How do beauty product ads affect consumer self esteem and purchasing?

Oct 18, 2010

A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that ads featuring beauty products actually lower female consumers' self-esteem.

"One of the signature strengths of the advertising industry lies in its ability to transform seemingly mundane objects into highly desirable products," write authors Debra Trampe (University of Groningen, the Netherlands), Diederik A. Stapel (Tilburg University), and Frans W. Siero (University of Groningen). In an advertisement, a lipstick situated next to a stiletto heel represents glamour and a teddy bear in an ad for fabric softener signals softness.

The authors conducted four experiments to examine the different meanings gleaned from products that were advertised versus not advertised. In one study, the authors exposed female study participants to either a beauty-enhancing product (eye shadow, perfume) or a problem-solving product (acne concealer, deodorant).The product was either embedded in an advertisement (with a shiny background and a fake brand name) or it was depicted against a neutral white background. "After exposure to the advertised beauty-enhancing products consumers were more likely to think about themselves than when they viewed the same products outside of their advertisements."

What's more, those advertisements affected how consumers thought about themselves. "After viewing an advertisement featuring an enhancing product consumers evaluated themselves less positively than after seeing these products when they appeared without the context," the authors write. The same effect did not show up when the items were problem-solving products.

Ads for beauty-enhancing products seem to make consumers feel that their current attractiveness levels are different from what they would ideally be. "Consumers seem to 'compare' themselves to the product images in advertisements, even though the advertisement does not include a human model," the authors write.

"Exposure to beauty-enhancing products in advertisements lowered consumers' self-evaluations, in much the same way as exposure to thin and models in advertisements has been found to lower self-evaluations," the authors conclude.

Explore further: Precarious work schedules common among younger workers

More information: Debra Trampe, Diederik A. Stapel, and Frans W. Siero. "The Self-Activation Effect of Advertisements: Ads Can Affect Whether and How Consumers Think About the Self." Journal of Consumer Research.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How does context affect consumer judgment?

Mar 22, 2010

Research into why people look favorably on a product shows that—as in real life—everything is relative. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, what we think of a product or brand, or how positi ...

Recommended for you

Precarious work schedules common among younger workers

Aug 29, 2014

One wish many workers may have this Labor Day is for more control and predictability of their work schedules. A new report finds that unpredictability is widespread in many workers' schedules—one reason ...

Girls got game

Aug 29, 2014

Debi Taylor has worked in everything from construction development to IT, and is well and truly socialised into male-dominated workplaces. So when she found herself the only female in her game development ...

Computer games give a boost to English

Aug 28, 2014

If you want to make a mark in the world of computer games you had better have a good English vocabulary. It has now also been scientifically proven that someone who is good at computer games has a larger ...

Saddam Hussein—a sincere dictator?

Aug 28, 2014

Are political speeches manipulative and strategic? They could be – when politicians say one thing in public, and privately believe something else, political scientists say. Saddam Hussein's legacy of recording private discussions ...

User comments : 0