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kellogg’s: body positive crusaders or clever marketers?

Recently, I read this article, linked to me by the wonderful Jo, here at lip. It ties in what I was speaking about in my previous article – co-opting body positive speech and using my pet hate phrase, “real women.”

I won’t rant any more about the phrase; I believe I covered it enough in my last article and my blood pressure needs to stay in the normal zone.

What I will talk about, though, is both the positive and negative aspects of this article and the marketing behind it. Kellogg’s still wants to sell their cereal and it is a clever marketing tactic they’ve come up with.

Instead of a message bringing down women and making them feel bad about themselves, the ad for Special K has women stepping onto scales in public, but the numbers on the scale have been replaced with words like, “Amazing!” and “Gorgeous!” It aims to show that it doesn’t matter what the numbers on the scale say, it matters how the woman feels.

It’s clever, because, as I’ve talked about before, we know shaming doesn’t work. It certainly doesn’t work to sell things like cereal (cosmetics may be another story). I find that focusing on the way my body feels is much better for my mental and physical health than numbers on a scale. I don’t even own a scale any more. The temptation to slide into disordered eating again is too much with a scale around. So, I applaud this aspect of the advertising. I would like to see more advertising like this and more companies using women (and men!) who aren’t professional models. I think the general public do like to see someone that looks like them in an ad. I know I do.

However, I still have to question how body positive it really all is. It is still trying to sell its product, and, like cosmetics, even cereal presents the ideal body, lifestyle and person you want to be. You are supposed to want to be that “in shape” person, running around in your red yoga pants on the beach with a dog. Maybe a golden retriever. Advertising and marketing is about an ideal after all. I cannot see this ad having the same sort of success if the women in the ad were on the larger end of plus size and it appears from this quote by the Senior Brand manager of Special K, Natasha Neilson, I am right:

We also aim for women who look around size 12 when using stock shots in our advertising materials, when BMI information is not available. We think it is very important for women to see representations of themselves that are relatable, aspirational and reflect a healthy body image.

The key phrase there? Healthy body image. Doesn’t matter if a woman on the larger end of the scale is the healthiest person on the planet. She doesn’t look it; therefore she isn’t able to sell products.

Which is what this all comes down to. People in the advertising and marketing world want to sell their products. They have to make money. I don’t begrudge this at all. Everyone has to make money. I am just hesitant (and very cynical, I admit) to completely applaud a company for its stance when I know that it’s all about the almighty dollar.

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