Women are ready to see fashion models that look like them. Luckily for the fashion industry, new Brock University research shows size six models will do a better job of marketing their products, especially to women with low self-esteem.
The research by Kai-Yu Wang, a marketing professor at Brock’s Goodman School of Business, shows that fashion brands can substitute their size zero models with average sized models without impacting either the model attractiveness rating or the product evaluation.
“With the debate around the use of super-skinny models, we wanted to find out if women preferred size zero models over average sized models” says Wang.
Wang and his co-author completed three studies to test their theories about whether women aged 18-25 preferred average size models or size zero models and the role that brand and self-esteem play in their preferences. They looked at both established companies with a history of using size zero models as well as fictional new brands.
“We expected that when they looked at print ads for an established brand, like Gucci, we would find that our participants would prefer the skinny models over the average sized model,” says Wang. “In fact, we found that average sized models could be used interchangeably with the size zero models with minimal impact on the evaluation of the model and the product.”
For new fashion brands that are just starting their advertising campaigns, they should hire average sized models, the research shows.
“This is because new brands are not associated with any particular cues,” says Wang. “Consumers tend to use accessible information (people around us) to make a judgment. Thus, they like average size models more than super-skinny models.”
In addition, the research also found that when new fashion brands are advertising, low self-esteem participants prefer average sized models over the skinny models. Such an effect was not observed among high self-esteem participants.
The study was co-authored with Dr. Xuemei Bian, a senior lecturer in marketing at the Kent Business School, University of Kent, U.K. The research paper, “Are size zero female models always more effective than average-sized ones? Depends on brand and self-esteem!” will be published in an upcoming issue of the European Journal of Marketing.