Heads over bodies

There are certain products that are meant to invoke feelings of jealousy and inadequacy in a person. These are the products that project an image of a person better than you, a product that will do something to change a certain characteristic that is unattractive in a person. Whether it is a face cream that promises younger, brighter, fairer, tighter, or firmer skin, or a diet powder/pill that promises thinner, firmer, or more toned bodies, they are all projecting an image of the self that is desirable and praise-worthy. That is how the essential value of the product is weighed; in its ability to improve one’s self worth.

But a recent analysis of certain other products made me realize that they could probably be marketed in a much different manner than they already are. I was recently looking through a website involved in selling clothes for men and women (whether it was Myntra or Jabong is inconsequential), and it was surprising to note how they imagine their shoppers to be deciding upon. To understand this clearly, I did some simple arithmetic to see how their customers are perceived to be.

A dress that I saw was of length (from shoulder to the end) 34.5 inches. The dress was slid onto a model for whom the dress only reached her mid thighs. Checking this same length on myself, I found that 34.5 inches was actually down to my knees, even slightly lower. Assuming that the model and I had similar body proportion (which is actually far from the truth), the model must have been 5 feet 11.6 inches tall. And this was only the worst case scenario, assuming that the distance between where her mid thighs ended, and her knees started, was approximately 4 inches (which was probably not true).

This was the simplest measurement I could do without being inaccurate, because I could not measure other features of the body, or actually find averages for that either. The standard length of a small to medium size dress is 33.5 – 34.5 inches, and considering these measurements, these models are 11 inches taller than the national average [1].

The question is not about body image issues that women (and men) are facing today, but the fact that sellers are misreading the idea behind what mindset shoppers carry.

India is not yet entirely comfortable with the idea of online shopping, and we see constantly that the middle-aged generation is discouraged with issues that are only relevant when shopping online, whether it is delivery issues or finding the product not of the quality that was expected. This is especially true of products that rely on sizes and measurements.

When a cream promises a consumer better skin, it is legitimate simply because the shopper wants to realize the dream of having as perfect skin as the person in the advertisement. But the first thought that crosses a shopper’s mind is when purchasing clothing is not that, but the imagination as to how the consumer will look wearing that particular outfit. There is a strong deterrent that might prevent the consumer from buying that particular product that while the item in discussion looks terrific on the model, it might only accentuate the features that the subject is least proud of, especially since the shopper cannot try the outfit at that point in time. Even the basic requirements of the clothing item might not be addressed by the model in question. For example, a person might assume the dress is too short simply because it is short on the model wearing it, while that may not be true considering the person in question is average in height.

This is not to say that there are characteristics that do not exist simply; but that commercial ideologies have to offer some variety in terms of the kind of advertisements that they profess. Tall women do exist; but so do short women. Men with broad shoulders exist; but so do men with narrow shoulders. Whilst some products sell a characteristic, clothing sells an image. And this image cannot be distorted to fit a particular group of people, but not the rest.

However, a general consensus is that the sellers want their products to look as appealing as possible, and may believe that there is no way that can be accomplished with variety of the kind that I am proposing. That is not only presumptive, but also crass. As a seller, advertising is the chief cause of concern, especially if the consumers cannot identify with the product. The idea of non-variety amongst the product and its display is unintelligent and worse, unimaginative. There is a great amount of dissatisfaction in finding that as a consumer, you made the wrong choice simply because the seller is making someone much different than you wear the product. And that is a brand association the seller should be afraid of.

India has the seen the emergence of lots of commercial sites, and they have been setting up sale after sale in order to bring in more customers. While this is an insight into how the internet is taking over our fast moving consumer goods and needs such as those, this is also representative of the fact that online media is more and more influential in terms of how a consumer reacts. The advertising should no longer be about the product, but about the consumer. A pertinent question is raised, and left unanswered. Who are these products tailored for?

What we are becoming is a shocking reality. This is only a representation of what is happening in other sectors of the society, something that I am personally ashamed of. We have been fitting our minds into slender jeans, too tight for us, too tall for our legs. But we do it because we have to hide our skins in some community that we have to belong to. Whether it be clothes that are not made to look good on an average person, but on the ideal, or the fact that we constantly find references to mass production shrouded in an illusion of uniqueness, we are fast approaching a dead end in terms of the solvability of an identity crisis. There is a constant need to find products to fit into, where as it should really be the other way around.

There lies proof in how the common person of India is finding a safe identity in someone like Kejriwal. There is finally safety in similarity. Kejriwal is a product that a group of people are trying to fit into; because there is finally an ideal that they can fit into. There are a set of issues that need to be handled, and they can only be handled by someone who claims to belong to that group. What will be interesting to note is not how the definition of the class that Kejriwal is fighting for is shaping his ideals, but how Kejriwal will be defining that class for years to follow.

The main idea behind this article was not to criticize any entity, simply because there is no purpose to it. Advertising has always been an incredible tool to not only judge society but also predict what direction it might turn itself into. Let there be enough light for the future because of this.

Reference:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21560461
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