Science says using thin models could put off a lot of women buyers

Models prepare backstage at Monte-Carlo, Monaco. Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Using thin models in advertisements could be putting off a significant portion of potential buyers, according to a marketing study in the US.

James Roberts, professor of marketing at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, says the defaul belief that thinner is better could be alienating up to 70% of the audience.

Roberts co-authored a report, Does Thin Always Sell? The Moderating Role of Thin Ideal Internalisation on Advertising Effectiveness, with his daughter, Chloe Roberts, at the University of Alabama.

The study, of a diverse group of 239 women, is published in the Atlantic Marketing Journal.

“The current ‘thin sells’ fixation is a gross oversimplification of how women respond to advertising,” the study says.

Previous research has shown that only 5% of women could possibly achieve the body size depicted in typical advertisements.

James Roberts says advertisers tend to default to this ideal without knowing for sure if other options are viable

“Advertisers need to do a bit more research with their target market,” he says. “They need to find out what these women are thinking, as related to body size.”

However, he says it depends on the target market. “For some product categories, ‘thin’ is probably going to do better,” he says. “For others, it very well may be that an average-size model may sell better than a thin model. It just may be a good business decision.”

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