Every day, more companies are integrating the topic of body positivity into their advertisements. Even though it’s a good thing for media to show different kinds of beauty, experts say companies must act in ways that match those values or risk being seen as inauthentic.

Erin Bogle, a size-inclusive advocate and creator of popular Instagram account @biggirlyyc, developed her social media profile in order to spread love, support women of all body sizes and help free them from the limitations the stigma around weight holds.

“When somebody loses weight, that can be [seen as] the highest celebration that someone could get,” Bogle explains. “But actually, that’s like a really small part of what makes somebody who they are.”

Bogle says companies that show body positivity in their advertisements, such as Dove and Aerie, are taking a step in the right direction. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004 was one of the first companies to have so-called ‘real’ women in their promotional material. Since then, other companies have come aboard, including Nike, Everlane and Aerie. Aerie developed the campaign #AerieREAL in which they no longer retouch models and focus on highlighting women of various sizes.

However, Bogle believes more can still be done.

“[Aerie] includes a mid-range size of people — I heard they go up to a size 24, which is great! It’s definitely unusual for a mainstream clothing company,” she says. “Do I think they could push it further and include more people? I absolutely do.”

Companies’ marketing strategies can act as large advocates for social issues, such as body positivity, because they offer a large platform for marginalized groups to share their perspectives.

Mount Royal University marketing professor Kendra Hart believes mass media has a lot of power and largely affects how we view reality as a society. Hart suggests the more of what we see in the media as “normal,” the more people will alter their views on societal standards.

“This is why we see so many different types of marginalized groups fighting for more representation in media. The more we see different types of people being represented in media, the more we become accustomed to and expect diversity in real life.”

Hart believes that showing beauty as more than one size will change peoples’ perceptions of what beauty looks like.

“The more we see different representations of beauty in the media, the more we begin to view beauty as defined more broadly and inclusively,” Hart says.

“Changing our perception of reality — and what is commonplace in that reality —can eliminate any type of social stigma because it changes our notion of what is normal.”

Even though companies may change their marketing plan to focus on social issues, it is important to recognize that at the end of the day, their primary goal is to make profit. Due to this fact, Hart believes marketing social issues could cause more risk than reward.

“The difficulty is that they run the risk of seeming inauthentic and illegitimate if the company does not appear to live these values, or if it conflicts with other messaging,” Hart explains.

“If consumers perceive that such efforts are used simply in an effort to capitalize on a trend then the company might be perceived as simply engaging in “woke washing” and their
efforts might backfire.”

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