Magazines use Photoshop to make their cover girls appear thinner. Shows like America’s Next Top Model and The Biggest Loser make us think that skinny is better. Pressures from the media lead women to believe that skinny is beautiful and other shapes and sizes are unacceptable. Based on “The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report,” only 2% of women surveyed used the word “beautiful” to describe themselves. Even more surprising, 40% of 18 to 29 year-olds strongly agreed that they feel uncomfortable using the adjective “beautiful” to describe themselves.
People and brands are finally stepping up to terminate these beliefs. In 2004, Dove launched the Campaign for Real Beauty. For the last ten years, Dove has worked to make beauty a source of confidence rather than anxiety. Dove’s latest “Selfie” initiative asked mother-daughter duos to take ‘selfies’ of their features that they disliked the most. The selfies were blown up and displayed in a gallery where others could leave complimentary notes on the photos. The goal of the initiative is for women to redefine and embrace their own beauty. One of Dove’s most memorable and impactful campaigns was “Real Beauty Sketches.” This campaign involved an FBI-trained forensic sketch artist to draw a woman as she described herself, and then as a total stranger described her. Strangers painted much more flattering profiles than the actual women portrayed herself. The results were astonishing and prove that women are more beautiful than they think. The campaign went viral and received over 135 million views on YouTube, becoming the most watched video ad of all time (Huffington Post, Bahadur).
Within six months of launching Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004 in Europe, Dove saw its sales for women’s products increase by 700 percent. In the US, sales increased 600 percent in the first two months of the campaign launch. The campaign has clearly had an impact on the way women view Dove and Unilever. MarketingProfs writer Marti Barletta thinks “Dove uncovered that there is a pent-up demand for a company to understand and acknowledge what women all over the world were feeling…it recognized there is no stronger way to build an intimate connection with a woman than to see her real self, know her secret thoughts, show that you understand, and tell her you love her anyway.” Others think the campaign validates or empowers women to believe in their own beauty. Either way, Dove has been able to connect to female consumers. Females trust brands that foster relationships. And as shown by Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, good relationships result in big bucks.
American Eagle recently launched its #AerieReal Campaign. As part of the campaign, only “real” girls are featured in ads, and retouching/Photoshopping is no longer used on these “real” models. The purpose of #AerieReal is to appeal to girls of all different shapes and sizes. Seeing “real” women modeling the clothes helps shoppers get a better idea of what the clothing may actually look like on them. Aerie hopes to make girls feel good about their body and not feel like they have to change the way they look to wear clothes. While it’s too soon to tell if #AerieReal will have a “real” impact on profits, “studies have shown that there is link between teen girls feeling bad about their bodies and their seeing unrealistic images of beauty portrayed in advertising” (Fool.com, Marder). Hopefully, Aerie will follow in Dove’s footsteps and demonstrate that understanding consumers impacts their purchase decisions and can increase profits.
Buzzfeed recently featured a post about Pittsburgh artist Nickolay Lamm who created a “Normal Barbie” or what he calls Lammily Dolls. Lamm used the measurements of an average 19-year old woman from the Center for Disease Control and Preventions and then molded them to a 3D model. Lammily is shorter with more realistic proportions. Her feet are flat, rather than permanently arched to fit into high heels. Lamm launched a crowdfunding site to raise $95,000 in hopes to produce 5,000 proportional Lammily dolls. He has far surpassed his goal by raising almost $500,000 to date. Lamm plans to produce dolls in different ethnicities and body shapes. Almost 12,500 people have supported Lammily Dolls financially. This kind of support shows that many people are ready to join Nickolay Lamm, Dove, and Aerie in their fight to change the way women see themselves.
Sadly, not everyone is a fan of these campaigns. Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” features little variation in race and skin color. Most of the women in the video fit society’s standard beauty definition. When women described themselves as “fat” or “big,” the sketches resulted were unflattering. Yet, when a stranger describing the woman used words like “thin,” the sketch was more flattering. This pattern reinforces the limitations that society has set for beauty definitions. Some women argue that the “real” girls used in #AerieReal are still single-digit sizes and have great skin. There is also little diversity among the models. Most of the models are white, while one is a light-skinned African American.
Blogger Janey Dike says, “Celebrating imperfections is a first step. Taking away Photoshop is a brave step. Using photos of women who do not look like the models plastered on every magazine and commercial we have ever seen is the necessary step.” Pittsburgh artist Lamm hopes to create Lammily dolls of all different shapes with his new financial funding. While Dove and Aerie are taking steps in the right direction, they definitely have a long way to go. Women deserve to feel beautiful at size 0 and size 26. Women should not have to see skinny women plastered all over the media. More companies need to step up and show their support for women. Not only will this help women feel better about themselves, but this will also be good for the brand. Women want to buy from brands that understand them and can relate to them. Companies that do this will create goodwill and therefore loyal customers.
Bahadar, Nina. “Dove ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign Turns 10: How a Brand Tried to Change the
Conversation About Female Beauty.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.,
21 Jan. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
Brannigan, Maura. “Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches: You Are More Beautiful Than You Think.”
Marie Claire. Hearst Communication, Inc., 18 Apr. 2013. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.
Burns, Ashley. “American Eagle’s New Ad Campaign Promises Only Real Girls As Models.”
UProxx. UProxx, 21 Jan. 2014. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.
Dike, Janey. “Aerie’s ‘No Photoshop’ Ads Still Don’t Cut It.” Uloop. Uloop, 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 21
Marder, Andrew. “Does It Matter That Aerie Skipped Photoshop in Its New Ads?” The Motley
Fool. The Motley Fool, 25 Jan. 2014. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.
“New Dove Campaign Asks Whether Selfies Define Beauty.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 21
Jan. 2014. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.
Nunez, Alanna. “Shape Shares: American Eagle Ditches Photoshop in Latest Campaign.” Shape
Magazine. Weider, 22 Jan. 2014. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.
“The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.” Dove. Unilever, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.
Vingiano, Alison. “This ‘Normal Barbie’ Has the Proportions of an Average American 19-Year
Old.” Buzzfeed. Buzzfed, Inc., 5 Mar 2014. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.