From Photoshop scandals to trending exercises endorsing “thigh gaps” and “bikini bridges,” the media is no stranger to manipulating beauty.
Target recently fell into this Photoshop-gone-wrong category with an over-edited “thigh gap” on a bikini model. Along with the removal of the photo from their website, they issued a public apology for the editing but this didn’t halt bloggers or Tweeters from unloading their anger and disgust across the web.
Millennials’ addiction and constant accessibility to technology and social media is a double edged sword. This is the first time in decades where not only celebrities are voicing their disgust, but the public, their target audiences, also have a platform to preach their feelings and take a stance. They’ve taken to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, blogs, etc., backlashing over-edited magazine covers and advertisements that directly reflect what society should think beautiful is. At the same time, they are more prone to seeing these images. With every login to social media or every click browsing the internet, there is no escape. Images of models and celebrities are everywhere, and even if they know the pictures are thinned, cropped, tanned and chopped, it doesn’t stop anyone from taking a look at their own body and drawing differences. It is easy to say that so and so’s thighs on the cover of a magazine are larger in real life, but it is harder to stop yourself from criticizing your own after a mere glimpse of the picture.
Several brands have addressed these issues through promoting natural and inner beauty by ditching stick thin models and instead featuring “real” women in advertisements and marketing campaigns.
Aside from Dove’s famous Real Beauty campaign, the personal care mega-house has continued to redefine beauty through videos and workshops. Last April, Dove released a video documenting an experiment that exposed the way that woman look at themselves. In the video, a former forensic artist from the San Jose police department sketched two headshots of a group of women: one based solely on descriptions of themselves, the other based on descriptions they gave of each other. The first sketch was harsher and uglier, proving that they were hard on themselves. The second was truer and prettier, showing that sometimes the things they disliked about themselves were what others found most beautiful. This January, Dove released a similar video featuring selfies of young students and their mothers.
Each of these videos highlights a major marketing implication: the importance of relating to your consumer. The fashion and beauty industry is stereotypically superficial and capitalizes off of perfecting appearances. Sex appeal and perfect looks do sell, but differentiating your brand by relating to your customer’s insecurities has paid off for companies like Dove. When consumers buy a product today, they aren’t paying for just a tangible object. They are looking for relationships with their brands, not just to be “sold.” They follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. They are your friend and want to relate to you; the more alike you are to them, the more likely they will stick around. While I for one am not offended by the use of models in advertisements or campaigns, it is disturbing to me that there has been a need to edit photographs for people who were essentially hired based on their looks and weight.
Aerie is one of many brands steering clear of Photoshop-mishaps by promoting a more natural, real image. Their “#AeirieREAL” campaign ditches all stick-thin, “perfect” models and solely features regular, “real” girls. By incorporating a plethora of body types, Aerie is reaching out to a variety of consumers. In reality, not every girl has the same shapes or proportions, so by showcasing their products on different types of models they are proving that anyone can look good and feel good in Aerie.
A standard of beauty is formed by the media and entertainment industry, but it doesn’t have to be. The more millenials that take a stand, the greater challenge brands face to meet our expectations. Who would want to buy a product where the even the model has to be edited to look good in it anyways?