What’s Sex Got to Do With… T-Mobile?

But really… what does sex have to do with any mobile carrier?

Meet Carly Foulkes, T-Mobile’s spokesmodel for the last several years. Initially, her image for the brand was “cute”—she was presented in knee-length, magenta sundresses and was always wearing a smile. In the commercials, she introduced herself as a T-Mobile cell phone and had discussions with a sad-looking businessman who was supposedly playing a competing cell phone on AT &T. It seemed odd to me that the brand would seek to objectify their spokesperson so blatantly. But, it worked: following the company’s first set of ads, she was known widely as “The T-Mobile Girl”

Analysts claim that T-Mobile was highly successful in getting their name out there, yet they continued to fail to sell phones. Of course, the next strategy was to make their brand sexy. Quickly, T-Mobile changed her image dramatically – a Grease type of transformation. She changed from 60’s inspired sundresses to a black-and-pink leather bodysuit as depicted in this “No More Mr. Nice Girl” ad:

These marketing changes fall in line directly with Marxist beliefs. The bottom line: sex sells. When marketed correctly, sexiness makes a brand more desirable—if you buy the product, you will get pleasure from it as well as achieve the level of sexiness that is advertised. Additionally, we see the “good girl” to “bad girl” change as discussed in Tolman’s analysis in “Adolescent Girls’ Sexuality.” Ms. Foulkes transformed from a girlish image to a badass woman overnight.

I understand that sex sells, but how does advertising a cell phone company in a provocative way benefit their consumer? Is there a reason we don’t see this level of sexiness with other cell phone carriers? Is this why T-Mobile has been decreasingly successful over the last several years?

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