Are size-zero female models always more effective than average-sized ones?

  • Depends on brand and self-esteem!
  • Xuemei Bian, Kai-Yu Wang
  • European Journal of Marketing, July 2015, Emerald
  • DOI: 10.1108/ejm-08-2013-0414

Model body size and advertising effectiveness

What is it about?

This article investigates whether size-zero models always result in more positive consumer response than average-size models.

Why is it important?

The three studies provide the first evidence that consumers’ response to advertisements using size-zero models versus average-size models varies predictably and systematically with types of brand and psychological characteristics. This research finds that brand moderates consumers’ model evaluation. Participants evaluated average-size models as being more attractive than size-zero models for new brands. For well-established brands associated with size-zero models, participants rated average-size models and size-zero models as being equally attractive. Self-esteem shapes participants’ evaluation of average-size and size-zero models. For new brands, low self-esteem individuals evaluated average-size models as being more attractive than size-zero models, whereas high self-esteem individuals evaluate average-size and size-zero models as being equally attractive. The results are consistent, regardless of whether it is a luxury and a generic brand. These results emerged for both model attractiveness rating and product evaluations.


Xuemei Bian
University of Kent

Limited research has documented the possible effects of brand on individuals’ responses to average-size as opposed to size-zero models. How individuals of different psychological characteristics may react distinctively to advertisements containing average-size versus stereotype size-zero models has not yet been explored until this study. This research takes the first step to bridge these knowledge gaps by looking into how brand and perceiver psychological characteristics jointly work with model features to determine how consumers perceive the average-size as opposed to size-zero models. This study provides empirical and comparative evidence of the advantages of using average-size and size-zero models in print media. A better understanding of the relative consequences of the use of average-size versus size-zero models is essential for more effective policy initiatives and better targeted marketing campaigns.

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