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Obese models’ effect on fashion brand attractiveness

Ulf Aagerup (Department of Marketing, Halmstad University, Halmstad, Sweden)
Edson Roberto Scharf (Grupo de Estudos em Marketing, Estratégias de Mercado e Marca (CNPQ), FURB/PPGAD, Blumenau, Brazil)

Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management

ISSN: 1361-2026

Article publication date: 30 July 2018

Issue publication date: 30 August 2018




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effect of obese models vs normal weight models on fashion brands’ attractiveness.


An experiment was carried out in which 1,225 university students in Sweden and Brazil rated the attractiveness of a fashion brand worn by a normal weight model and an obese model.


The overall effect of obese models’ effect on fashion brand attractiveness was insignificant. Furthermore, neither culture nor the consumer’s own weight had a significant effect. There was, however, a significant effect of the participant’s own gender; women rate fashion brands worn by obese models significantly higher on attractiveness than they did fashion brands worn by normal weight models. Men displayed the inverse response.

Research limitations/implications

The effect of the model’s ethnicity was beyond the scope of the experiment, and the brand attractiveness scale captured only one aspect of brand character, leaving other potential brand effects for future studies.

Practical implications

Companies can use obese models with no overall brand attractiveness penalty across markets and for marketing to women of all sizes. Given men’s negative reactions, such models might however be unsuitable for the male-to-female gift market.

Social implications

The results support the use of obese models, which can lead to greater representation of larger women in the media, and consequently, reduced fat stigma.


The study validates the theory of user imagery, and it extends the theory by examining how different target consumers react to user imagery traits and thus provides evidence for gender bias toward obese models.



Aagerup, U. and Scharf, E.R. (2018), "Obese models’ effect on fashion brand attractiveness", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 557-570.



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