Ideally, fashion is one of the most expressive products, and consumers use different brands to express themselves. Similarly, when clients meet a brand that meets their expectations, they embrace it and develop a positive attitude or persuasion to buy it. This means, if a brand uses a model who matches the expectations of a consumer, they the customer is likely to respond positively. The apparel industry understands this and uses these insights to build brands and a strong customer base. According to Argerup (2011), people who perceived some similarity to the models used had positive belief on the appearance of the model and fashion-ability of the clothing and increased the consumers’ purchase intentions. From the perspective of a brand, it thus makes perfect sense to use slender models as opposed to plus-size women. Unfortunately, the fashion industry has been accused of using images of ideal women’s bodies that did not correlate with the real consumer. The “I’m No Angel” campaign ad features gorgeous plus size women clad in bras and panties from the new Cacique of Lane Bryant Collection. The 30-second video clip is done in black and white with no music except a few sound bites from the women who declare they are not angels. The whole idea behind the advert is to celebrate women of all sizes and shapes by redefining the traditional notion of sexy and embracing all women as sexy. Women have taken the initiative, and the trending hashtag has taken over social media as women post their photos with declarations of #ImNoAngel. In essence, the ad was created to counter Victoria’s Secret latest ‘perfect body’ campaign – the Angel Ad, which caused quite a stir in New York, especially among plus-size women.
When Victoria’s Secret launched a new ad, they featured under the slogan “The Perfect Body,” titled the Angels Ad. The ad prompted a widespread backlash from critics who believed that it clearly overstepped the mark. The argument was that using the word perfect was not only offensive but also irresponsible and downright cruel to the high number of women who do not have the models’ ‘perfect’ body description. According to Peterson (2014), thousands of people signed a petition demanding to get an apology and calling them to terminate the campaign. The critics felt that the message on the ad was damaging because it played on women insecurities. In response to the Angel Ad by Victoria’s Secret, Lane Bryant created the “I’m No Angel” ad that focused on plus-size women. The campaign was launched five months after Victoria’s Secret released their Angel ad, and was launched to increase awareness on the lack of representation of plus-size women in fashion and media. Consequently, the ad targeted people who body shame plus-size women and the slim women who believed that only they had the perfect body.
Social marketing is defined as the use of commercial marketing to promote the acceptability of a social idea or to change the behavior of target audiences (Nanda, 2013). The concept is consumer-based and driver by research to promote a voluntary change of behavior among the target audience. Social marketing is also defined as a process that applies various marketing principles and techniques to design and deliver value to influence the society to change their behavior or attitude towards a certain product. The technique is different from corporate socially responsible due to the element of behavioral change that is incorporated into the design of the marketing programs. Consequently, social media marketing is used extensively in various sectors such as international health programs to create awareness in various programs such as the use of contraceptives and drug use. Though unpopular within the fashion industry, social marketing is used to raise awareness of beauty standards in the society. Importantly noted, in order to build an effective campaign to influence the behavior of the target audience, understanding their needs and perceptions is necessary. The message should be designed in such a way that it meets the needs and addresses the concerns of the target group. Understanding what people know and believe as well as their expectations enhance the communication effort. The “I’m No Angel” campaign focused on increasing awareness and generating body positivity and an abstract behavioral change in the society by encouraging the public to be involved in the plus-size campaign. The campaign wanted to do away with the conception that only slim is beautiful. Women who were plus-size were encouraged to raise their opinions, share the message and appear online as they embraced their body. The campaign also targeted to get the media outlets to be more inclusive of different body types, which behavioral change approach.
Ideally, in the United States, almost two-thirds of the citizens are overweight or battling obesity. Unfortunately, despite this knowledge and them being the major consumers, plus-size models are rarely present in the fashion industry. The apparel industry also does not stock the same fashionable clothing that is available for the slender or average-sized female consumers. In a way, this has significantly segregated this particular demographic, sometimes leading to stigmatization by their average-sized counterparts. By definition, stigma is a discrediting attribute that often reduces the target individual to a tainted person in the society who is associated only with a particular characteristic. Consequently, the stigma around obese people is a pervasive and socially acceptable form of discrimination in some regions such as the North America. In return, the outright bias has led to several weight-based stereotypes such as tagging obese people as weak-willed, lazy, and irresponsible on their eating habits. In the fashion industry, plus-size women are affected by the thin ideal that pervades the sector. For instance, consumers have severally expressed favorable brand perceptions when thin or average-sized models advertised apparels as compared to plus-size women. A research carried out by Aagerup (2011) on 640 university students found that consumers impression of large market fashion brands were significantly determined by the weight of the ideal users. The study found that slender models often led to more positive brand perception. Along with that, a study carried out by Peters (2015), on ways the fashion industry marginalizes fat consumers correlated with the findings by Aagerup. Virtually, the plus-size women are faced with limited options in the fashion industry as the plus-size apparels are relegated to a dark corner in the stores and excluded from the high-fashion pages. This has further entrenched the over-weight stigma in the collective consciousness of the fat identity of plus-size women. Peters notes that, even as designers focus on creating trendy plus-size fashions, high-end retailers are yet to discard their reputation of the “fat sacks or tents” garments designed to cover up the extra weight. In fact, it is as if the fashion industry is offering a conformist and conventional garment that is designed to cover those bodies that threaten to spill out and sometimes referred to as not suitable for public display. This is further fired up by the notion by the society that perceives the fat body as a social or medical threat, which can be used to explain the reasons behind the absence of the fat body from contemporary advertisements. In this context, Peters points that, “fat” is still a long way to join the mainstream lexicon, as advocates of the fat acceptance movement would like it to be. Nonetheless, the proliferation of euphemisms for fat has sparked a lot of criticism from curvy or plus-size people, especially towards companies such as Victoria’s Secret who are focused on bashing the big body. Consistently, the “I’ No Angel” ad campaign was launched to curb the stigma associated with being plus-size. The campaign was asking consumers to stop the stigmatization and instead embrace plus-size women and appreciate their body. It also targeted at generating a behavioral change, by changing the public’s attitude who only favored brands that had thin or average-sized models.
The “I’m No Angel” ad campaign represents the plus-size women who are trying to sensitive women to embrace their bodies because they are not angels. The 30 seconds video clip is done in black in white with no background music except for the models who speak as they display their bodies. The background is also done in either white or black for the models perhaps to emphasize the models as the dominant elements of the advert. The models appear one by one on the screen amidst their sound bites showcasing their bodies. The ad also brings out each woman’s shortcoming from stomach fat, cellulite, to stretch marks. The shortcomings are emphasized to help bring out bold and strong women who want to show the world that their bodies are not perfect, but they still embrace and own them. Through the use of clear images that highlight the ‘imperfect’ bodies of the women, the ad successfully brings out the symbol of boldness and strength and an awareness that plus-size is also beautiful. The boldness and strength come out to counter Victoria’s Secret perfect body and Angel ad and to influence a behavioral change in the society.
In the fashion industry, the first thing to consider is why a target consumer buys their brand. They have to consider various things such as does the client want to acquire the personality of the company’s ideal users to express themselves. If this is the case, then it is recommended to use a thin user imagery. Unfortunately, the use of the ideal user seems to contradict with the real consumers. In this case, while the majority of the brands will prefer to use a slender model to advertise their name, they are likely to leave out a large number of consumers who fall in the plus-sized women. It is also likely to cause a stir of stigmatization towards a certain demographic of people. On the other hand, critics of the health of aesthetics of plus-size women are likely to feel opposed to the use of an over-weight model. The conflict notwithstanding, the gap between the ideal user and the target group should not be too wide.
Lane Bryant Commercial 2017 I’m No Angel is Back. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B051BUEO4L4
Aagerup, U. (2011). The influence of real women in advertising on mass-market fashion brand perception. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 15(4), 486-502.
Nanda, A. K. (2013). Social Marketing: A Literature Review. International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR), 4(9), 697-702.
Peters, L. D. (2015). You Are What You Wear: How Plus-Size Fashion Figures in Fat Identity Formation. Fashion Theory, 18(1), 45-71.
Peterson, H. (2014). Victoria’s Secret Ditches ‘Perfect Body’ Campaign After Outrage. Business Insider. Retrieved from: http://www.businessinsider.com/victorias-secret-perfect-body-campaign-2014-11?IR=T
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