hot. As is the millions in profits Diddy will make if he succeeds.

How does this relate to real estate? Well for starters, like most vodkas, real estate brands are borderline frigid. But they don’t have to be. Stripped down, real estate is actually quite hot. Couples sitting next to each other at night sipping wine searching homes is sexy. Spying on other homes and their values is sexy. Buying property is way hot. Come on, where else in life does anyone spend a million bucks?

What about technology? Isn’t that sexy? With the advent of Web 2.0 and all the super-cool devices now available, from iPhones to tablet computers, I’m wondering why there’s not a brand out there willing to turn on a little Will Smith, unravel its hair, and get jiggy wit’ advertising.

In love

The difference between sex and sexy is that sex ads require no thought, no pondering. Sexy on the other hand affects the mind, the heart. It compels. It touches. It grips you so hard that 30 years later you’re still in love with the brand. Coca-Cola, 1979: When that little kid offered Mean Joe Greene his Coke, I lost it. And the fact that I remember that 30 years later is exactly what sexy is all about.

Sexy is me getting an e-mail about Apple’s new Leopard operating system, buying it, and having the experience match the promise of the ad. That consummation of promise and experience is love for the brand.
Sexy is my wife and me watching HGTV. The programming bridges our interests, awakens our imaginations. During that time, real estate seems real. We see possibilities and discuss investing and making home improvements. We watch rooms transform and people who dreamed of home ownership at the top of the hour owning a fully decorated house 30 minutes later. 
When you’ve been married for 25 years, that’s very sexy.

I’m too sexy for my shirt

But then we wake up. And the morning breath of the other real estate wafts over us. The real estate filled with self-promotional marketing, misspelling, poor grammar and inane narcissism.

Right Said Fred’s hit song, “I’m Too Sexy,” is about self-empowerment on the catwalk of life, about drawing on your own animal magnetism to endow yourself with sexiness. It’s about ripping off your shirt and revealing the parts of you that serve to attract others. But it was just a song, a metaphor not to be taken literally.

I wonder how it’s possible that despite the dozens of incredibly sexy things this business could market around, despite the overwhelming opportunity to truly connect, and consummate, all we end up with are cold showers. Real estate has the good to create amazing brands and fantastic ad campaigns. Start by telling consumers the truth. The truth is downright sexy. Tell it, and be original and different. Lure the viewer in using the very things you know they are already attracted to. Ditch the things you know don’t work: clichés, empty promises, animals, vanity.

Just think, “What would Diddy do?”

Marc Davison is a founding partner of 1000watt Consulting. He can be reached at


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