It was great to be presented with a question, which pertains to my field. Since I don’t just teach marketing and advertising, but also work in these fields, I decided to post this question, and share some of my reactions to such a great question.
In a recent Macy’s ad, the undergarment model is showing off the full support bras Macy’s has on sale for 40 percent off. Oddly, she does not appear to be in her late teens or early twenties, as these models invariably do. Second, she has a tummy roll, something these models never have.
I’m guessing if this were to become a discussion point for the TV news networks, it would generate praise for Macy’s and if anyone took a survey about it, this model would score well, if not highly. However, I don’t expect she’ll increase sales. I showed the ad to my wife, who said she assumes the chick in pregnant and this is a slap in the face to overweight women. Of course, it’s not a reasonable sample, but I find it interesting that (theoretically) Macy’s is reaching out to overweight women by using a model who looks a little more like the “typical” woman, and they offended at least one “typical” woman.
I guess there are some days marketers just can’t win …
Wait, unless, despite being offended by the instant image, we go down the road a week or two and maybe this model has helped create a positive feel for Macy’s in “typical” women.
What do you think of that theory?
An interested reader
Hello interested reader,
Your confusion and uncertainty of this ad running is very much on par with mainstream America. To me, this is Macy’s trying to reach an audience that wants to feel beautiful even with the most “average” look. What is interesting about this move is the fact that Dove’s 2008 and 2009 ad campaigns, both which featured TV, Internet, and magazine advertising depicting the larger, or as they stated “average,” American woman ultimately failed. It seemed with all the smaller groups – and I’m not just referring to women’s image groups, I’m also referring to groups that have been screaming foul about the images of women, such as overweight or eating disorder support groups – all wanting some sort of recent images shown, the mainstream sector of the country voted loudly “No.”
They might have been marching in the streets of Washington DC, but their voices were heard in the marketplace. Many purchases simply closed up their wallets to Dove and their family of brands, and moved to other companies that continued to sell beauty, sex, and happiness. The result was Dove ultimately rolling the dice with multi-million dollar campaign targeting “dirty men,” which failed as quickly as it started. In short, the beauty and bath products of Dove have been taking serious hits for the past three years, and if you look at their current campaigns, they very much focus on looks and sexiness. Did I mention that the Dove for Men line all but dried up. I just saw most of the products reduced past the 50% mark, and my guess is once it’s moved off the shelves, it won’t be back any time soon.
The thing that Macy’s has going for itself is the fact that their demographic is middle to upper class households, which tend to find working people, who want to spend the money. The average age is around 45, and they tend to bring in more females then males. On a humorous side note, or at least one that I think is funny, Macy’s tried clambering for the “yuts” movement (as Joe Pesci stated in the fantastic movie, My Cousin Vinny) a few years back, but it seemed the Mariah Carey and Paris Hilton fragrance didn’t garner the attention from the tweens, teens, and twenty-something’s. I think I just saw both brands, on display, on the “clearance rack” of that department.
More to the point, Macy’s is hoping to use an idea that failed, but aim it at a more specific demographic. Will it work? My guess is probably not. I promise that I’m not a “Negative Nelly,” I really do want to see advertising campaigns succeed. I just feel that many women are going to have the reaction your wife had. You can’t have a potential customer look at the image and say, “Is that lady pregnant?” Unless you’re flipping through a baby store catalog, that’s most likely not the reaction you’re hoping for.
Here’s something else to ponder: Did you know that the 2010 Victoria’s Secret Show, which was aired on CBS, had advertising sponsors paying rates that ranked them in the Top 5 highest paying events? They came in just behind the Super Bowl and the World Series. So, what does this tell us?
We, as Americans, want to be entertained by beautiful people. We see “average” everyday, which might include simply looking in the mirror. We want to come home, after a long day of work, school, or dealing with family, and look at attractive people who can sincerely take our minds to a different place. This is why Macy’s has an uphill battle. Underwear should make women feel beautiful and sexy. Most women don’t want to put on a matching set and hope that it helps their stomach protrude and butt to look enlarged.
I’m not saying that it’s a bad move. I’m just asking: Who did their market research, and by all means, did anyone contact the Dove Corporation?
Thanks for the question. Until next time,
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