Average-Size Models Could Be Better For Business, Study Says

05/14/2015 10:32 am ET | Updated May 14, 2015

There's already reason enough to include more diverse models in ad campaigns, but new research from the University of Kent provides yet another: average-size models could actually sell more clothes than their size zero counterparts.

Three studies led by Kent marketing professor Xuemei Bian asked a total of 530 women aged 18-25 what size model they preferred in campaigns. The results as announced by the school were quite interesting: When the campaigns centered on established brands, Bian and her fellow researchers found that size zero models could be swapped with average-size models without making any difference in the women's evaluation of the product or models. And when the women in the study were shown "new" fashion brands, they preferred seeing average-size models.

"Our research shows that the fashion industry has nothing to fear from using average-sized models in its marketing campaigns, and could even find that it sells more of its products by doing so," Bian said in a statement.

Hers isn't the first study to come to this conclusion: last month, Brock University in Ontario found that size 6 models are "more marketable" than size zeros.

But while many designers still use stick-thin models to promote their clothing, some popular brands and retailers are making strides. Earlier this year, online retailer Modcloth enlisted employees of all shapes and sizes to star in the site's new swimsuit ads, and Calvin Klein recently featured a size 10 model in its "Perfect Body" campaign. Last July, J.C. Penney introduced five new mannequins based on the shapes of real people.


It's not just stores that are looking to disseminate more realistic images of beauty. Countries including France have passed legislation to ban excessively thin fashion models, while Spain and Israel have introduced measures to ensure that their models meet specific body mass requirements.

Hopefully, the research will prompt even more fashion companies and advertisers to get with the program.

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