A new study by University of British Columbia researchers says that because models are so important to advertisers, they’re also important to the world at large.
The study, “Making the Call: The Impact of Models on Advertisers and Consumers,” is the first to examine how models can influence the way people see their brands, says research scientist Michael Tylka.
Tylkas group examined more than 1,000 consumer reports on more than 400 companies, and found that the models that were considered to be most important to brands, such as women, had a more positive impact on the way the brands were perceived.
“What we found was that people are not really comfortable with the idea that they can be judged based on a person’s appearance,” says Tylkas co-author, University of New Brunswick marketing professor Elizabeth D’Amico.
“They’re not comfortable that they’re judged by what they do.”
For the study, the researchers asked consumers to fill out a series of questions, including how often they would wear a particular product, and the brand or product they would like to wear it on.
The results showed that, among the brands that were seen as having the most positive impact, the models were seen to be more appealing and more attractive.
For example, brands that emphasized diversity, women and people of color were perceived as more attractive, while brands that portrayed the company as a white-dominated business were perceived to be less attractive.
The research is being presented in the journal Journal of Consumer Research.
“People may think that the best brands are ones that are culturally appropriate,” says D’Ammico.
However, the research suggests that that perception is not necessarily true.
For some brands, the impact of the models is so strong that the brands become so recognizable that they are not seen as being as attractive as others.
“For example, in our study, brands with very strong representations of diversity and inclusion, such the Nike+ brand, are seen as much more appealing than the more traditional brands,” says study co-leader Jennifer DeBenedictis.
“If the best-looking brand in the world is perceived as being more culturally appropriate, the brands might end up being seen as less culturally appropriate.”
For some advertisers, models represent a way of making a buck.
“We are the first people to show that the model is important to marketers,” says DeBensitis.
That’s because the research shows that advertisers can make money off the model in ways that they might not have realized before.
In the study’s first phase, the study found that people perceive the models to be at least as important as the brands they’re wearing.
For this group of advertisers, the findings suggest that they may make more money from their models.
But for the group that doesn’t perceive them as important, the results showed a different story.
In that group, the effect was negative.
“When you see a brand that’s perceived as less attractive, the model isn’t seen as as valuable as a brand with a high-quality image,” says lead researcher Jennifer De Benedictis, adding that it may be a good thing that people don’t like to be judged by how they look.
“But when you see that brand, people say ‘Oh, that’s just the way I am, that is what I like,'” says De Benedictsitis, noting that the results may not apply to all brands.
The impact of models in our society has a profound impact on our perception of beauty.
It also impacts how we perceive others.
And, of course, that perception can affect our decisions.
“Our study shows that it’s not the appearance that’s the issue, it’s how people perceive your brand that has a significant impact on how people see your brand,” says de Benedictises co-authors, Jennifer De Besio and Julie Beech.