Retailers learn to love real women

We are witnessing a shift in the approach of retailers to real women’s bodies. If it is not a genuine appreciation, it is at least a return to reality and they are turning to a new advertising strategy that should appeal to many more consumers. Major advertisers like Nike and Wal-Mart have stepped aboard the real-woman trend that was first made popular by ads for Dove firming lotion, which showed six curvy women in their underwear, looking happy and confident.

Although the tendency is moving increasingly towards real women, marketing expert Katie LeBesco noted that the new reality was still far from ugly. “You don’t see raging spider veins…or women with huge bellies,” she told USA Today. She said that the ads are not “the be-all and end-all of socially responsible advertising”, but was “pleased to see some kind of change”.

Advertisers are coming to the conclusion that they have been skipping a considerable demographic by only showcasing impossible beauty and slimness. “They are reaching out to a big section of society that’s had it with trying to keep up with the Joneses in terms of body image and beauty,” Tom Cline, associate professor of marketing at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe , Pa. told USA Today.

Among those who have jumped on the bandwagon of realistic beauty are Nike, Wal-Mart and Chicken of the Sea. Nike has rounded up a mix of real women and pro athletes with fit bodies. The ads feature shots of different body parts. “The ads try to illustrate that not all body types are created equally,” says Nike spokeswoman Caren Bell. “To be a woman athlete, fit and strong doesn’t mean you have to be sample size.” Amen to that!

Meanwhile Wal-Mart has placed an eight-page ad in Vogue’s September issue, featuring “style profiles” of real women. The message here is that “fashion is reachable for everybody”, says Wal-Mart spokeswoman Jacquie Young.