From Struggling to Gain Weight to Struggling to Lose Weight


Is the perception of Beauty what drives Marketing or is it the other way around?

Some say that Marketing creates needs, others, like professor Bob in our class from January 16th, 2012 , say that marketing responds to already existing needs and wants. According to John W. Mullins et al. in Marketing Management, (page 5), “Marketing Attempts to measure and anticipate the needs and wants of a group of customers and respond with a flow of need satisfying goods and services.” I will discuss how the perception of beauty influenced marketing since the 1950s to the present. (Yes, I think that the perception of beauty what drove the creation and the marketing of diet pills.) About a year ago a very good colleague of mine sent me a link to some vintage advertisements which featured weight gain pills. Capture Given the fact that I was born in the 80s where being skinny was already in vogue, I have not heard of any pills that will make you gain weight, only of pills that will make you lose weight. best-weight-loss-pills During a recent ethics course that I took at University of Southern Maine, we discussed how some companies or marketers are unethically marketing to young children or to the ones who are unable to make decisions for themselves. According to Debate.org, 56% of respondents agreed that marketing creates needs, not only satisfies existing needs. In following the marketing of diet pills from the 1950s to the present I concluded that marketing responds to the needs of the customers vs. creating them.  As you will be able to see, while the 1950s were dominated by the beautiful curves of Marilyn Monroe, Sofia Lauren, and other Hollywood Stars there was a need for women to have an hourglass figure, a need not to be skinny, thus marketers marketed weight gain products.  Starting with the 1980s and 1990s when the perception of beauty switched from an hourglass shape to a very skinny figure, the need of the women changed from the weight gain pills to weight loss pills, and the marketers again responded to this need.

             Beauty in the 1950S

[35-22-35 (Dressmaker’s Claim), and height: 5 feet 5 1/2 inches, 140 lbs]


   Beauty in the 1990s and to the present

[33-23-35, height 5’7″, 105 lbs]

Kate Moss for Mango Fall 2012 Campaign-000

In the 1950’s women and men wanted to gain weight. Women with voluptuous curves were considered beautiful, while the skinny were ostracized, like the add states “Why be skinny? Come on and Enjoy Life”.  In the mid 1900s there was such a thing as being  too skinny, thus there was a need to gain weight, to obtain the “glamorous curves” of  the “popular girls”  (Or at least this is my perception of why marketers would market during those time periods drugs that would make you gain weight) Women with an  hourglass shape were considered beautiful,  thus those who were not gifted with hourglass shapes  tried to achieve that body image through diet pills.  These pills were also targeted towards skinny men. If you ask me, it was not the Wate-On, or Kelp-A-Malt products that created the need or want, but it was the need or want of the skinny girls to have glamorous curves created the products and advertising materials. Some might argue that the adds go too far in portraying skinny people as unsuccessful, people who do not fit in, are generally unhappy, and will not be happy until they reach a certain weight. An interesting trend that I found was the following:

  • In the 1950s we were skinnier than we are now
  • In the 1950s we tried to gain weight
  • In the 1990s we started gaining weight and the average weight for both women and men was higher than in the 1950s
  • In the 1990s we no longer wanted to have an hourglass shape but wanted to be skinny.

Was the above trend influenced by marketing or just by celebrities who had a certain body type. Those people were successful thus others wanted to emulate them, creating a need to either be heavier or skinnier. In the 1950s the following weight table was used for women and men.


Many of you reading probably think that it would have been so much easier living back then when you did not have to constantly worry of every bite you ate , however, women back then ate an average of 1,800 calories/day and burnt off about 1000 calories in housework. If we would do that today, I bet that we would not have weight problems (unless there is an  underlying medical issue.) The average waist of a woman in the 1950s was 28 inches (vs. 34 inches today) and we were much shorter then than we are today–we were only 5’2″ vs, 5’4″ today. What happened from the 1950s to today that changed our perception of our body image? Somewhere down the line the idea that somebody can “never be too rich or too thin” surfaced and women went to the extreme (anorexia, bulimia, excessive exercising, etc. ) to look like the model below:

skinny model

We went from products that made  us gain weight to products that help us lose the unwanted pounds. Now the people who are in shape through exercise and a low-calorie diet are the ones considered successful, happy, accomplished and portray an aura of self-confidence. We can all draw the conclusion that the person on the left is portrayed pale, with messy hair on purpose while the person to the right (the after picture) is portrayed with a very attractive woman, he now has a tan, a very polished hair cut, and is considered successful. The picture is very sexual and wants men to draw the conclusion that if they will look like the person to the right, they will be successful and will be able to attract beautiful women.


The average waist of a woman today is 34 inches, her height is two inches more than in the 1950s (as we can see above), her calorie intake grew over time, and her physical activity decreased. Today’s hight and weight chart looks like the following: weihtheight2012

While women in the 1950s tried to gain weight to be a size 6 or 14 (like Marilyn Monroe-her size is debatable because sizes back then were much smaller),women in the 1990s were trying to fit into a size 0 (like Kate Moss). Where are we heading? For the past 10 years I feel that even though the perception of the stick skinny white female persists, there is a welcomed and celebrated infiltration of the curvaceous hispanic and african american body image. J.Lo (Jennifer Lopez), Beyonce Knowless, Kim Karadashian are all women who are famous for their curvaceous bodies. They are idolized by men and women all over the world.

I talked a lot about the white woman, the perception of beauty and the expectation of beauty from 1950s to the present, but what about the African-American and Hispanic beauty standards over time? Research shows that African-American women are curvier than their white counterparts, and that African-American men prefer curvier women then their male counterparts, however, there are influences in their culture as well to have either an hourglass figure or to be skinny. Beyonce for example is very well known for her hourglass figure, while Naomi Campble for her skinny figure is know as one of the most famous African-American Supermodels.



The Marketing Mix of the Diet Industry(the 4 Ps) From weight gain pills to weight loss pills, and diet plans, Americans spend about $40 billion a year to reach their ideal weight, yet America’s population is getting heavier and heavier each year.

The Price of getting to your “ideal weight” : In 1934 you could obtain 65 Kelp-A-Malt tablets for an introductory offer of $1. Even though today $1 does not seem much, in 1934 a gallon of gas was .11, and the average yearly income in the U.S.A. was $1725.00 . We can see that pork loin roast per pound was .45 cents, thus with the money that you would be spending on diet pills, you could buy more than 2 pounds of pork loin and feed your family. From my research $1 was a price that was affordable by most Americans. Today a bottle of Hydroxycut at Walmart is almost $25.00. If you ask me, it is not cheap, however, if you want to look skinny and successful, you will have to pay for it.

The advertisements are very tempting to most Americans who are not happy with their bodies. The price of 5 Atkins Bars is almost $6.00 at Walmart.

From the Jenny Craig, and Nutrisystem websites and commercials  I see that the marketers  appeal to  the mainstream population by marketing the diet products as affordable. Nutrisystem is marketed on their website as costing the consumer less than $10.00/day.

Jenny Craig per my calculations can cost up to $22/day.

So what do all these products give the consumers? A possibility to fit in, to be happy, to be successful. These products sell a perception that unless you look thin you just cannot enjoy yourself at the beach (most advertisements contain people sitting by the pool, walking on the beach, or wearing a swimsuit); you cannot be successful in attracting a partner (like the Hydroxicut advertisement above conveys). In the 1950s the Kelp-A-Malt and the Wate-On advertisements conveyed that if you were skinny, you did not fit in, and you were unsuccessful. As the culture changed, the marketers marketed different products but the idea behind them was the same: it would transform you into somebody who will be socially accepted and respected.

The products changed substantially since 1950s. While at that time you were able to only buy diet pills, now you have another industry focused on meals. You are given what to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks during the day.  You can buy meals in the grocery stores in the Frozen Isle, or in the pastry isle.

Weight Watchers for example has a line of pastries you can buy, and they look quite delicious. They also provide you with recipes that you can make at home for your family. ww dessert It is getting easier and easier to follow a diet, the problem is which one is the right one? Atkins, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem? If you follow these diets, do you still need the Hydroxycut or other weight loss pills?

The marketers try to tell all these dieters that they have the ability to obtain the body they aspire towards and do not feel famished or like they are missing out.

Where can these products be found? (Place) It the 1950s you could buy your diet pills at the drugstore, but now the diet plans, and the diet pills can be found not only at the drugstores but also at grocery stores and online. I can go onto Jenny Craig’s website and create an online account, order meals delivered to my door and I can do the same with Nutrisystem. As Americans get busier, the diet industry makes it easier to get to their products. If I would want to start any of these diets all I would have to do is to spend about 10 minutes at night once a week and order my meals that will be delivered to my door.

Another guru of the diet industry is Weight Watchers also offers you the possibility to physically meet with others who are also on the same diet, they offer a community, so you feel connected vs. singled out.

Promotion From TV Advertisements, to Newspapers, you can see these diet pills and diet plans all around you. The marketers portray consumers people who do not look happy prior to using one of the diet products, and then they show consumers the same person with a happy disposition, with a smile on, with a tan, with a pose that exudes self confidence. Some diet plans like Jenny Craig, or Nutrisystem have celebrities to endorse them like: Valerie Bertinelli and Marie Osmond. Because people want to emulate celebrities, marketers appeal to the common person by having celebrities endorsing these products.

As stated in our marketing book, the more the consumer hears about a product, and sees the product, the more likely it is to purchase the product. Marketers also try to appeal to the consumer with appealing foods, that look very appetizing, just like regular food: Nutrysistem foods WW Burger

Marketers do a very good job in marketing all these diets, after all Americans spend about $40 billion a year to achieve their ideal bodies, yet there is an epidemic of obesity.

While the above two endorsers have managed to keep the weight off (for the most part), Kristie Alley had a hard time keeping the weight off. She went from slim to heavy then back to slim again. She was endorsing Jenny Craig and now she is off on another weight loss plan with Scientology called Organic Liaison.

Will she be able to keep the weight off this time or will she yo-yo back to and forth like in the past?

Kristie Alley


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