It's not like using sex to sell is a new idea, but something about the popularity of Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue keeps inviting brand innovation by the digital marketers at SI and Time Inc.
For the 2012 edition, arriving in mailboxes, newsstands and tablets to eager readers this week, a couple of automakers are throwing some curves — in the form of promotions with their own bikini-clad models.
Lexus is running a campaign that matches the twists and turns in a depiction of a competitive driving course to the body curves of a swimsuit model. The objective: to spotlight the 2013 GS, the sporty sedan featured in the brand's Super Bowl ad and a key launch for Lexus's hopes of a sales comeback this year after last years's supply-chain woes. Previous swimsuit-issue model Tori Praver is the model in the Lexus campaign.
Meanwhile, Ford is advertising its 2013 Ford Mustang in the Sports Illustrated issue with the help of some other curves, lent by the partial figure of a model named Dalena Henriques, who isn't one of the magazine's swimsuit models.
Other advertisers in the print issue include Giorgio Armani, Breitling watches, Honda, SoBe Lifewater, M&Ms, and DirecTV. That last brand tied in with two digital-technology outfits, Nellymoser and Digimarc Technology, for a new mobile Swimsuit Viewer App for iPhone, iPad and Android phones. It launches videos by scanning one of the digitally watermarked photos in the issue.
The SI issue is the first top-100 U.S. magazine to use digital watermarking for promoting a video, Nellymoser said. It imbeds a humanly imperceptible pattern into the image that can be detected by smartphones. But unlike QR codes, they don't cover a part of the image or affect the page design.
"The branded app that contains a scanner is the beginning of a trend," Roger Matus, Nellymoser's executive vice president, told brandchannel. "Publishers want to manage their brand and not hand their readers off to a third-party scanning app."
And of course the Time Inc. magazine itself is leaving practically no body part unturned in its efforts to promote its annual rite of editorial diversification. SI is loading up on the swimsuit issue at its website as well as in print. And cover model Kate Upton kept up the annual tradition of unveiling the cover via a Times Square billboard revealed on Late Show with David Letterman on CBS.
Indeed, it's that time of year. And the fact that the swimsuit issue gets so much marketing mileage is testament to a lot of things, not the least of which is the magazine's genius in having launched the predecessor of the modern marketing marvel in 1964.