Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate how the weight of users affects the perception of mass market fashion brands.
Design/methodology/approach: This study attempts to show effects of typical - as well as ideal user imagery on fashion brands. An experiment was carried out in which 1848 university students replied to a web survey, rating the brand personality of jeans and shirts according to Aaker’s Big Five construct. The garments were worn by digitally manipulated versions of one person as thin, overweight, and obese.
Findings: The findings show that consumers’ impressions of mass market fashion brands are significantly affected by the weight of its users. The effect of male user imagery is ambiguous. For women’s fashion on the other hand, slender users are to be preferred.
Research limitations/implications: It is possible, even probable, that high fashion would suffer more from negative typical user imagery than would mass market fashion. It would therefore be interesting to replicate this experiment using clothes of higher fashion grade and price.
Practical implications: The demonstrated effects of user imagery support the industry practice of slim ideal female imagery. However, excluding customers to boost brand perception should not be an option for these brands.
Social implications: The results inform the debate over skinny models vs. “real women” in advertising as well as the debate over discrimination of overweight consumers through assortment decisions.
Originality/value: This is the first time typical user imagery effects are included in a study of this type, and it is the first study to test user imagery effects on fashion.