Time and time again, we highlight the marketing benefits of switching from a position of aspiration to one that is relatable. And now, as well as the figures, we have the psychology to suggest that it works, too
A new study undertaken by Florida State University has indicated that women who see curvy models in advertising or on Instagram experience “enhanced psychological health”.
For the experiment, 40 women between the ages of 18 and 22 were recruited. All of them had expressed their wishes to be slimmer. They were then shown a range of different-sized fashion models on a TV screen.
The women had to answer questions on their satisfaction with their own bodies after viewing each image. They were also asked to compare themselves to each model.
It concluded that women reported experiencing a lower body satisfaction when they were shown images of slimmer models. They were also far less likely to remember the slimmer models.
However, when they were looking at women of an average or curvy plus-size, they all reported higher levels of body satisfaction and were better able to remember them.
“We found overwhelmingly that there is a clear psychological advantage when the media shows more realistic body types than the traditional thin model,” Professor Jessica Ridgway, who carried out the experiment, explained.
“Women made fewer social comparisons, felt increased body satisfaction, paid more attention to and remembered average and plus-size models,” Professor Russell Clayton, also presiding, added.
“Therefore, it might be a useful persuasive strategy for media producers to employ plus-size models if the goal of the campaign is to capture attention while also promoting body positivity.”
There are several questions we raise about the validity of these results. First of all, 40 women of a similar age from a similar place is not a diverse pool of participants. Including a larger and broader sample would have been preferable. Also, the women who took part in the experiment all reported feeling unsatisfied with their bodies to begin with. That is likely the attitude most women have about their bodies, thanks to aforementioned aspirational marketing driven by male desire, but what about those who actually feel positively or indifferent about their bodies? Which images would they go for?
Regardless, this is yet another business argument for increasing proportionate representation in the fashion industry. We look forward to making many more.