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The influence of real women in advertising on mass market fashion brand perception

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to investigate how the weight of ideal users affects the perception of mass market fashion brands. Design/methodology/approach ‐ An experiment was carried out in which 640 university students replied to a web survey, rating the brand personality of jeans and shirts according to Aaker's Big Five construct. The garments were worn by thin, overweight, and obese models. Findings ‐ The findings show that consumers' impressions of mass market fashion brands are significantly affected by the weight of ideal users. Slender models lead to the most positive brand perception followed by obese models. Overweight user imagery is for pure fashion brand building the least attractive kind. Research limitations/implications ‐ A limitation of this study is the use of convenient student samples. Consequently, the generalization of the results beyond this convenience sample may be limited. It is further possible, even probable, that high fashion would suffer more from the negative imagery of overweight and obese users than mass market fashion. It would therefore be interesting to replicate this experiment using clothes of higher fashion grade and price. Practical implications ‐ The demonstrated effects of user imagery support the industry practice of slim ideal female imagery. Social implications ‐ The results inform the debate over skinny models vs real women in advertising. Originality/value ‐ Previous research regarding the effectiveness of real women in advertising has been inconclusive. This paper demonstrates not only that model weight affects consumers' brand perception, but also how.
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Keywords: Brand personality; Clothing; Fashion; Individual psychology; User imagery; Women

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-09-20

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