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Some consumers „look at a moderately heavy model and think, ‚That could be me,‘ and it lowers their self-esteem,“ says Naomi Mandel, marketing associate professor at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business who worked on the study with two colleagues from Erasmus University and University of Cologne. The paper, which will be published in the April issue of Journal of Consumer Research, explored the psychological theory of social comparison. In this case, how women of different body mass indexes — thin (BMI below 18.5), normal (BMI of 18.5 to 25) and overweight (BMI of 25 to 30) — reacted to ads with models ranging from very thin to obese.
While normal-weight women fretted that they looked similar to the overweight models, heavier consumers felt worse no matter what the model’s size. They saw themselves as similar to the larger models and vastly different from the skinny ones. Thin consumers, meanwhile, felt better looking at any model since they identified with the slender models while realizing they looked nothing like the fat ones.
…We found that overweight consumers feel worse about themselves when looking at any models (compared to a no-model control ad), because they see the similarities between themselves and the heavy models, and they see the differences between themselves and the thin models — either way, it reminds them of the fact that they’re heavy,“ Mandel told ABCNews.com. In the meantime, „underweight consumers feel better about themselves when looking at any models (compared to a no-model control ad), because this reminds them of the fact that they’re thin,“ Mandel said. One of the most popular campaigns featuring plus-size or „normal“ models is the Dove „Real Women“ Campaign. Dove’s ads feature non-traditional women in their underwear or nude in the hopes that female customers will identify with the models. But, according to the study, reminding these women that they are bigger than traditional models just re-enforces a negative self image.
Despite the findings about ads with heavier models, Dove sticks by its campaign.
„We are confident that our approach has been successful. Over the past several years, women globally have been overwhelmingly supportive of our commitment to show realistic and attainable images of beauty,“ wrote Stacie Bright, a communications manager with Dove.
zur Dove Kampagne:
One billboard in the series asked viewers to phone 1-888-342-DOVE to vote on whether a woman on the billboard was „fat“ or „fab“. The results were posted real-time on the board. While a photo in the October 25, 2004 issue of Marketing Magazine shows „fab“ leading 51% to 49%, eventually the percentage of „fat“ votes overtook „fab“, much to the chagrin of marketers