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David Squires

Marketing’s Dark Arts: About “Vanity Sizing”

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More fascinating insider marketing information from Martin Lindstrom’s “Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy”*.

Ever heard of “vanity sizing”? That’s the phenomenon that explains why you can still fit into size-36 pants, even though you’ve gained 20 pounds in the last two years. The dirty truth is, those size-36 pants aren’t size-36 anymore.

When a national men’s magazine sent a reporter into a variety of men’s clothing stores, he found wide variance in the waist sizes for pants listed as size-36. These sizes ranged from a snug-ish 37 inches (at H&M) to an expansive 38.5 inches (at Calvin Klein) to a positively billowing 41 inches at Old Navy.

The reason? Men want clothing that makes them feel trim and svelte**. Fitting into a waist size you doubted you could still squeeze into makes you feel trim and svelte.

&#8220 Men want clothing
that makes them feel
trim and svelte. &#8221

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Lesson: start thinking about what you can do to make customers feel better about themselves. Be careful when trying to put rings on customers with oversized fingers. If you think there might be a problem, maybe try sizing the person’s finger first. Once you have a measurement, you can concentrate on styles where you have larger samples available, while letting the customer know about the availability of resizing for other styles.

Another lesson: make sure your lighting is flattering to your customer wherever you have mirrors in your store. Have you checked your bathroom lately? It might seem like unimportant lighting to get right, but it’s actually might be one of the most important — being the one place that people really take time to look at themselves and make judgements. Your goal? Get them to say: “You know what? I look pretty good. And that feels great. Time to reward myself with a piece of jewelry!”


* Martin is speaking at The SMART Jewelry Show, coming April 13-15 to Chicago’s Navy Pier, as part of the show’s “Masters of Marketing” study emphasis. Register for the show here.

** This is the main reason the present writer has never, ever bought anything from Abercrombie & Fitch. Their clothes tend to fit me like a sausage casing.


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