How Brands Can Benefit from a Positive Body Image Approach
Guest Blogger: Dr Zali Yager, Well Researched
We all have bodies.
Most of us (80%) would like to change something about our bodies, and around 30% of adult women, and 25% of adult men have serious levels of body dissatisfaction. It's so common in women, that body dissatisfaction in women has been called 'normative discontent' for almost thirty years now.
Aspirations vs. Reality
For years, marketing and advertising in the health, beauty, fashion, and fitness industries has relied solely on using ‘aspirational’ images and content to make people want to buy their products.
Decades of research tells us that when we expose people to the sorts of images of thin women and muscular men, it immediately increases body dissatisfaction, and low mood. Women in these states of body dissatisfaction and low mood are likely to make impulse purchases, but this is not the sort of effect you are after if you want to build trust and drive brand loyalty.
Research has also shown that people are significantly more likely to have positive purchase intentions, and positive attitudes towards the brand and product, when the advertising used average-sized female models (UK size 14) instead of the traditional-sized model (UK size 8).
In this research, participants are usually brought into a lab, and asked to complete a questionnaire before and after they are shown a range of advertisements that show either a thin model, average-sized model, or no-model advertising of things like deoderant, clothing, and beauty products. They then compare the scores of women who saw the thin models to those who saw no, or average-sized models.
In one study, average-sized models were rated as more attractive than slim models, but only among new brands, and not well established brands already associated with using very thin models.
Another study found that women rated advertisements of clothing and beauty products featuring average-sized models as being just as effective as those featuring thin models, or no models, but women's body image improved after viewing the average-sized models in the ads.
Positive Body Image Approaches
And it's not just about the images.
Marketing and advertising has huge potential to make women feel better about themselves, by using content that takes a positive body image approach. Rather than taking the usual well-worn path, you can empower your audience and consumers to celebrate body and appearance diversity, practice body acceptance or body neutrality if not body love, and boost confidence.
The research hasn't been done in terms of advertising yet, but we know that having women focus on the functionality of their body can reduce their levels of self-objectification, and enhance body image.
Self-compassion has also emerged as having a powerful impact on body image and body dissatisfaction. Increasing engagement in physical activity can enhance mental health and body image, as long as people engage in it for health reasons as opposed to appearance motivation. These concepts could translate well into marketing and social media strategy and create real social impact.
What Are You Doing In Your Brand?
So if you have a new brand, why not try taking a positive body image approach? Just by using average-sized models, and incorporating positive messaging, you might just enhance the way that your tribe feels about themselves, and your brand.
About Dr. Zali
Dr Zali Yager is a researcher in the Institute for Health and Sport at Victoria University, with current projects aiming to enhance body image in mums, and in adolescent boys.
Zali is also the Founder of Well Researched, a start-up that aims to enhance the capacity of professionals to take an evidence-based approach to marketing and practice.