As a young CEO of Coastal Cigars, a national cigar distribution and event company I’ve noticed our youth gives us certain advantages over our older counterparts. For one, we have a much better sense of what is relevant right now in pop culture. Also, many older, successful businesspeople find it inspiring to be around youth and exciting young entrepreneurs “on the come up.” As I observe businesses around me is that the ones that get people to buy in, often have a compelling story. That, to me, is the sex appeal that you want to inject into your current business, or seek out if you are just getting started.
I feel quite lucky to have fallen into a sexy business. For men, cigars are something that connect you with the elite, and give you a great currency for creating lasting relationships. Now that isn’t why I decided to get into the cigar business, but it has informed my decision-making as we were presented with opportunities to work with celebrities. That type of stuff makes for a good story, and when you need to ask for something (a la credit terms, capital, etc.), it can really help to have an exciting story as your backdrop.
And I’m trying to build that sex appeal for the right reasons. I’m trying to expand my network, connect with mentors, and gain relationships with influential buyers. I am NOT trying to add sex appeal because I think it’s cool to have it, or I like hurting people’s toes with all the names that I drop on them.
There are so many examples of companies using sex appeal to advance their causes. Raphael Yakoby founded Hpnotiq and Nuvo liqueurs and focused his concept on the packaging and color of the liqueurs, giving as much focus to that as he did to the taste. Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart started Threadless, a hyper-successful and super-hip t-shirt company that has stupefying profit margins.
So how do you identify potential business opportunities with sex appeal? Here are a few tips to identify what you want to shine a light on in your business:
*Competitive analysis: Whoa, you weren’t expecting me to get all official after the tomfoolery I pulled in the previous paragraphs. Seriously, though. A major ingredient of sex appeal is uniqueness, and if you’re not breaking new ground with what you’re doing, no one really cares except for your mom.
*Pay attention to design: From Hpnotiq to VitaminWater, there are plenty of examples of a company busting open a highly competitive industry because people wanted to be seen with a cool-looking product. iPhone anyone?
*Connect with high-profile events: Sponsorships for events can often be obtained in-trade, meaning its no cash out of pocket. When people hear you were involved with someone’s celebrity bash, it becomes irrelevant for sex appeal’s sake that you did it for free. What they care about is if you saw anything gossip-worthy.
*Company culture is something you control: Your staff is your first level of brand ambassadors and sex appeal doesn’t mean hiring sexy people. Unless you want to of course. Sex appeal is general attractiveness and hiring people that are likable and say great things about you lets people know you’re on the right track.
Now, you’re looking at all of this, and you’re saying, “All this is fine. But I’m an insurance claims adjuster/land surveyor/mortician, and sex appeal doesn’t really apply to what I do.” Au contraire, au contraire! Sex appeal is more attainable in environments where no one has it! Every cigar brand or liquor has something cool about it (in theory), but when was the last time you met a cutting-edge or cool lawyer or plumber? There is a huge gap in those types of industries, and I’ve seen examples where they can bring a coolness factor. How about a construction company that takes its employees to Nascar driving school? Or Gladware plastic products, which attached itself to the sexy brand of “Top Chef” on Bravo? Any company can have sex appeal, you just have to be looking for it.
Dave Brown is CEO of Coastal Cigars, a national cigar distribution and event company.