Recently, there has been a major surge in the body positivity (or BoPo) movement. For those who don’t know, body positivity is the idea that all bodies, no matter their size, skin color, abilities, or gender deserve to be loved and treated fairly by the public—there is no “right” way to look, so all bodies should be represented, especially in the media we consume. As these ideas have gained more traction in the past few years (YAY!), brands have been taking notice and implementing these thoughts into their campaigns. Now, simply because a brand starts using more BoPo language or features a diverse collection of bodies in their imagery doesn’t mean they’re body positive. Here are a few of the pitfalls of BoPo marketing, and some quick tips to make sure you’re on the right track for your next campaign.
DON'T: Fake It Till You Make It
When addressing the issue of body positivity in terms of marketing, the first thing that comes to mind is authenticity. Customers can tell when a brand is simply phoning it in to grab the attention of their base, and they are quick to call it out. Case and point: Victoria's Secret's "Perfect Body" mishap. When the campaign first premiered, the banner on the website featured the typical lineup of thin, long-legged models synonymous with the brand. The text overlay said, “The Perfect ‘Body’” as a reference to their “Body” bra. Cue: widespread internet backlash. Within days, the overlay was changed to read: “A Body for Every Body”. While this still falls flat to have this kind of messaging in front of a group of women who all look almost exactly the same (Able-bodied, young, thin, mostly white, almost all the same height), it’s better than claiming to be perfect.
DON'T: Advertise Nonexistent Products
On a similar note, if you’re going to feature bodies of various sizes, you should have the products to fit those bodies available to the public. When Everlane entered the underwear space in March 2018, they featured a curvy model in their ads and social media. However, when plus-size women went to go and purchase the underwear shown, they were disappointed to discover that the line only went up to a size XL (equivalent to a size 14 according to their size chart). Make sure you aren’t all bark and no bite.
DO: Variety is the Spice of Life
Body Positivity isn’t just about size inclusivity. It’s about including all ages, abilities, races, and genders as well. According to Gartner research, Gen-X women feel left out of the body positivity movement—no one is celebrating middle-aged bodies. They’re too young to be celebrated with the Boomers, but not young enough to be celebrated with the Millennials. Trans men and women are often overlooked in advertising as well, so be sure to look to these communities when casting for diversity.
DO: Make Bold Body Choices, but Quietly
The only thing worse than brands not including diverse people in their campaigns is when they expect or ask for recognition when they finally do. Let your customers (or better yet, those who are discovering you) do that talk for you. If you’re not touching up your models, don’t announce it, just do it. Consumers don’t want to watch you pat yourselves on the back for putting a plus-size woman in a campaign—it’s not groundbreaking at this point, it’s borderline expected. Simply post your pictures of beautifully diverse bodies and use your captions to focus on what differentiates your actual product from your competitors. Your customer base will do the rest.
DO: Talk the Talk
As the “diet culture” begins to fade into the “wellness” sphere, the way people talk about health is changing. Crash diets are on their way out, and intuitive eating is on the rise. According to Google Trends, searches for “intuitive eating principles” are up 350% in the last 5 years, and have increased 170% in the past 12 months alone. Intuitive eating is the idea that people simply listen to their bodies when it comes to food—eat what they want, when they want, and pay attention to how it makes their body feel. People just want to feel good, and by tapping into the language that makes your consumers feel good, you’re able to pull their attention organically and authentically. For example, Blink Fitness knew that gym-goers aren’t just working out to lose weight or gain muscle, they’re exercising to feel happy, no matter what their size. Their body positive campaign highlights different body parts of all shapes and sizes with the overlay: “Every _____ Happy” with the final section stating: “Every Body Happy” as their way of recognizing health at every size.
As you can see, body positivity is not something to be taken lightly, and it's becoming expected that brands do their part. Representation matters, and as consumers become more and more conscious of the media they consume, they become more aware of the companies that speak to them in a positive way. Customers not only want to see more real people, but they want to see people that look like them, and brands that give them that are bound to reap the benefits.
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