Does size matter? : An exploration of the role of body size on brand image perceptions
Purpose – This paper aims to investigate the role of body size on female consumers’ fashion brand image perceptions. Design/methodology/approach – An experimental design was used whereby the model’s body size in a fictitious advert was digitally manipulated to create four advertising images with an underweight, slender, average and obese model size (all other factors remained constant). Through an intercept survey of German female consumers, respondents were exposed to one of the four images, and asked questions pertaining to their brand image perceptions. Findings – The findings suggest that for older consumers, model body size has no significant impact on their brand image perceptions. For younger consumers (18-25), there was some limited evidence of how a positive brand image affects when a slender model size is used, but there was no evidence that underweight models have a more positive impact on brand image. Research limitations/implications – The sample was restricted to a single German city (Berlin) with a relatively small sample and, therefore, the generalisability of the findings may be limited. It would be interesting to repeat the study in different cultural contexts. Whilst this paper focussed on potential differences in perceptions between different age groups, future studies could consider other factors, such as fashion involvement or consumer personality on the impact of body size on brand image. Practical implications – Given the potential link to low self-esteem and eating disorders, it is recommended that fashion brands cease using clinically underweight models. Brands targeting older consumers may benefit from using larger models. Originality/value – There is limited research to date that looks at the role of body size on brand image, and this is one of the first studies to consider all non-product-related brand image associations, and how perceptions may differ between different age groups, with many previous studies relying on student samples.