Voice of the Customer: 3 Things Brands Should Never Say to a Plus Size Audience


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Welcome to February’s Self-Love Marketing Series: focusing on Body Positive brands, campaigns and messaging targeting the plus-size market. This is Part 2.

In 2012, Plunkett Research published the finding that 67% of American women are plus size.

Since this revelation, many brands have been scrambling to try and optimize their messaging for this “new” market. Everyone wants to know: what does the plus size woman want to hear? And equally important, what doesn’t she want to hear?

PR and marketing professionals have been scratching their heads trying to figure out how to talk to this customer in a way that will create value for their brands: What does she define as aspirational? How do we appeal to her? What motivates her purchasing decisions?

In the process of testing the validity of the plus size customer and scrambling to optimize sales, there have been a lot of plus size messaging successes, like those scored by plus size mega-brands Torrid and Lane Bryant.

In this same space there have also been many failures. The plus size woman has been assailed by messaging aimed at getting her to pull out her credit card, and frankly, she’s a little fatigued. She’s tired of being the guinea pig for various marketing experiments, and she’s ready for brands to provide authentic, judgement-free messaging.

In particular, there are three things she’s tired of hearing. Directly stating any of these messages, or even alluding to them through tone or unintentional messaging as part of a campaign, is sure to turn Her off.

1. Assume her goal is to lose weight or look thinner 

What She has to say about this: “Maybe my doctor has diagnosed me as pre-diabetic, or having high blood pressure, or clinically obese. But frankly, none of that is any of your business. And unless you’re a doctor marketing me a cure for an affliction that you personally have examined and diagnosed me for, statements about the health of my body have no place in your advertising and brand messaging.”

She’s tired of being the guinea pig for various marketing experiments.

2. “Dress Right for Your Body Type”

What she has to say about this: I am not an apple, a pear, or any flipping piece of fruit for that matter. And I am not an hourglass or a triangle or any other predetermined shape. My body is my body, and I want to wear what reflects my confidence and personal aesthetic. Not what you think makes my body more acceptable to look at through creating optical illusions with fashion silhouettes.

3. “The Plus Size Version”

What she has to say about this: I don’t need you to dilute the level of design that goes into a garment for my body. I want to wear the garment no matter how tight-fitting, audacious, fashion forward, or sexy it may be. I just want you to make it large enough to fit my form, and not in a way that apologizes for my form. I want high-end design and beautiful garments with all of the fabulous, plus a little extra fabric.

What is the common denominator between all three of these statements? It’s communicating as though the brand knows better than she does.

No one enjoys being spoked to in this way – what turns you off more in a one-on-one conversation than someone making assumptions or worse, employing a false intimacy. 

In general, the key to success with reaching the plus size woman is to speak with her without the assumption that there is anything wrong, or anything to fix.

Appeal to her sense of style, her sense of self, and you’ll capture her attention.

About Melinda Parrish

Melinda Parrish is a Ford model that and body positivity advocate. Melinda is a regular contributor for the Huffington Post, Women’s Running, Gaiam’s lifestyle blog, and partners with brands like Expedia on creating fitness and wellness-related content.
She has her own hashtag, #healthyatanysize, and a weekly Facebook Live series called “Body Love TV.” She was recently written up in People Magazine for taking a stand for curvy women. In addition to being a model and an influencer, Melinda is a lifelong athlete and former Naval Officer.
Riley Joachims

Riley Joachims

Riley Joachims is a spunky and creative communication specialist. Whether it is putting together a strong social media campaign, securing press for your next event, or marketing your company to your intended audience, she's got you covered! She is currently living in sunny San Diego and just graduated from San Diego State University with a major in journalism with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in marketing. Riley is a fitness fanatic who enjoys dancing, cooking her favorite Trader Joes items, trying out new coffee shops and traveling and photographing new places. She is always looking for her next big adventure and has just started her career in fashion & lifestyle PR!