The principle of Physical Attractiveness explores the way in which we react to models used in advertising (whether that be online, on TV, in magazines, etc.). Many researchers have studied this subject and have found that, when in an appropriate context, the use of attractive models can have a positive effect on an advert’s effectiveness. If we find a model physically attractive, this somehow increases their credibility (Kamins, 1990), our desire to buy and our positive attitude towards the product (Kahle & Homer, 1985), as well as the attention we give to the advert and potential purchase (Caballero & Pride, 1984).
Many hypotheses have been put forward to explain this phenomenon, notably the fact that we tend to compare ourselves to models used in advertising and are prone to project their qualities (beauty, confidence) on to the product they’re using and therefore feel that owning said product will somehow bring us closer in comparison to these models. However, this tendency for comparison can go two ways and in other studies, notably by Bower in 2001, it has been proven that in certain contexts, the presence of attractive models can serve to diminish the effectiveness of an advert as it can also diminish the image that potential customers have of themselves in comparison. So there are several factors in play with this cognitive bias, such as how your customer will compare themselves, the type of product, the sex of the customer, etc. The model’s physical appearance will influence us in some way as we make immediate and perhaps subconscious deductions about them and therefore the product that they are advertising in turn. These deductions could be positive, seeming to represent luxury, success, kindness or other positive values that the consumer aspires to, or equally could be negative, inciting ideas of superficiality, distrust, jealousy, etc. There are certainly cases where using a physically attractive model doesn’t work. For example, Caballero and Pride (1984) showed that if trying to sell something such as tissues, using an attractive model is in fact less effective as it diminishes the credibility of the advert and product seeing as someone who is sick and requires tissues would not be looking so healthy and attractive in reality.
In marketing, it is therefore essential to use the Physical Attractiveness principle wisely and carefully, of course making use of attractive models to advertise your products but at the same time being aware of the wider context and whether it is appropriate for certain products and target audiences etc.