Ben Barry, a modeling agency CEO, has recently conducted a survey in order to find out what kinds of models inspire women to buy their clothes. He came to the conclusion that most women are actually more willing to buy an item that was modeled by someone closer to their own size and shape.
The research, which was funded by the Ogilvy Foundation, involved more than 2,500 women from different cities all across Canada and the United States. The women, whose ages ranged from 14 to 65 years, had dress sizes from 0 to 18, and reflected a range of ethnicities.
In the beginning, Barry conducted experiments to figure out what women's purchase intentions would be if they saw the same clothes demonstrated by models of different body sizes, race and age. Each participating woman was randomly shown two of eight possible advertisements where the models wore the same Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress. The ads were absolutely identical in concept and art direction, but featured models who varied in size, age and race. To avoid biasing their opinions, the participants were not informed about the intentions of the researcher, they only were asked which advertisement made them want to purchase the dress. It was revealed that:
Women's buying intentions were increased by more than 200 per cent when the body sizes of the models in the ads were similar of their own;
Women's buying intentions increased by more than 175 per cent when they saw models who reflected their own age;
Black participants were 1.5 more likely to buy a dress if it was showcased by a black model.
In the second part of the research, Barry facilitated focus groups with different women to find out what were the reasons that motivated them to make a particular purchase. He found that almost all the surveyors from Canada and the USA preferred to buy clothes that was showcased by models who looked somewhat similar to themselves, and when asked why, the women named very simple reasons: they could see how the item fit; they felt as a part of the brand's messaging; it was much easier to imagine themselves taking part in the aesthetic fantasy of the advertisement. In other words, the conclusion was that women are more likely to purchase an item when they see it demonstrated by a model of their own age, body size and race. Among some other findings of the study:
The purchase intentions were increased by 300 per cent among the women over size 6 when they saw curvier models;
When women saw the models with body sizes different from their own, their intentions to make a purchase decreased by 60 per cent, and women over size 6 dropped their purchase intentions by 76 per cent;
Women with the ages of 35 years and older increased their intentions to buy an item by 200 per cent when they saw older models demonstrating it;
When a model's age did not reflect the age of consumers, the purchase intentions of a buyer dropped by 64 per cent.
According to Barry, the findings are very important because now it has become clear that in a modeling business every model type can be very effective. While some people argue that skinny models should be substituted by curvy ones - assuming that curvy women are universally more effective than skinny ones - Barry thinks that the effectiveness will highly depend on whether the model herself will share the buyers' traits.