Would you be surprised to know that most brands have been excluding about half of the population of women for decades?

Today, the average woman in America wears a size 16, so why are we just starting to see them in ads? And why has this conversation about body equality taken even longer than the conversations about other important types of equality?  And of course, the questions we all want to know the answer to, what does this mean for brands?

We’ve always tried to be “aspirational” in advertising, showing the ideal. I truly believe that is one the oldest and most widely accepted forms of body shaming (a topic for another blog).  But brands are just starting to admit that the ideal does not represent the reality. And that maybe showing what’s real will make a stronger connection with consumers. That is quite a shift for marketers and for consumers.

One of the worst culprits of all has been the fitness brands. In 2105, Nike, Adidas, and Lululemon were not addressing the plus size market — their biggest size was a 16! Leaving half of the women in America excluded from buying fitness attire from three of the top brands.

Many of these brands claim to be body positive, but when you realize the sizes they’ve offered and the models they’ve used to represent their consumers, you have to wonder. I have a very vivid memory of the first time I saw Target Ad with a real (plus size) model. It was surprising. And as someone who’s always struggled with body image issues, the fact that it was surprising made me sad.

Now that the barrier has been broken, new brands have emerged to address the needs of the actual population. Superfit Hero caters to women from size XS to 5XL. These women who previously a hard time finding exercise clothes that fit and felt good, are now included and empowered by brands like Superfit. And it’s paying off. Superfit Hero is growing organically and has doubled sales each year because they’ve made a connection with a population that has mostly been ignored.

Now some fitness studios are making moves towards inclusivity. More To Love Yoga is demystifying yoga for everyone and claims to provide an empowering, not condescending, yoga experience.

My own beloved Peloton, is also bringing studio classes, previously reserved for rich skinny people in big cities to those who either can’t get there or prefer to work out in the privacy of their own homes. They’ve reinvented at home fitness so it is like you are actually in the classroom minus the intimidation factor.

Even if you’re not a “fitness” brand or product, there are absolutely ways to make deep connections. This could mean including real-sized people in your marketing or talking about wellness and healthy eating in a way that is more inclusive. It could influence innovation if you think about creating products to support all kinds of people on their fitness journey.  Ready to connect with all of America? Let’s talk.

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