Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

7 SFW Examples Of How Pornhub Generates Word-Of-Mouth

Marketers have long embraced the adage “Sex Sells” but only very recently have they had to ponder what “Sells Sex”.

The most difficult question here is… how do you get people talking about porn?

Despite its gradual ascension from taboo into the mainstream, porn isn’t something most people talk about having lunch with the in-laws or over a pint of beer.

Rather surprisingly, one adult company has proven that with the right strategies and a complete disregard for convention, word-of-mouth and porn can make for a happy twosome.

Here are 7 examples of how Pornhub utilized brilliant double entendres, technology and hard data to get people talking about smut while driving market penetration… I’ve been waiting to use that one.

1. When It Plastered A G-Rated Ad For R-Rated Content In The Middle Of Times Square

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In 2014, Pornhub issued a challenge to create clean; G-rated family-friendly ads for its site.

What ensued was a variety of incredibly clever ads utilizing anything from subtle innuendo to hilariously inexplicit imagery.

Pornhub erected the winning entry “All You Need Is Hand” in Times Square and hired a choir to sing a version of the Beatle’s “All You Need Is Love” that presumably had John Lennon rolling in his grave.

The billboard was pulled down after only two days but not before it was featured on prominent news sites all over the world.

Why People Talked About It:

Porn is slowly shedding its taboo nature, but it’s far from being mainstream. The world was not ready for a pornographic ad, regardless of how clean it was, to show up on one of the most prominent locations on the planet.

It was a blend of shocking, thought-provoking and amusing all at once – all things people like talking about.

We’ve picked this example to kick off this article because it perfectly encapsulates Pornhub’s word-of-mouth strategy.

It’s the elephant in the room. It’s sleazy. It’s taboo. Everyone knows it’s there but no one’s going to intentionally talk about it.

Instead, Pornhub creates fun stories around the elephant that people can share without embarrassment.

That’s the underlying theme of Pornhub’s marketing, it doesn’t create buzz about porn. It creates buzz around it.

2. When Pornhub Got Content Sites Lusting For Its Hard Data

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The Pornhub group of sites are the most visited porn sites in the world. This means it’s got lots of two things – porn and data.

At the end of 2012, Pornhub released an article with data on the viewing habits of its users over the course of 2012. The experimental blog post saw phenomenal media coverage.

The site continued releasing similar articles, this time focusing on country-specific viewing habits. Every article was a hit.

Understanding it was sitting on a content marketing goldmine, Pornhub took the concept to the next level and launched it’s data-driven blog “Insights” in 2013.

The strategy expanded into a partnership with mainstream news and content sites. content outlets like Buzzfeed, Vice and Gizmodo have written hundreds of pieces of content based on Pornhub’s data, each doing as well as you’d expect.

Why People Talked About It:

News about sex and violence move tabloids. Gossip is driven by the nasty and the sexy.

Sex sells, even when it’s just sexy data. This explains why these articles were hits, but not why people talked about them.

It’s unlikely that someone reading this information off Pornhub’s blog would openly admit to reading the blog, let alone share the information.

The true genius lies in an audience receiving this information through mainstream news channels. It takes the taboo out of the source.

3. When Pornhub Tried To Take Porn Out Of This World

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As the world tries to crowdfund everything from yet another drone to Greek’s debt, Pornhub decided to crowdfund something of it’s own to the tune of 3.4 million dollars…

The world’s first adult film shot in space: Sexploration.

The self aware promotion for this “pioneering endeavor” parodies the overacted scenes porn is notorious for while simultaneously addressing the very real technical requirements needed to create suborbital porn.

The result is a thoroughly entertaining event that leaves the audience wondering if Pornhub is actually being serious.

Sexploration received huge media coverage and was featured on sites you’d expect like Vice or Maxim but also on those you didn’t… like Discovery news and The Washington Post.

At the time of writing, the campaign was raised $234,000 with 29 days left to go.

Why People Talked About It:

“The First Porno In Space” is a newsworthy story. Taboo aside, it could actually be a step forward for mankind.

The promotion surrounding the campaign is funny enough that talking about it would elicit a chuckle or two from the listener, yet it’s morally divisive and thought provoking.

It’s a story that makes you laugh, and leads to a good debate all while being a newsworthy read.

That’s a surefire formula for word-of-mouth.

4. By Releasing Tech Pornhub Doesn’t Want You To Buy

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Consumer tech has been a rapidly growing industry in recent years. Drones, VR and wearable tech are all over the news and on everyone’s Christmas wish list.

Ever the innovator, Pornhub’s hopped into the tech market too.

It began with the explicitly named “Wankband”, a wristband that charges as wearers, well, wank. The energy built up can then be used to charge your other gadgets. The device, as Pornhub describes “…let’s men love the planet, by loving themselves”.

In a similar naming convention, Pornhub recently released the “Twerking Butt”. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a robotic butt-shaped sex-toy that twerks.

Both devices were accompanied by a promotional video, an animated clip of how the Wankband functions and an overly cheesy, 90’s style product promo for the Twerking Butt.

The Wankband remains a concept, but the Twerking Butt is a product you can buy right now (if you’re so inclined) for a cool $1000.

Why People Talked About It:

Both products are explicit about what they’re meant to be. Pornhub makes no effort in distancing these products from sex.

The company gets people talking with a classic comedic technique: exaggerating to absurdity. Both products are ridiculous.

They’re not designed to sell, they’re designed to be hilarious stories to tell.

5. By Running A Surprisingly Tasteful Twitter Account

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Run by one of the site’s staff, Aria (and previously by a lady named Katie), Pornhub’s “Pornhub ARIA” twitter account (warning: NOT safe for work) is a continuous feed of raunchy jokes, excerpts from Insights, adult memes and the not-so-occasional boob.

That’s… all there is to say really. Here are some examples of what you might find, sans boobies:

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Why People Talked About It:

Pornhub understands that people are unlikely to retweet explicit adult photos.

What people might instead retweet are the somewhat entertaining puns and suggestive (but SFW) memes. By running a clean account that users can browse and interact with in relative safety, Pornhub prevents it’s users from being labelled perverts – they’re just cheeky.

6. Pornhub Saw That It’s Best Fans Liked Rap… So They Started A Rap Label

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More musicians in the rap industry than of any other music genre are known to have dated porn stars (e.g Drake, Lil Wayne) and music videos skirt the line of art and smut all too often.

There’s also an overlap in Pornhub’s most vocal fans and those of rap.

A look into the folks who interact with Pornhub’s social media content also reveals that most of them are part of rap’s fandom.

Pornhub’s brand fits neatly into the booty worshipping culture of hip hop.

This makes Pornhub’s venture into music production surprising but entirely logical move.

The world wasn’t very shocked when rapper Waka Flocka Flame announced his sex tape.

For better or for worse, it turned out to be an April Fools day joke and a publicity stunt for “Bust” – a new Flocka track with a NSFW music video produced by Pornhub.

That was the birth of Pornhub Records.

Since Flocka’s first video, Pornhub has run a competition to find an “anthem” for its users and a contest for a chance to record a track with rapper P.Diddy.

A spokesperson for the site has mentioned that the long term intentions behind the move are to diversify the company’s stable of content to deliver erotic music of all genres… including the very questionable genre of erotic country music.

Why People Talked About It:

Word-of-mouth functions by the Pareto principle. Just a few vocal, ardent fans generate the most buzz.

The labels efforts in rap are a love letter to their most vocal fans and a way to draw more of that demographic into Pornhub’s social media ecosystem.

As these fans’ love for the brand grow, they’ll spread the word louder and further.

7. Through Unexpected Environmentally Conscious, Charitable Acts

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Pornhub has been contributing to charity and the good of the planet in very interesting ways.

“Pornhub Gives America Wood” was an environmentally conscious effort for Arbor day to make America a greener country. For every 100 videos watched on the sites “Big Dick” category, Pornhub pledged to plant a tree.

Another campaign for breast cancer awareness involved a 1 cent donation for every 30 videos watched in the “Small Tits” or Big Tits” category. Pornhub also funded a mobile breast cancer screening service called the “Boob Bus” to provide free breast cancer checks to women around America.

Why People Talked About It:

The virtuousness of a charitable campaign stands in incredible contrast against the nasty nature of Pornhub’s business.

Like many of Pornhub’s word-of-mouth campaigns, this was a fun story to share further fuelled by the endless euphemism in the campaign copy

Here’s A Quick Recap Of Pornhub’s Word-Of-Mouth Strategies:

  1. Found an unexpected angle to create buzz through shock and awe.
  2. Partnered with the right media outlets to change how Pornhub is perceived.
  3. Did something absolutely ridiculous and invited the world to be part of it.
  4. Generated word-of-mouth under the guise of selling impractical products.
  5. Practised the right level of self-censorship to let it’s message go further.
  6. Love your greatest fans and they will love you too.
  7. Create controversy, that’s something people love talking about.

And Finally, Here Are Some Questions To Ponder:

  1. Are you limiting your marketing efforts because of preconceived notions about your brand?
  2. What common things do all your fans love? Can you create marketing that’s aware of their fandom?
  3. What’s the craziest, most inappropriate marketing idea you can come up with? Let us know in the comments below!

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Read next: How To Get Word-of-Mouth (40+ Successful Examples To Learn From)

Jon Tan

My coffee expenses and my office rental are one and the same.

Terrified of mathematics and carbohydrates.

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