Marketing Trend: “Real” Bodies

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By: Kelsey Bosselait

In the past decade there has been a trend of “real” bodies in beauty and fashion marketing campaigns. The bodies are supposed to represent the every day consumer.

Dove kicked off the trend in 2004 with their “Campaign for Real Beauty”. Their new ads depicted women with a variety of skin tones wearing only their underwear.

Dove has maintained this campaign for the past ten years, creating videos of women discussing their perception of their looks and the full extend that media images are photoshopped.


Special K was another company that jumped on the bandwagon in 2012 with their “What Will You Gain When You Lose?” campaign. Their first commercial featured women in Times Square stepping on a scale and revealing, not a number, but a word: “courage” “sparkle” or”confidence.”


The most recent company to join the trend is American Eagle Outfitter’s lingerie and loungewear brand Aerie. They released an ad campaign last month featuring images of their models without any retouching, adding the hashtag #aeriereal.


All of these ads have gone viral, giving the companies a boost in sales. According to Forbes magazine, Dove’s sales went up by 20% in the year after they launched their campaign; Kellogg reported a 4% increase in sales in 2011, one year after their campaign launch; and American Eagle Outfitters’ stock has risen about one point in the past month.

While these campaigns have helped to boost sales, there’s still the question of whether or not they are raising self confidence. Each campaign has it’s own problems.

Dove’s first ad is selling a firming cream, so while they are showing their product on women of a slightly larger size than the average model, they are implying that the women’s bodies are imperfect and need to be firmed in order to be beautiful.

Special K is my personal least favorite. Their ads imply that women will, and should, only feel “courageous” and “sassy” and “confident” after they have lost weight.

Aerie may not be blurring blemishes or erasing skin folds, but they aren’t showing any real change in the type of bodies presented. All of the models are thin and fit a standard mold of femininity.

Let’s hope this trend stays around- and improves. The beauty and fashion industry has been making billions of dollars for years preying on people’s insecurities. Hopefully these new profit margins will create a new normal of selling self-acceptance rather than self-loathing.



About Kelsey Bosselait

Fashion blogger, online marketer, Free People enthusiast, klutz.
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