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Sex Sells and Other Marketing Myths that Can Tank Your Strategies

by Vincent Wood

May 10, 2022

“Sex sells!” No, it doesn’t but it does generate clicks hence why I’ve cynically employed the word here. Sorry, not sorry.

The point being, this supposedly universal truth is actually rubbish in terms of marketing and probably stems from as far back as the 1870s when tobacco companies started using double entendres on their packaging. The thing is… things have changed a lot since the 1870s.

In advertising, at least, there may be some credence to this as sex grabs attention. But it doesn’t necessarily hold it. In fact, depending on which studies you read, it either completely turns women off from a product and only sells to men, or it turns women off and just makes men think about sex and not the product. Either way, it’s not a sure-fire winner and there are plenty of other ways to harness emotions in marketing, as you can read about here.

So, why am I banging on about it when it doesn’t hold any water? Well, people think it’s true, so they still employ it, and marketing is littered with stories like this. Sometimes, two pieces of considered conventional wisdom actually clash with one another and yet people still cling to them with fervour, ignoring the obviously paradoxical nature of these statements.

One that really grinds my gears, as a content writer, is “anyone can write content”, which is usually thrown out in the same sentence as “content is king.” Which one is it? Can anyone do my job, which I’ve sunk 10 years into, trying to carve out a career, three years at university (and a considerable amount of debt) into a Creative Writing degree, not to mention the hours of optional research into marketing, SEO and whatever else I thought would be good for career progression, or is it so valuable that it should be the first and last thing you look at? – Hint, the correct answer is the one that is not going to result in a furious content writer.

Particular favourites of mine at the moment are “everyone’s a potential customer”, in which your marketing strategy is not targeted at all because you want to cast the broadest net possible, inevitably resulting in miserable return on investment because you don’t know who you should be selling too. And “social media doesn’t matter.” Cool, tell that to the approximately 45 million people in the UK alone using Facebook out of the 2.9 billion monthly global users. Or the 1 billion worldwide on TikTok (not to mention other platforms).

Combine this ‘universal’ knowledge with a desire to ape the success of others and quite often people chase down a cataclysmically ridiculous marketing strategy where they try and copy someone else’s moves that just don’t apply to them or their field. If I had a quid for every time I’ve had someone ask me if we could write it more like the, undeniably fabulous, marketing of Innocent Smoothies, I could probably retire now in my early 30s. Sure, I can do it for you but I don’t think people want their accountant to sound quirky, cool or irreverent.

So, I implore you, ask someone about tone of voice and what it can do for your brand. Perhaps a professional content writer. Or ask SEO experts what they can do to get your website noticed. Ask Digital PR executives how you can get your brand noticed. Ask people who work in PPC what you need to do to get people clicking onto your site.

Or, better yet, ask a search marketing agency like Honcho, that has all of these under one umbrella and working in tandem to help you out…and for the love of all that is good, please don’t write your own content.


Content Marketing
marketing strategy
Content marketing agency