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Fashion Marketing and Negative Body Image: From Love Island to Photoshop…

Marketing is one of the most important aspects of fashion – without it, the products wouldn’t sell! The fashion market is extremely competitive, with new youth-targeted fashion brands constantly launching online with the biggest challenge being to stand out.

As a result, brands are looking for new ways to engage their target audience through more creative advertising techniques, however these are not always positive in the eyes of the consumer, leaving us feeling inadequate when it comes to our body image.

Love Island is a huge marketing success story

  1. Around 58% of viewers are female

  2. More than 50% viewers are ages 16 and 34 (also known as Millennial’s and Gen Z)

  3. Around 50% of the audience is in the C2DE bracket – the two lower social and economic groups

  4. It reached an audience of 6 million at its peak, through both TV and online

  5. It sparks interest and discussion on social media

In other words, it reaches audiences that other shows do not – young, females, which is proven more difficult nowadays as these audiences are moving away from TV to streaming companies like Netflix. This is the reason fashion brands including Missguided and I Saw It First sponsor the hit show – with sales increasing by 40%.

Love Island is an excellent way to reach this audience. However, it does also come with risks. Love Island has been criticised for its lack of body diversity, with positivity and body confidence activists criticising the dating show for failing to cast and show a real representation of our current society.

Due to this, viewer obsession over their own body shape and size comes as no surprise, given that all contests represent a body type which for most people is unattainable – They’re toned, long legged and perfectly bronzed. Only having people who look a specific way serves to perpetuate the idea that you need to be thin to be deemed attractive and worthy of love.

And the ‘Love Island Effect’ doesn’t stop after the show…

These marketing tactics continue with islanders turning ‘influencers’ securing various brand deals. In a recent article by The Mirror, 2020 islander Molly Smith is criticised for promoting a product that apparently the immune system in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, losing weight by drinking only smoothies for a day. The post faced backlash with her followers flooding her social media with negative comments, including one stating: “You don’t need to drink all this to look good, people need to learn to be happy in themselves as they are”.

And she isn’t the only celebrity to face this backlash with many promoting dieting products in an irresponsible way, for example, islander Georgia Harrison stating she had been taking v24Gummies over a long period of time to maintain her slim figure. However it was clear from the ads she did not need to lose weight in to achieve a healthy weight.

Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) were concerned this created the impression that it was necessary or advisable for those who aspired to her body shape and lifestyle to use products that suppressed their appetite. The photos in her ads were also edited to make her waist look even smaller with the images not representative of her real body shape, giving a damaging message to her young audience.

Fashion Brands and Photoshop

Although many brands are choosing to ditch Photoshop and leave their photos unedited, fashion brands including Boohoo are being accused of going against their ethos of being an ‘inclusive brand’, photoshopping models on their site to appear ‘thinner’.

Boohoo altering the shape of its models sends a very damaging message to people, particularly young girls and women, who frequently shop on the site. As a brand with such a big influence on young women in particular, who stock clothes for a range of body types (including plus size), Boohoo shouldn’t be altering the body shape of any of their models.

Many women of all ages feel pressured to look perfect and a lot of people, including men, edit their body shape now when they post photos on social media because of this. Not only are brands editing their models

ASOS’ Photoshop fail reveals a disappointing secret about the brand. As a consumer, it can be disheartening when you look forward to a clothing delivery, only to discover it doesn’t fit you like the model on the website. It can leave you questioning why it looks so bad on yourself – ‘are you just a ‘funny shape’?

The photoshop fail shows a model wearing a dress, with two large clips showing to pin the model’s outfit in place giving a false impression of how it would really look on customer. This has resulted in people begging the retailer across social media to share true images of what its clothing looks like on models, instead of misleading, edited versions to promote their items.

71% of Brits prefer retailers to select diverse models for marketing campaigns

The images we see of women in the media today are thinner than the majority of the female population. Frequent media exposure may cause consumers to acquire unrealistic perceptions about the prevalence of desirable attributes, such as wealth or physical ideals. The exposure to thin media images has lead to the commonly held belief that the thin ideal is normative and central to attractiveness.

Although many fashion retailers such as ASOS and New Look cater for plus-size, tall and petite shoppers, more retailers are expected to extend this inclusivity to their marketing campaigns. More than 80% of women across all age groups said they would like to see retailers using more models of varying shapes and sizes, meaning retailers such as Topshop and Zara – who only use slim models in their campaigns and fail to offer ranges that serve those over a UK size 18 – must increase their body type representations before they risk losing popularity.

Consumers exposed to marketing campaigns that provoke negative self-esteem transfer these emotions to the product, particularly in fashion marketing. Conversely, where the models in advertisements create a positive reaction and consumer self-esteem is increased, then higher purchasing intentions of the product and brand are generated.

This, of course, is exactly the desired effect. To establish a loyal fan base, diversity is key.


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