Vietjet airline believes that sex sells
I recently stumbled on an article celebrating the success of Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, who is about to become the first female Billionaire in Vietnam. Thao single-handedly built a successful airline in Southeast Asia. VietJet is the country’s only privately-owned airline and is about to go public. That in itself is impressive and all hats off to her. But what makes the story really interesting is the fact that her flight attendants wear swimsuits onboard, employing the age-old view that “sex sells.” VietJet’s owner believes her bikini-clad staff is empowering women in the conservative culture of the country. But is she really empowering women or is she simply taking advantage of a controversial advertising angle?
Since the beginning of modern advertising, sexual themes have been used to sell products. Tobacco companies in the late 1800s used this method by embedding trading cards in cigarette boxes illustrating naked or partially clothed women.
An old Business Insider article, “Do You Think Sex Sells? Think Again” points out several common reasons why people still believe that sex sells. Author Ira Kalb believes that one of the reasons is because it gets attention. However, independent research studies show that sex sells only when the product being sold is related to sex.
That may be true, but in this competitive digital world of surplus advertising, people seem to employ any means to grab attention.
According to an article in Elite Readers, VietJet was able to capture more than 30% of the industry’s market share as a direct result of the bikini campaign. The article goes on to suggest that VietJet gained popularity because of its very young flight attendants who wear bikinis for their inaugural flights to beach locations. Very young flight attendants? Which begs the question: how well trained are these very young flight attendants? For example, are they mature enough to handle an emergency onboard?
Adrian Furnham’s article for Psychology Today titled “Does Sex Sell?” sums it up. “People see, listen to or read an advertisement. They recall the brand, its strap-line, and the product. They later recognize the products in shops, on the web or elsewhere and buy it. They trust products more that have been advertised. Good ads lead to great sales.” Adrian also points out that people have to notice the ad, pay attention to it, understand the central message and integrate it. In a conservative country like Vietnam, people are definitely paying attention to VietJet's bikini ad campaign.
VietJet might be grabbing industry market-share due to their sexy ad campaign, but the question is, will the airline survive? It’s no secret that there are plenty of unhappy VietJet travelers who feel that the end-to-end customer experience is very poor (myself included). Let’s see if their sexy campaign can continue to carry them against their international competitors.
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- Amour Setter is a Digital Nomad/Entrepreneur who has been traveling the world and working remotely for the past 5 years.