People’s perception of their body image is a very powerful force used by marketers in order to make people buy products, I recently gave a presentation on this to my Consumer and Buyer Behaviour and I really enjoyed researching into this and seeing the various ways in which they go about doing this.
As far as I could tell from the examples I had looked out for over the past few weeks there are three main tactics used by manufacturers of body image altering products to convince you that they are the products for you.
This is a method whereby the advertisements appeal to what is referred to as the “ideal self” or the way that someone would like themselves to be/look in an ideal world. Marketers do this by linking the product or service to an ideal situation or a person perceived as especially beautiful. Think Penelope Cruz in the ads for L’Oreal, customers look at the ad and think to themselves “hmm maybe if I use this product I will be like her too…” however more often that not this is not the case. Hair product manufacturer Sunsilk pose the question “Want hair like Paris Hilton, Nicole Kidman and Posh spice?” letting you know that this great achievement is indeed “easier than you think”, all one need to do to look like these beautiful people is to use THEIR shampoo.
Summary – Perfection/happiness just a purchase away
One of the more commonly used methods to make people purchase a good/service that will affect their body image is that of fear. One category of product uses this more than any other, diet foods/supplements. Marketers realise that people are scared to death of being perceived as fat/obese, these assumptions being confirmed by a recent survey undertaken by The New York Times. The survey conducted on thousands of primary school children across the United States, found the children felt that “Being obese was worse than being disabled". One product that profits of this fear of being seen as overweight is Slimfast, and in the past it has been criticised for advertising campaigns that seek to lower peoples self esteem and scare them into buying their product. 2004 saw the “lets bikini” campaign launched by Slimfast which featured slim, beautiful and bikini clad European women accompanied by phrases such as “British women are so brave to share the beach with us” and “I bet your boyfriend thinks I look good in this”
3. We’re on your side.
You may recognise the picture that I have included at the top of this post, it is one of the advertisements for Dove’s “Campaign for real beauty”, this new campaign is supposedly aiming to challenge what we believe is beautiful and how the media portrays it. As far as I can see they are using the “Hey, c’mon we’re on your side we understand how you feel, therefore you should buy our product” approach.
This campaign has been very effective at getting the Dove name out there, and when I showed the picture in the presentation literally everyone in the class new what it was.
I find the Campaign for real beauty to be somewhat insincere, a little known fact is that Sunsilk – Aspirational, Slimfast – Fear and Dove are all products manufactured by the same company, Unilever.
I suppose its not too hard to have a bit of an identity/strategic direction crisis when you own 400 world known brands, and I know honesty rarely if ever comes into play in situations like this, but I still find it a bit sneaky.