advertising

All posts in the advertising category

An Open Letter to Lite ‘n Easy

Published January 1, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

Dear Lite ‘n Easy,

Firstly, I want to let you know that I am a happy customer.  I have been using Lite ‘n Easy now for the past few months and have not had a single negative experience.   Well, there could be less peas in everything but that’s personal taste!

However, I need to talk to you about the email that you sent this morning.

Look, I know it’s January 1st, and that marketing opportunity is too good to resist.  New year, people are wanting to make changes and face things fresh.  I understand the email going out today.  But what I take issue with are the following assumptions in the email:

  1. That your customers must want to lose weight.
  2. That all of your customers use Lite ‘n Easy as a weight loss aid.
  3. The lack of sensitivity towards any customers who may be using your meal plans to help deal with an eating disorder.
  4. That your customers *have* lost weight while using your service.
  5. That somehow losing weight is going to be one of the things, or enable me to do things “that I love”.

Before I continue on, as a little background, I want to explain why I decided to become a Lite ‘n Easy customer again a few months ago.  Many years ago, when I was still chasing the myth of weight loss, I tried Lite ‘n Easy.  I loved it.  The food was fantastic quality, and there was more of it than I could eat.  I saved money.  I saved time.  But despite loving it, I was miserable.  Why?  Because I didn’t lose any weight.  Actually I lost a little bit at first, but then, like every other time I had tried to lose weight, it crept back on.  I blamed myself.  I blamed you.  I did everything but blame the myth of weight loss.  So I stopped using Lite ‘n Easy, and went back to the severe restriction and purging eating disorder I had been nurturing since I was 13.

Now fast forward to a few months ago.  I have realised that my worth does not lie in my weight (or lack of it).  I have stopped putting my life on hold until I am thin.  I have filled my life with the things that are important, and I’ve been in recovery from my eating disorder for almost 6 years.  I am a fat woman, but I now understand that the size and shape of my body bears no relevance on the quality of my life.

However, one of the problems with living life to the fullest for me is that I’m not very good at eating competently.  I can thank a society that tells women we must be thin to be worthy and 25+ years of a very fraught relationship with food for that.  I’m working hard and playing hard, it’s awesome.  But  I’m not eating enough.  I’m skipping breakfast and finding myself ravenous by lunch, and then at night too tired to eat anything for dinner more than a bit of toast.  I’m struggling with those old eating disorder demons again.  I’m getting more and more run down and my energy levels are disappearing.  Then I see a woman at work eating a Lite ‘n Easy lunch, and I remember how much I liked it, how convenient it was and how it was good for me to have all my daily meals all laid out for me and how much money I saved in the long term.

So I make the decision to start using Lite ‘n Easy again, and I’ve not regretted it at all.  The food is excellent.  There is far more of it than I can eat, so much that over the Christmas week while I am busy socialising, I can just skip a week of Lite ‘n Easy and there are still plenty of meals for me left to cover those times I’m not out socialising.

I get that half of your brief is “Lite”.  I’m not going to tell you to let go of that.  It clearly works for you, though I personally believe that you lose a lot of customers who either don’t lose weight while using your products and services, or who aren’t interested in losing weight.  However it has been your business name for a long time, and has a lot of goodwill attached to it.  I can understand you not wanting to let go of that.  I don’t have a problem with that side of your business if you keep it out of my inbox.

Now, you can see I am very happy with your product and service.  But back to my points above as to why your email was unwelcome and frankly offensive.

  1. I understand that some people still believe in the myth of weight loss.  I understand that is part of your marketing but you keep it pretty low key on your website, so I don’t have to see it when I place my orders.  However, when it arrives in my inbox unsolicited, I am not happy.  I don’t want to see weight loss propaganda.  I can opt out of seeing it until you start pushing it in my inbox.
  2. As I mentioned before, I don’t use Lite ‘n Easy as a weight loss aid.  I use it as a convenience, a money saver, and because I feel healthier and have more energy when I eat a balanced diet.  I am still the same weight as I was when I started a couple of months ago.  I will no doubt be the same weight in a year from now.  That’s OK, I am happy with who I am.  But I don’t like the presumption that I must want to lose weight if I use your product/services.
  3. You can’t know how many of your customers are dealing with eating disorders or are in recovery.  Your product and service is exceptionally good for helping those recovering from eating disorders eat competently.  How about thinking about how you might be able to market your product to help people like myself, rather than sending us material that is deeply triggering.
  4. Never lost an ounce.  Still think your product and service is fantastic.  Not likely to lose an ounce in future.  Still happy to stay your customer.  When I believed in the myth of weight loss, I stopped purchasing your product because I believed it, and I had failed.
  5. I can already do everything that I love.  And those things I can’t do, weight loss isn’t going to help me do them.  In fact, chasing weight loss prevents me from trying.  I’ve done so much more with my life in the past 5 years than I did in all the years I was chasing weight loss.  Consider I started dieting when I was 11.  How many things did I not do because I believed I couldn’t do the things I love unless I was thin?

Where do we go to from here?  Well, I’d like to see you cease sending weight loss propaganda to your customers unsolicited.  That doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t send marketing – I do know how business works.  But I think you could bring yourself FAR more customers, and keep them, if you let go of the weight loss brief and focus on the things that you do really well at Lite ‘n Easy.  How about these for points to focus on:

  • Busy life?  Let us do the work and bring you delicious, nutritious meals to your door.
  • Do the things you love and let us take care of the meal planning, shopping and food preparation.
  • Eat delicious!  Eat healthy!  Eat variety!  Eat conveniently!
  • Show people your food.  It tastes delicious and looks great.  I mean look at this screen grab from your email – yum!

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 12.06.14 PM

  • This sentence from your email is excellent – “You can enjoy all the taste, convenience and health benefits again in 2014.”
  • Show some diverse people (other than white, thin people) enjoying life.  Being active, happy and having fun.  This is aspirational.  This makes me want a product.  Not “look at some thin people, don’t you want to be thin like them?”  Even if I did believe in weight loss, not being represented in marketing is not something that makes me feel good about a product.
  • “Simply Eat Well” – this is a brilliant slogan.  Keep it.  Focus on it.  Use it everywhere.  That’s why I use your product/service – I want to simply eat well.

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 12.09.39 PM
To all of you at Lite ‘n Easy – especially the marketing team – you have a great product and your service is excellent.  Don’t ruin it by choosing poor marketing methods.

Yours sincerely

Kath Read

Advertisements

Public Fat Shaming is not Good Marketing

Published March 31, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

Well hello!  I haven’t forgotten or abandoned you all, I promise.  Life has been intensely busy and I made a promise to myself at the beginning of this year that I would pace myself better and not work myself into the ground with both my activism and my day job.  So you will be getting less posts from me but I’m sure they’ll be better quality in the long term.

I actually had another post written and ready to publish, but something else has cropped up that I would like to talk about.  On Thursday night, as part of the local Bluewater festival here on the bay, there was an event at Shorncliffe called Bayfire.  I decided to take myself along to it to have a look at the markets, get some dinner and watch the fireworks.  I wandered up there and had a look around, bought some very cute hair accessories from a small business called Princess Perfect Clips, tried Transylvanian cheese pie for dinner (verdict – rather tasty) and then watched the fireworks.

When the fireworks were finished, I decided to go and have a look at the rest of the markets.  As I was walking along the waterfront where the stalls all were, minding my own business, someone shoved something in my hands.  I looked down and it was a flyer for some ridiculous weight loss product, which was basically wrapping bits of your body in cling film.  I turned towards the woman who had stuffed it in my hand without asking me if I wanted it, and there they were, a bunch of seriously miserable looking women, all with their arms or middles wrapped in cling film.

I couldn’t believe anyone would be so rude to shove weight loss propaganda into the hands of someone who was not in any way inviting them to do so.  So I tore up the flyer very deliberately right in front of them, making sure they were all watching me, and tossed it into a bin, and walked away.  I was so pissed off.

A bit later I decided to get some dessert, and I decided to share this picture of my dessert on my social media sites (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook) with the following caption:

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 12.35.15 PM

Om nom nom, right?

Well, I didn’t imagine the shitstorm it would create on Tumblr.  Mostly because some people seemed to take personal offense that I wasn’t “allowing anyone to be encouraged on their weight loss goals”.

Now how my protesting some company forcing their material on to fat women (they were not shoving the flyers in the hands of men or thin people) to shame them equals “not allowing anyone to be encouraged on their weight loss goals”, I’m fucked if I know.  After all, I don’t give two fucks what other people do to their own bodies.  This has got nothing at all to do with other people’s bodily choices.  What this has to do with is the public shaming of fat women to make money.  What this has to do with is some woman wrapped in cling foil selling a phony diet product deciding that the fat woman walking past her has a body that is “unacceptable” and she can make a buck off that fat woman by flogging her snake oil product.  This is about someone selling a product assuming that as a fat woman that I must be unhappy with my body and want to spend my money on cling film to reduce it.

The other argument that people kept making is that it is “legitimate advertising” to single out fat women (again, they did not hand the flyers to men or thin people) in public and give them weight loss propaganda.

I am not sure what planet some people are living on.

To equate handing unsolicited weight loss flyers to fat people (and only fat people) to an ad on TV, in a magazine, on the radio or on the side of the street etc is fucked up.

Advertising in general is shitty, and needs to be spoken up against, but it’s not picking out an individual in a public place and physically handing them a flyer that says “Hey fat person, here’s a product you should buy to stop being a fat person because fat is gross.”  It’s not singling out someone who is minding their own business in public, to pass commentary on their body by recommending a product to reduce their body.

Imagine if I wasn’t the confident, self aware woman I am now.  To be singled out like this and handed such propaganda would have DEVASTATED me years ago.  I would have felt so upset that someone had pointed out my fatness in public and made commentary via their actions that my body was unacceptable.  How many other fat women had their night ruined on Thursday by being handed this shitty flyer while enjoying an evening out with their friends and/or family?  I don’t know about you, but most fat women I know don’t go out to a fair to find a weight loss solution, they go out to have fun and enjoy the shopping, dining and fireworks.

For some reason, it is believed by many people that weight loss peddlers actually care about us.  That they care about our happiness, our health and/or our bodies.  They don’t.  They care about obtaining our money.  They tell us our bodies are not acceptable, sell us a product that does not work, then blame us for failing, and sell us the product again, or a new product that does not work.   In Australia alone they make almost $800 million per year.  In the US, it’s $66 billion per year.  They are taking your money and laughing at you as they watch you blame yourself for their product or service failure.

Don’t stand for that shit.  Don’t let anyone dismiss what a horrible act it is to single out a fat person and try to shame them into buying a product.  Don’t let the weight loss industry brainwash you into believing that they care about you, or that they are doing anyone a public service by pushing their product on to people who never asked for it in the first place.

Does a Bear Shit in the Woods?

Published August 18, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

In Time “Healthland” this week, journalist Bonnie Rochman asks “Does Nike’s ‘Greatness’ Ad Exploit Fat People?”  As you may be able to guess by the title of this blog post, I think the answer just might be yes.  But not only does it exploit fat people, it further stigmatises us, as does Ms Rochman in the way she writes her article.

Ok, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Perhaps we should all watch the ad:

So this ad uses a 12 year old fat boy, Nathan Sorrell, and Nike had him run behind a Porsche.  On the second take, he threw up in a ditch.  In the boys own words:

“We’ll try to work with you,” Sorrell said, quoting the director. “They were lenient with me.”

As though Nike were doing this boy a huge favour, and that they were generous by allowing the boy time to recover from being sick.

The advert goes on about greatness, how anyone is capable of it, all of us.  (Even the poor fatties!)  All the while focusing on a fat, sweaty boy running slowly towards the camera.

Even Ms Rochman in her piece uses words like “lumbering” and “bulk” to describe Nathan, words that suggest he is somehow ungainly, unattractive and even pathetic.

The implication of this advert, and even the article, is that we should cheer on the poor fat kid, because he’s working hard to lose weight, even if it is a bit pathetic.  This friends, is not an ad that is designed to celebrate fat people being active.  This ad is telling us “well, at least you’ll be better than this sorry fat kid.”

Even Rebecca Puhl from Yale’s Rudd Centre, quoted in the article, misses the point.  She refers to this advert as “featuring an overweight boy in their ad (and doing so in a respectful manner)”.  How is this respectful?  How is it respectful to have a 12 year old boy run repeatedly behind a Porsche (a fucking Porsche!) until he vomits?  How respectful is it to show a fat person struggling and sweaty, even looking like he is unwell and in pain (which we know he was) and adding hushed tones about how “anyone can be great”, with the implication that “even this pathetic fat kid”.  And let’s not get started on the fact that they used a twelve year old child for this, rather than an adult.

Also note, they have used a fat boy who is trying to lose weight, who is running because he doesn’t want to be fat any more.  Nike are even dangling the carrot of perhaps returning if he is “successful” at doing so.

How is this not stigmatising towards fat people?  There is nothing celebratory about this ad.  The ad isn’t celebrating Nathan, it’s just saying that he has the potential for greatness if he loses weight.  In fact, this ad is saying “Keep running fatty, until you’re not fat.”

If Nike, or anyone else, wanted to feature a fat person and do so in a respectful manner, they wouldn’t be using weight loss as a “greatness” metaphor.  They wouldn’t be using some poor kid who clearly is only running because he thinks he has to be thin.  They wouldn’t be featuring a struggling 12 year old boy who looks like the unhappiest kid in the world.

If they wanted to feature a fat person and do so in a respectful manner, which would be absolutely radical advertising, they would perhaps feature some fat people being active – running, playing sport, dancing etc in their Nike shoes and having a great time!  They’d show fatties laughing and having fun.  They’d show positive representations of fatties engaging in physical activity, not having some poor kid run behind a Porsche until he vomits.

Now I’m not expecting people to look pretty when they are physically active.  It’s hard work and it’s sweaty.  But instead of going on about how anyone has the potential to be great (which implies young Nathan only has the potential, he has to lose the weight first, he isn’t great yet), how about having some fats talk about how running makes them feel good?  Or how they love getting better and better at [insert sport of choice here] by practicing hard?  Or how working up a sweat makes them feel strong and alive?

Instead we are sold this lie that to achieve greatness (and do be worthy of wearing Nike’s gear), we must be working hard to shed the pounds, to reduce our fat bodies.  Fat people are not required to engage in physical activity to get a pass in society, nor are we only allowed to be fat if we are trying desperately to not be fat.  We are not potentially worthy (which is what this advert is really saying) unless we’re potentially thin.  Not to mention that health is not a moral value, nobody has an obligation to be “healthy”, whatever that is.  Running behind a Porsche until you puke is not healthy by my standards, that’s for sure.

Want to see some representations of fat people engaging in physical activity that are respectful and positive and non-exploitative? Check these out from Stocky Bodies*:

Frances stretching

Sonya swimming

Even me! On my bike!

THAT’S how you feature fat people engaging in physical activity in a respectful manner.  Not by focusing on their “lumbering bulk”, talking about how they have the “potential to be great” because they’re trying to lose weight (I think the three of us are already great up there in our photos!)  And certainly not by using a child who is very clearly unhappy about his body and is willing to run behind a Porsche until he is sick, and call it leniency on behalf of the director.

*Images by Isaac Brown for Stocky Bodies.

It’s All About Colour… Unless You’re Fat.

Published August 15, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

I’m feeling really disheartened at the moment.  I went into my local Target yesterday, as a friend had told me that they had all this stock with amazing colours at the moment, and being the colour fan, I’m in!

But I came away so depressed, so disheartened.  But the difference this time is, I decided to take some action about it, and I took a bunch of photos on my phone (apologies in advance for the low quality of images, I was in a hurry on my lunch break, and was just grabbing shots on my phone, but I think they do illustrate my point) to share here.

I walked in to the store, and you betcha, there is colour splashed everywhere in the women’s wear.  It’s awesome.  They also have these little signs up on quite a few of the racks:

Weee! Colour!!

There are neon brights, loads of prints, lace, crochet, jewel tones, sportswear, you name it… all in the most glorious of colours.  So I took myself off to the plus-size section, which is at the back corner of the store, facing the shoes, you know, like they’re ashamed of it (they should be) looking for some fab coloured clothes for fatties.

Sorry, no fatties, you get this…

Zzzzzzzzz

Or you can have this:

Perfect… for my Grandma.

Ooh, wait is that a little blue I see?

Oh great, navy… tradesman checks.

Hang on, there’s a bit of colour behind here…

That’s a bit better, at least it’s not black, navy or grey.

Ok, that’s a bit of colour, I’ll give them that one, it also comes in a deep blue as well.  Not too bad.  Bit casual though, let’s see if there’s anything by way of colour for non-casual occasions (work, going out etc)…

Oh just, no.

Ugly print, again with the dark/muted colours, looks like something my Grandma would love.  I’m a successful woman in the prime of my life who loves fashion, has a career and a full social life.  I do not want to dress like my Grandma.

What about a frock?  Frocks are much more likely to work for a wider age group, and are more likely to have a bit of fashion about them, let’s try the frocks…

Oh look. Black. Grey. Beige. I think I need some No-Doze.

Can you see why I am depressed?  Everything is so bland, so boring, so OLD.

So I went back to the straight sizes.  I want to know, where are these clothes for me?  I mean look at this:

I would wear the hell out of these print pants!

Where are the fabulous prints and bold colours for plus sizes?  Wear are the funky separates to mix and match for women like me?

I want this shirt.  Exactly like this, in a size 26 to fit me.  I don’t want a version with a hanky hem and weird sleeves added to “flatter” my arms, I don’t want it in muted colours, I don’t want it in some kind of nanna print.  I want it just like this, but bigger.

Piping Hot Activewear

See all this casual/activewear?  I want a whole bunch of that in my size too.  In these colours and prints.  Target hardly even have activewear for plus-sizes, it’s like four or five pieces, all as dull as dishwater.

T-shirts anyone?

Look at all these t-shirts.  In a rainbow of colours, with a bunch of variations in sleeve and neckline.  Where are these for plus-sizes?  Why do we only get muted colours, and the only variations we see in design are those that I like to call “fat lady uniform” – shark bite or hanky hems, weird sleeves, ugly prints like that purple shirt above or with “bling” on the bust.  All things that are supposed to “flatter” but just mark us as “different”.

Prefer prints?

Want prints?  Look at that – all on trend styles, colours and prints.  Acres of them.  But not for the fatties, no, you can’t have cute, fashionable pieces like this!

What about the young women?  Let’s have a look what is on offer for them in straight sizes:

Where are these clothes for the young plus-size customer?  In fact, not just the young ones – I’d wear a few of these things myself if they came in my size.  That stripey shirt with the pink sleeves on the right is AWESOME, as is the rainbow leopard print top there.  Nope, fatties can’t have anything funky and fun like this.

What about something a little more dressy?  A little more suitable for work or a night out?

Yet another garment I would love, exactly as it is, no changes to style or shape, except sized to fit me.  But no, instead I get those bland things pictured above.

Or this one:

Seriously cute!

I would absolutely kill for this dress, exactly like this, in my size.  I would rock the hell out of it, people would say “Cute dress, where did you get it?” and I’d reply proudly “I bought it at Target, isn’t it awesome?”

It is so disheartening, so depressing to see that straight sizes have all these fabulous choices, and yet we plus-sized women get this tiny section of frumpy, unfashionable, boring clothes.

Look, don’t get me wrong, some women want dark colours and conservative styles.  Hell my Grandma needs clothes as much as I do, I don’t want Target to get rid of the selection they have.  But I want them to treat me the same as they do their straight size customers.  They’re doing FANTASTIC fashion for straight sizes at the moment.  All these great things I’ve posted here are just a tiny drop in the ocean of choice they offer in size 8-18.  There’s something for every taste and style in their straight sizes – they have acres of it in my local store.  And it’s well priced, well made and readily available to most Australians.

But I’m tired of being treated like I’m not worth the same amount of choice and quality as the rest of their customers.  I’ve talked before about the power of fashion, about how it’s more than just putting on a pretty outfit, about fashion.  It’s about being part of society, and about being able to participate with your peers.  And yes, as a fat woman, not-fat women ARE my peers.  We are just as valuable and worthy as any not-fat woman.  Our money is just as worthy as any not-fat woman.  Our requirements for clothing and style are just as worthy as any not-fat woman.  We have as much right to participate in society as any not-fat woman.

So why am I not offered the same options, the same range, the same products as not-fat women?  In fact, when Target’s own company website says in their “about us” section, and I quote:

Target Australia is a mid-market department store renowned for delivering to its customers great quality and great value apparel and homewares. As one of Australia’s most successful retailers our aim is to make stylish living affordable and available to all Australians.

Now the last time I looked, I’m an Australian… so why is stylish living not available to me and other women like me?  If you look at the straight sized options in the photos above, and then those in plus-sizes, do you think we’re being offered the same “stylish living” as their straight sized customers?  If you don’t believe me just from these photos, go to their online store and look at what is offered to straight sized women, compared to the Moda range.

I’m tired of excuses.  I’m tired of being told that fashionable clothes “don’t sell” in plus-sizes.  Of course they don’t, when they’re shoved on the back side of the shop floor like you’re ashamed of them, never marketed properly and of course, are never there.  Perhaps instead of blaming the market, perhaps it’s time to look at how you’re approaching it.  Perhaps it’s time to make a splash and say “Check out our hot new clothes for plus-sizes!  Shop your heart out, you deserve nice things too!” and watch just how things change with what sells and what doesn’t.  How about looking at how you market to plus-sized women, and instead of selling them “flattering”, sell them fun, sell them fashion, sell them empowerment.

You worry about providing fab clothes for plus-sizes, and let us worry about making sure fat women feel confident and strong enough to wear them.  I’ll promote the hell out of you if you do, and encourage every fat woman I know to get themselves into your gear.  You have my word on that.

Plus-Size Clothing Retailers Take Note – Positivity Makes Money!

Published December 5, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

As part of the + Plus-Size Plus + campaign I’m working on to improve the variety, quality and price of plus-sized clothing options from major chain retailers in Australia.  I’m focusing on the major chain retailers like Target, Big W, KMart, Myer, David Jones, City Chic, My Size, Autograph Fashion and the like because these are huge companies with a lot of buying power, and they’re the places the most plus-sized women go to first for their clothing needs.  Those retailers are the most prevalent, offer a range of price points that cover the broadest range of Australian women’s incomes, and in being the biggest companies, have the most room to give.  I believe they also have an obligation to their customers to offer ALL of their customers an equal range, prices and quality, not just the straight sized ones.

One thing I’ve been doing as I think about ways to go about this, is read the social media pages of these retailers.  Some of them don’t have any presence at all in a plus-sized clothing retailer capacity, but the specialists like City Chic, Autograph Fashion and MySize all have Facebook pages and I follow them all.  One thing I really notice is that every time one of them posts, most of the comment threads dissolve very quickly into a whole lot of body loathing.  It only takes one or two comments until the “flattering” concept comes up (usually a big old bun fight about whether plus-size retailers should bother selling sleeveless clothes) and then ends up with a mix of “We fat women shouldn’t wear *insert garment feature here*.” or “I really like that but I could never wear something that bares my *insert body part here*.”

This got me thinking about the marketing we see from plus-size retailers, the language they use about the bodies of their customers and how they could change their marketing to really encourage women to enjoy wearing clothes/fashion, which I believe would encourage women to BUY more clothes/fashion.

What I would really like to see, is one of these retailers be brave enough to come up with a truly body positive, empowering marketing campaign for their products.  Instead of playing on the whole “flattering” concept, and tiptoeing around the fact that their customers have fat bodies, how about a campaign that focuses on raising the self esteem of their customers?  Here’s what I’d like to see a plus-size clothing retailer do:

  • Get rid of the euphemisms.  No more crap about “real women” and curves/voluptuous and all of those things.  Just call themselves plus-size clothing retailers and focus on selling plus-sized clothing.  I know they can’t/won’t use the word “fat”, but let’s stop with the euphemisms that imply shame for being plus-sized.  Let’s stop pretending that your customers are not plus-sized/fat.
  • Focus on positive body messages.   Fabulous fashion for fabulous women.  Love your body, put our clothes on it.  Be confident in our fashion.  Gorgeous you, gorgeous clothes.  Messages like this.  No more talk of “flattering”.
  • Use models who actually look like the women who will be buying the product.  Let’s face it, most size 14 or 16 women, while they are catered for in these stores, don’t shop there.  You can get size 14 and 16 and sometimes 18 in quite a few straight size sections.  There are a lot of women in a size 14 and 16 who are not even going to go near a plus-size section.  The plus-size retailers are catering to those of us who cannot buy from the straight-sizes at all.  How about some models with bodies that look like ours?  Often the models they use are not even plus-sized at all.  UK blogger Lauren from Pocket Rocket Fashion has done posts this week on the topic (here and here).  I shared the first post on + Plus-sizes Plus + and the response I got back was that women want to see what clothes look like on bodies similar to their own.
  • Seeing women that look like we do is only going to make us feel better about ourselves in the long term.  Especially if these women are depicted as fashionable, happy, fun and glamorous.
  • Value your customers, understand what they want, treat them like they’re special (after all, they’re giving you their money and keeping you in business, that makes them VERY special) and understand that they have different needs to straight-sized customers, but want the same experiences.

Can you imagine how awesome, and how radical, a marketing campaign that promoted body love, self esteem and positive representations of their actual customers (rather than “aspirational” representations that would never actually purchase the stock) would be?  Particularly from a major chain retailer?  How many women would be empowered and inspired to enjoy dressing and fashion and shopping?

I know that’s a company I would want to give my money to.

Getting it Right: Yours Clothing

Published November 6, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I’ve been reading all these fabulous blogs from fatshionistas in the UK about a day trip to Yours Clothing that they had earlier this week.

Yours are a UK plus-size clothing retail chain that I think are really starting to get it right about selling mass produced clothing to their customers.  Firstly they start at a size 14 and go all the way up to size 32 (UK sizes).  Their prices are reasonable for mass produced clothing (in fact, just looking at the website which has a conversion to $AU, I’d say a lot of their stuff is downright bargain) and they have a really wide variety of styles and vary from the casual to the cocktail, with a bit of something for everyone.  I’ve not bought from them via mail order, but I’ve heard good things about their international mail order service, and they also have brick and mortar stores in the UK for women to go and physically touch, see and try on their products.  I can’t speak for the quality of their stock either, as I don’t own any, but there are several other bloggers who seem to really like what they do.  And for the prices they’re listing, one wouldn’t be expecting double seams or hand stitching, you know?  Mass produced is mass produced for a reason.

But what I am really impressed by is their engaging with their customers, and those people who are their best marketing, the word of mouth of bloggers and social media.  They invited in half a dozen fatshion bloggers for a day spent at their office and warehouse.  They showed them through the warehouse, through the studio where they photograph the models and products for the marketing, and spent some time with each of the bloggers talking to them about what they do, what they like, their blogs and the Yours Clothing website.  They let them try on a bunch of the clothes, had some fun in the studio.

The two most significant things are that they treated these plus-sized women like welcome guests and acknowledged their love of fun and fashion, and that they actually listen to their customers, rather than assuming that marketing stats are anything to go by.

You can read some rundowns of the events by the bloggers here:

Plus Size Beauty

Messy Carla

Cupcake’s Clothes

I believe that Australia’s plus-size retail chains have a lot to learn from Yours Clothing.  By encouraging word of mouth marketing from their very customers, they’re acknowledging that there is a considerable market out there for mainstream plus-sized fashion, and that by giving those who are vocal and visible online a chance to see behind the scenes and talk about the company, they’re speaking directly to the customers who would be buying their product.  By offering affordable products of a wide variety, they’re also acknowledging the right of their customer to have choice in what they wear and how they style themselves.

I’d like to challenge Australian plus-size retail chains to start thinking this way.  Make a difference huh?

*if you haven’t already done so, I invite you to join + Plus-Size Plus +, the campaign to improve plus-sized clothing options in Australia (international members welcome)

Lynx Still Stynx – So Do Unilever

Published October 3, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Well, well, well.  I got a response from Unilever regarding my complaint to them about their Lynx Lodge campaign.  Brace yourselves for some of the worst correspondence to a customer complaint that you are likely to see:

Dear Kath

Thank you for your feedback and the opportunity to address your concerns regarding our marketing activations.

While acknowledging the raised points I would like to take the opportunity to outline Unilever¿s practice standards regarding the marketing activities involving our products:

¿We take marketing responsibilities very seriously and are committed to responsible marketing
¿In all cases we follow the regulatory guidelines, while being respectful of differing views, and taking care not to offend.
¿Unilever adopted a global guideline to prevent the use of ‘size zero’ models or actors in its advertising to ensure that our advertising does not promote ‘unhealthy’ slimness.
¿We follow explicit guidelines about direct advertising to young children.

Unilever has a wide portfolio of everyday consumer brands, offering products to consumers that address different needs. Each of our brands talks to its target consumers in a way that is relevant and that communicates the brand¿s own unique proposition. Sometimes that proposition is serious and informative; at other times it is light-hearted and amusing.

Lynx communicates to its consumers through a series of light-hearted and tongue-in-check advertisements that feature fantasy situations that rarely happen for guys in the real world. Lynx strives to create marketing campaigns and promotions that make women laugh as much as men, and the women featured in our advertising are always in on the joke.

The campaign for Lynx aims to build the confidence of young men. For Lynx, it is about the ¿Lynx effect¿ ¿ the boost that using Lynx can give to the confidence of young men that often find themselves daunted by the dating game.

We do take the concerns of consumers very seriously and thank you for your feedback.

Again, we apologise for any offence caused and thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Yours sincerely

Sue Connolly
Consumer Relations Consultant
http://www.unilever.com.au

Where do I start?  I would start with the weird punctuation and spelling (I’ve left it in) but that wouldn’t be fair.  Let’s start with the “practice standards”:

¿We take marketing responsibilities very seriously and are committed to responsible marketing

So portraying women as subservient toys waiting with nothing to do until the men arrive at Lynx Lodge is responsible marketing?  So offering a “campaign for real beauty”, and a “self esteem fund” for women through one range of products absolves Unilever of any irresponsible behaviour in their other ranges?

¿In all cases we follow the regulatory guidelines, while being respectful of differing views, and taking care not to offend.

I am offended.  Dozens of other women are offended.  Do you care Unilever?  Or are you bothered that people are offended, not that you’ve done something to offend them?  The last sentence is a clear indicator of that:

Again, we apologise for any offence caused and thank you for taking the time to contact us.

You apologise for any offense but what are you doing to rectify the situation?

¿Unilever adopted a global guideline to prevent the use of ‘size zero’ models or actors in its advertising to ensure that our advertising does not promote ‘unhealthy’ slimness.

Ok so you don’t use size zero models, but you’re more than happy to use any other size models to objectify women to peddle a cheap deodorant?

How about the rest of the letter.  Here’s a fun sentence for you:

Lynx communicates to its consumers through a series of light-hearted and tongue-in-check advertisements that feature fantasy situations that rarely happen for guys in the real world.

But does the objectification rarely happen for women in the real world Unilever?  Are women just supposed to “suck it up” so that you can give those poor guys a bit of fantasy?  How about creating a fantasy situation that rarely happens for women in the real world?  One where women aren’t expected to be man pleasers just because the guys might need it.

And then comes the Pièce de résistance:

The campaign for Lynx aims to build the confidence of young men. For Lynx, it is about the ¿Lynx effect¿ ¿ the boost that using Lynx can give to the confidence of young men that often find themselves daunted by the dating game.

Do they Sue Connolly?  How daunted do you think women feel by the dating game when young men are told in advertising campaigns from Unilever that they can have “The Lynx Lodge kitchen staff (a heavily photoshopped young woman in a cleavage-baring chef outfit) will effortlessly whip up a barbecue platter, hearty burger or blood-red steak on request.”?  In the bedroom of Lynx Lodge, two girls dressed in maid outfits pillowfight while the page says “After fluffing your pillows, Lodge staff will tuck you in and prepare you for sweet dreams.”

I’m sure young women must be SO excited to jump into the dating game with guys who have had their confidence built by the advertising of Lynx brand.

I won’t link back to the Lynx Lodge website, they don’t need the hits.  Needless to say, there is now a link that says “Watch the Ad too hot for YouTube” that wasn’t there when I wrote the earlier blog post.

And fellas?  I think you should be asking Unilever just what they think of you as intelligent human beings if they feel that you’re going to rush out to buy their product just to get yourselves dates.  I personally like to believe that most men are a whole lot more intelligent and streetwise than that – it’s a pity that Unilever don’t seem to hold the same high opinion of their male customers.

Let’s tie it back to the work Unilever are supposedly doing on body image and self esteem.  Do Unilever really think that any messages (and they’re problematic) that women and girls receive from their Dove campaigns are not at all affected by those that they put out via the Lynx brand?  Do they think that women just turn off the television in an ad break when the Lynx ad comes on?  Or close the magazine?  Perhaps they think that women just have blinkers and can’t see advertising that’s not intended for them.  Don’t look girls, this is men’s business.

Do Unilever believe that there is no way to advertise to young men, to build their confidence up than at the expense of young women?  Do unilever really think that their male customers are so simple and one dimensional?

Not good enough Unilever.  I know you sent out the exact same letter to other customers who contacted you as well (I saw two on Twitter and another on Facebook within a day of getting mine).  Your customers deserve better.

I encourage you, my readers, to not purchase anything from Unilever where possible.  Here’s a link to the brands that Unilever own.  These include:

Lynx, Dove, Sunsilk, Rexona, Bertolli, Bushells, Continental, Flora, Lipton, Raguletto, Streets, Lan-Choo, Domestos, Drive, Jif, OMO, Persil, Surf, Impulse, Lux, Lifebuoy, Lux, Pears, Vaseline.

There others but these are the ones I pulled off their website quickly.

I’m going to send this post to Sue Connolly in a day or so, so please, post in the comments below, share with your friends and better still, contact Unilever yourself, here is the link.