After I handed out some sweets and resumed work on my previous blog post, I began to wonder whether the body size of the person giving out sweets has an impact on the uptake of sweets. I allowed myself to ponder this question as it can be relevant to the selection of people who hand out free, high calorific samples.
From my personal observations in the UK, most of those who hand out free samples look within the normal range, probably because a lot of averages are where most people sit comfortably. However, in the media world, many adverts try to convince people to buy their product by featuring very thin people (Anschutz, Engels, Becker & Strien, 2008; Klesse, Goukens, Geyskens & de Ruyter, 2012). This may be due to the fact that attractive humans have been proven to bring more trust and attention to many products than less attractive people (Bower & Landreth, 2001; Giebelhausen & Novak, 2012). For example, some sellers on eBay have used sexy preview images to successfully increase views (Giebelhausen & Novak, 2012). So people often like gawking at attractive people and, nowadays, the western world appear to view the supermodel thin body type for females and the muscular body type for males as the current ideals (Cafri & Thompson, 2004; Evans, 2003). Therefore, the “ideal” people may be able to attract more attention to free sample feasts than normal or larger-sized people. Hence, size may matter.
A topless waiter from Crewmen & Co.
However, is featuring the current “ideal” body types effective in promoting high calorie food and drinks, which has been related to weight gain (Pereira et al., 2005; Schulze et al., 2004)? It is better or worse to hire people with more body fat to hand out high calorie snacks?
People have, in fact, felt that adverts selling high calorie items such as chocolate with supermodel thin people, communicated confusing messages (Gieger & Fennell, 2003). For example, “Hey, you should be very slim, but you should eat these crisps“. The result of this can be increased concern about body size and reduced belief in the advert (Gieger & Fennell, 2003; Halliwell & Dittmar, 2004). Consequently, these adverts add to the many other things that can encourage things such as body dissatisfaction, and potentially, eating disorders and steroid abuse (Anschutz et al., 2008; Cafri & Thompson, 2004; Dittmar & Blayney, 1996; Tiggemann & Pickering, 1996). Hence, using people with the “ideal” body types in promotions can be damaging to the consumers and reduce the desire for high calorie food and drinks. Though reducing high calorie food consumption can be healthy, some coping mechanisms may be less healthy (Eisenberg, Neumark-Sztainer, Story & Perry, 2005).
Meanwhile, companies should not aim to associate negative feelings with their products, for instance, making people cry while eating their ice cream, not because they were crying beforehand, but because the ice cream was high in calories and they wanted to be very thin. This could discourage purchasing after trying out the free sample as satisfaction is linked to wanting more (Anderson, Fornell & Lehmann, 1994).
This is in contrast to featuring average-sized, attractive people in adverts, which can often make people more relaxed about their weight (Halliwell, Dittmar & Howe, 2005). This may be due to people being so used to having those “ideals” shoved in their faces and ears, it is a relief to know that it can acceptable to not be that “ideal”. Maybe, they can have that pizza then. Moreover, if the person is attractive, it does not matter whether the people was of the “ideal” or average-sized as they are just as effective as promoting items (Halliwell et al., 2005). Hence, average-sized people may be better at encouraging purchase after trying the free samples than the “ideal-sized” people, as they promote less negative feelings. This can also mean that people who are not supermodel thin or muscular can be attractive too.
The benefits of average-sized people giving out free samples can be further backed by homophily (McPherson, Smith-Lovin & Cook, 2001). This is where people more are likely to make contact with people who they see as similar to themselves (McPherson et al., 2001). Thus, as there are more average-sized people, more people may be likely to approach free samples in an average-sized person’s offer. Hence, average-sized people may be able to draw more people in to interact with them. Furthermore, matching people’s current self-image can improve memories and brand image (Hong & Zinkhan, 1995). Therefore, featuring average-sized people seems ideal for the promotion of high calorie food and drinks so far.
The appeal of similar sized people can also be relevant to people with larger than average-sized bodies. There may be people who see themselves as having a larger size and are more likely to approach people of similar sizes. Hence, featuring a larger-sized person can better convince a different range of people. However, there is an issue of people often being generally less persuaded by people who have larger than average sizes (Wang, 2008). Hence, despite larger-sized people may be being more able to target a different segment, others can be less encouraged by them.
On the other hand, free things can be seen as really great. The effect of the all powerful “free” can erase some of pain and guilt (Lee-Wingate & Corfman, 2010) and can make items be more attractive than greatly discounted items (Shampanier & Ariely, 2007). Hence, employing some “ideal” and larger-sized people can still be a viable option when the subjects are free samples. For example, there may be thoughts like “Oh no, I want to lose weight, yet I’m eating this… It’s free though!” and “It doesn’t look that great, but who cares? It’s free!” Still, choosing average-sized people seems to be best.
Yes, size does matter.
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