In 2019 Victoria’s Secret hit the headlines for cancelling their annual show and embarking on a collaboration fronted by a plus size model. For a brand built on size zero fantasy and fronted by identikit Angels, this was quite the volte-face. So what’s changed?
Demand for inclusivity, that’s what. The need to see bodies in shapes and sizes that we can identify with. The body positivity movement is, seemingly, in its absolute element and we have brands and ‘influencers’ in large part to thank for this. Aspiration isn’t dead but wing-wearing, hard-bodied living dolls just might be.
But hang on: we’re still scrutinising semi-naked bodies. The gaze has never been so intense. And what’s more the conversation is still geared towards how we look, and then, how we feel about how we look.
What about our physical health and mental wellbeing? Does what’s happening on the inside count for anything in 2020?
The roots of body positivity originated from the culturally and politically subversive fat-acceptance movement of the Sixties. But the moment that ignited the modern day body positive crusade came when brands commercialised the message and used it to shake up the beauty industry. There is none more famous than Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, launched in 2004. Radical at the time, it challenged and deconstructed the trickery used by the category to promote narrow standards of beauty for profit.
Nowadays Instagram is full of (still gorgeous) models and ‘influencers’ publishing their back fat and cellulite, while brands tick diversity boxes with plus size casting and pare back Photoshop manipulation. It’s not just women either: men are equally confronted with intimidating examples of fit physiques in the prime of life.
Body positivity is well intentioned but in darker moments can put us under pressure, delivering a dishonest and daunting message. And hey, we give a shit about what’s happening on the inside, too!
We believe there’s a better space for brands and influencers to inhabit and we’re calling it ‘body honesty’. Let’s embrace the notion that it’s ok to feel ‘just ok’ - both mentally and physically.
Well done to Virgin Active, who shot out of the blocks this time last year with their advertising campaign ‘Enough’. It was designed to communicate a realistic message about exercising and new year resolutions(rather than the usual ‘all or nothing’ guilt-fest).
But it’s the food and beverage sector that has the opportunity to lead real change. Here are three ways to be the brand that pioneers ‘body honesty’ in 2020.
Body Honesty Win #1: Tap Into Mood and Mindset
The mind-gut connection is much documented, with scientific research confirming that 90% of the happy hormone serotonin is made in the digestive tract. So don’t be afraid to ask your audience how they feel about their health (caveat: so long as it’s an authentic place for your brand to be).Can you match your product benefits to mood management? Can your brand positioning help to address health worries? Find ways to help your audience feel and be healthier, from the inside out.
Body Honesty Win #2: Recognise Diversity and Individuality
Recent research from Foresight Factory confirms our hunch that people are looking for recognition from brands. Which is nothing new in itself, but it’s never been higher on the agenda. They demand to be seen - so make it your mission to find out what makes them tick; what keeps them awake at night. Identify that killer insight, rooted in personal values, and offer solutions that speak to their individuality.
Body Honesty Win #3: Take The Pressure Off
We’re a nation of time poor people looking for ways to escape the pressure cooker. Smart brands like Hello Fresh have been early proponents of enabling convenient home-cooked and healthy meals. Can your brand identify an important moment in the consumers’ day, then marry that with an easy solution that nixes stress? Even better, bring people together when you do it. It’s a simple formula that is universally resonant.
Ultimately, ‘body honesty’ is about sending a message of freedom, one that liberates consumers from the pressures of the past. Recognise the individual’s right to choose how they feel on any given day about their looks and their health, and be the brand that champions that. That’s where the future lies.
Niki Macartney, Strategy Director