Burlesque dancers at the Children’s Leukemia Foundation fundraising event? Bikini-clad waitresses for Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure? Both of these would be prime examples of event planning gone very wrong. It’s no news that sex sells, and sexing up an event can be a great way to attract interest, draw guests, push a message, and reach a goal. Whether it’s trying to increase brand awareness and sales in a certain community, or gather potential donors for a needy cause, sex is the quintessential tool to drum up excitement and garner a following. However, when it comes to sex it’s a thin line between appeal and aversion. Without using sex tastefully and appropriately, harshly negative consequences can result including tarnished image, loss of credibility, and decline in loyalty.

Sex has been used in marketing and advertising since ancient Roman times. It appeals to consumers on all three levels: biological – driven by the reproductive mechanisms controlling hormones and libido; emotional – in terms of the bonds of love expressed in feelings and physical manifestations of affection, trust, and happiness; and spiritual – with the concept of connections between individuals producing a sort of nirvana or higher state of life. People have always been curious about sexuality because it is the most private of human experiences, not to mention the most pleasurable. Seeing sexual figures with a product conjures up two possible responses in the consumer: buying/obtaining said item will get me that woman/man, or make me become like that woman/man. So how does this translate to the modern-day corporate or charitable event?

More and more often attendees to today’s event will see sexy ladies handing out swag bags, supermodels lounging around with cocktails, and go-go dancers grinding on platforms. Utilizing such schemes at an event can be useful in increasing attendance and attracting attention only if the sexual device is inline with the target audience and overall event goal. Having hot girls at a Penzoil event makes sense: cars and babes go together, guys like both and guys buy motor oil. But having hot girls at an event for Charles Schwab produces an obvious question mark. When trying to decide if and when sex should be used at an event it’s important to ask these four questions:

1. What is the mission of the event?

2. What is the image of the event sponsor?

3. What type of future branding does this event sponsor hope to maintain?

4. Where is the event?

The last one is especially important. Having burlesque dancers in Los Angeles will have a completely different effect than having burlesque dancers in Lancaster County, PA.

Ultimately sex at an event should be the garnish and not the entree. Too much sex and attendees can forget the sponsor name or event message. Total event failure results when people go home remembering the hot chicks and not the brand name. It’s important to remember that the guests are intelligent and influential people who respond to ideas, innovation, and intrigue. A little tasteful sex presented in an interesting way can be just the thing to reel them in, but it should never be an end in itself.