New research from the University of Kent suggests the fashion industry could benefit from using average-sized models rather than size zero in marketing campaigns.
The research, led by Dr Xuemei Bian, of Kent Business School, considered the impact of using average and zero-sized models in marketing campaigns for both established and fictitious new fashion brands.
In three studies, the researchers asked women aged 18-25 which size of model they preferred. The studies also considered the role the women's self-esteem played in their preference.
Dr Bian and her team found that when it came to established brands, average-sized models could be used interchangeably with size zero models, with little or no impact on product or model evaluation.
However, in the case of the 'new' fashion brands, the women in the studies preferred the use of average-sized models over those sized zero. This was because the women had no prior knowledge of the brand on which to base their judgment on.
The research found that this preference was even more pronounced among the women taking part in the studies who considered themselves to have low self-esteem.
Dr Bian said: 'The issue of fashion industry use of skinny models is a very controversial and we have even seen France's parliament considering a ban. Our research shows that the fashion industry has nothing to fear from using average-sized models in it marketing campaigns, and could even find that it sells more of its products by doing so.'
Are size-zero female models always more effective than average-sized ones? Depends on brand and self-esteem! (Dr Xuemei Bian, University of Kent and Professor Kai-Yu Wang, Brock University, Canada) will be published by the European Journal of Marketing.
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Notes to editors
Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.
Kent has been ranked: top 10 for overall student satisfaction in the 2013 National Student Survey; 20th in the 2014 and 2015 Guardian University Guide; 28th in the Sunday Times University League Table 2013; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.
Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014), it has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.
Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).
The University is worth £0.6 billion to the economy of the South East, with its students contributing £211 million to that total, and directly or indirectly supports almost 6,800 jobs in the region (source: Viewforth Consulting 2009-10).
In 2014 it received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.
European Journal of Marketing