Get this. Women prefer to buy clothing that’s advertised by women who look like them.
It shouldn’t take a PHD to that figure out. But it did.
Model agency founder (and academic) Ben Barry wanted to prove different types of models could have an effect on the way women shop for clothes and accessories.
Tired of the assumption that models are merely “clothes hangers”, he wanted to look into how the age, race and size of a model influences purchasing decisions – and show that skinny models and “unreachable beauty” don’t translate to sales.
So he created a series of mock fashion ads – each was identical, save for the “models who varied in size, age and race but all wore the same Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress” – and spoke to 2500 women of varying ages and sizes.
He asked them which model would make them want to buy the dress and he found women increased their purchasing intentions by more than 200% when the models in the mock ads reflected their size and by more than 175% when the models reflected their age.
He also found black consumers were 1.5 times more likely to purchase a product advertised by a black model.
His subjects told him that they preferred to buy clothing advertised by women who looked somewhat like them for simple reasons: they could see how it fit, they felt included in the brand’s messaging, and they were more able to imagine themselves participating in the aesthetic fantasy of the ad.
This is significant, writes Barry, because “While one side of the debate over model diversity argues that curvy models should replace thin ones — assuming that one model is universally more effective than another — I find that every model type can be effective. Their effectiveness depends on whether the model shares the consumers’ traits.”
Solipsistic? Maybe. But public health advocates and feminists have spent decades agitating against advertisers’ preference for a narrow beauty ideal on grounds that such images can hurt the self esteem of women and girls — to almost no avail. The models who fill the pages of the women’s magazines and populate the billboards and pop up on retailers’ Web sites are as skinny, young, and white as they ever were. Making a well-reasoned appeal for diversity on behalf of the bottom line, however, just might work.
In Elle Canada, Barry wrote: “Contrary to long-held marketing wisdom, fashion ads don’t need to lead women to aspire to an unattainable ideal to sell products. Instead, women will buy fashion when models convey a realistic, attainable image and make them feel confident; they will continue to demand the products to maintain the advertised look and their feelings of empowerment.
To unleash this economic potential, brands should cast models who mirror the diversity of their target market: If a brand sells sizes 2 to 14 and the age of their target consumer is 18 to 35, the models should reflect the same size and age ranges. It’s clearly in a brand’s financial interest to create samples in a few sizes to reflect the diversity of their consumers.”
Well duh. This is what Mamamia and publisher Mia Freedman have been banging on about FOR YEARS (eg: here and here). Why is diversity such a dirty word in the world of fashion? And why do they keep claiming that tall, young, skinny & white is the only type of woman that other women want to see?
The fashion industry is struggling. That’s what they keep telling us. So if they’re not fussed about the effect they have on body image, how about the effect it’s having on their bottom line?
CLEARLY, it’s time for a change.
So what’s it going to take?
What do you think? Would you be more inclined to buy clothes if the models in the ads or the fashion pages looked more like you – or women that you know?
Here at Mamamia, we don’t create images – but we do like looking at them. And increasingly we find that we can’t find images that showcase the diversity of women. And that’s why we started Wardrobe Week. It’s our way of showcasing normal people and what they’re wearing. But to keep it going we need people to send in their pics. If you’re interested, check out this post or send an email to email@example.com
Natalie Tucker: Bianca Spender blouse with Dotti jacket, sportsgirl scarf and Cue skirt