Catalyst: How sex lost its sparkle

Catalyst: How sex lost its sparkle

Skol, the Brazilian beer brand defying stereotypes

Sex sells. Allegedly, sex­ualised images appeal to our primitive, lizard brain. Perhaps that is what makes it impossible to understand a car’s unique benefits without a semi-naked woman draped across it. Surely 150 years of marketing using pretty ladies (and men) cannot be wrong.

But the tide is turning. Brands are turning their backs on the sex trope. One of those leading the charge is Skol, Brazil’s number-one beer brand, accord­ing to Interbrand. This is neither a sec­tor nor a country that leaps to mind in the fight against hyper-sexualisation and gender equality. But that is just one more assumption it is high time we challenged.

Turning the tide

Skol’s journey to challenging con­vention began more than ten years ago, when it stopped making highly sexu­alised ads featuring partially-dressed women who offered a refreshing drink with a come-hither look. Before this, Skol had fully embraced this brand icon, with competitions to find the most beautiful girl to front the campaign, press follow­ing them everywhere and an inevitable Playboy Brazil cover into the bargain.

Pre-1990s, the market was aimed at a macho demo­graphic. But by the end of the 1980s, it was time to make the product more appealing to a female as well as a younger audience.

There is definitely a sense that Skol was ahead of its time. Certainly, its fel­low Brazilian beer brands continued to rely on girls to sell products but it is still taking brands the world over time to bring gender equality to the table. Adweek reported in late 2017 that women continue to be sexualised in ads.

Building a wider appeal

It takes a certain courage to chal­lenge convention. Instead of following the herd with more girls, Skol instead turned to innovation and humour to tell its stories. Campaigns positioned the brand as ‘one of us’, using plays on com­monly-used slang to align itself with its audience.

Instead of simply erasing the girls in bikinis, Skol transformed them – liter­ally – with its Reposter campaign. The company invited eight artists to reim­agine its old campaigns. These illus­trators covered over the girls in the old posters, but it wasn’t just an exercise in modesty. Instead of pictured on a beach serving beer, the girls were imagined in a range of empowering scenarios. Instead of bikinis, they sported slogan tees; lone girls acquired friends and were shown having fun on their own terms.

Skol’s marketing director, Maria Fernanda Albuquerque, believes the success of the campaign goes further in addressing the brand’s relationship with its customers. “The impact was extremely positive. There is a more open relationship between [our] brand and consumers. We evolved our values with society, and this is very important for the general public. When a brand speaks openly and presents a truthful purpose, the public becomes more receptive.”

To find out more from Skol’s marketing director, Maria Fernanda Albuquerque, about the success of this campaign, become a member of CIM for as little as £13 a month and access the latest edition of Catalyst magazine by clicking the link below.

Morag Cuddeford-Jones Editor Catalyst

Catalyst: How sex lost its sparkle

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