Body and Soul: Beyond Physical Attractiveness-Implications For Consumer Behavior


Lynn Langmeyer and Matthew D. Shank (1995) ,"Body and Soul: Beyond Physical Attractiveness-Implications For Consumer Behavior", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, eds. Frank R. Kardes and Mita Sujan, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 746-752.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, 1995      Pages 746-752


Lynn Langmeyer, Northern Kentucky University

Matthew D. Shank, Northern Kentucky University

This study uses a qualitative research method (depth interviews) to examine the multidimensionality of beauty and ugliness and then uses a quantitative research technique (factor analysis) to propose a scale to measure beauty. Based on the results from these procedures, the authors conclude that beauty is certainly more than skin deep and ugliness, also, has more to do with non-physical than physical characteristics. Physical attractiveness may be the initial criterion on which people evaluate beauty (or ugliness) however, "someone could have tremendous physical attractiveness and I could say, 'Too bad he's a chump"' (CK). The evidence indicates that values, habits, personality, and behavior are the "soul" of beauty - essential ingredients in the creation of a truly beautiful person - and the "heart" of ugliness. The inside, in both cases, is truly much more important than the outside.


Considerable evidence has accumulated that, regardless of cultural changes in its meaning, beauty is an effective sell. Beautiful people like Christie Brinkley, Cindy Crawford, and Cheryl Tiegs, are famous cover girls on whose looks ride " - millions of dollars of advertising and marketing expenditures from companies for clothes and cosmetics" (Foltz 1992, p. 417). Advertisers reportedly pay between $1 and $2 million dollars a year to have their products promoted by popular and glamorous women; their beauty is believed to add dazzle to the products.

Being physically attractive, however, doesn't seem to be enough - it seems to be a necessary yet not sufficient condition. For instance, Pepsi had to scrap its ultra-expensive endorsement deal with Madonna after she came out with a controversial video that didn't go over too well with the Catholic Church and a lot of other viewers (Miller 1991, p.2). It was not her attractiveness that was an issue. Then there was that "little faux pas of Cybill Shepherd, who announced that she didn't eat meat, yet she was a pitch-woman for the beef industry" (Miller 1991, p.2). Again, attractiveness was not the issue. Both blunders suggest that there is more to"beauty" than a simple "good/bad judgment of attractiveness" (Solomon, Ashmore, and Longo 1992, p.23) - "beauty" would seem to be more than skin deep.

It is remarkable therefore, that, despite the recognition that "being beautiful isn't enough" and that "stars have to have something special and almost indefinable" (Foltz 1992, p. 4F), attractiveness has been most frequently defined as, and/or assumed to be, physical attractiveness. Attractiveness studies concentrate on "physical attractiveness" (e.g., a small sample includes Baker and Churchill 1977; Belch, Belch and Villareal 1987; Bloch and Richins 1982; Caballero and Pride 1984; Dion, Berscheid and Walster 1972; Kahle and Homer 1985; Kamins 1990; Ohanian 1990; Patzer 1985; Solomon, Ashmore and Longo 1992). Even when multiple items are used to measure perceived attractiveness, (e.g., as in Ohanian's (1990) scale of source credibility), the items tend to be physical] y -based adjectives such as attractive, classy, beautiful, elegant, sexy, etc.

Furthermore, Ohanian's (1990) subscale is unusual because it does use multiple items. "Beauty" has been more typically defined as "attractiveness" in advertising literature and research, and has been measured, almost invariably, on a single "attractive/unattractive" dimension. For example, Kamins (1990) identified unattractive and attractive celebrity spokespeople (Telly Savalas and Tom Selleck) by asking respondents to evaluate twenty male celebrities on "a 7-point scale ranging from 'extremely physically attractive' to 'extremely physically unattractive' " (p.7).

Recently, Solomon et al. (1992) have argued that "beauty is a psychological multiplicity ... replete with nuance" (p. 24). Using multidimensional scaling to analyze sorting data, their study revealed "six distinct types of good looks" (i.e., six categories of physical attractiveness). The study most assuredly pushes attractiveness research in the direction of recognizing that beauty is not a uni-dimensional construct. It does not, however, push it far enough because it investigates multiple types of physical beauty (e.g., cute, trendy, sex kitten, etc.), rather than investigating multiple types of unbounded beauty (e.g., physical, spiritual, etc.). This is analogous to investigating the multiple colors in which an automobile is produced (e.g., green, blue, black or red) - the interest being solely in the range of colors, contrasted to investigating the multiple attributes from which an automobile's features are selected and the available choices within each attribute. For example: is the automobile air-conditioned or un-air-conditioned; five-door, four-door, three-door, or two-door; automatic or manual shift; under $18,000 dollars or over $18,000 dollars (the interest being in the range of options as well as the differences within the options themselves). If we are to move beyond a simple notion of attractiveness as exclusively physical, then we must consider and explore all possible dimensions of beauty. This is particularly necessary when we are using beauty to assess the goodness of a match-up between an endorser and a product. We must go beyond types of physical beauty and explore the whole range of characteristics that encompass the concept of beauty. In addition, to balance the scales, so to speak, it seems appropriate (although certainly much less pleasant) to spend some time exploring the notion of ugliness. Is one necessarily the opposite of the other and if not, how are they alike?

The meager qualitative research that is available and the philosophical musings on beauty with which we are familiar, appear to be somewhat superficial; neither examine the multiple dimensions of unbounded beauty which appear to play an important role in the acceptance or rejection of endorsers as appropriate spokespeople. Therefore, this study was designed to probe beneath the surface of our conceptions of beauty, to explore the dimensionality of beauty, and to assess the possible implications for advertising and advertisers. Because much of the work on physical attractiveness has focused on the relationship between credibility and attractiveness for celebrity endorsers, it was determined to identify that context as the one in which the dimensionality of beauty would be examined.


Qualitative Research

This phase of the study was taken to identify and analyze emergent themes and thereby primarily expand our understanding of beauty and its importance and role in marketing. Definitions of beauty are highly complex, dependent on social and situational influences, and vary from highly abstract philosophical definitions (e.g., that which delights the senses or exalts the mind) to highly concrete applied definitions (e.g., a particularly good example of a thing). Therefore, the research required a method that would enhance and heighten our understanding of the phenomenon. Semi-structured depth interviews were designated as the appropriate technique and expert informants were identified and queried.


Ten key expert informants were ultimately selected because, given who they were and what they did, each one could provide a unique and singular perspective on "what beauty truly means" and "what ugly truly means." Each expert's occupation/ interests/ lifestyle was directly or indirectly linked with the study of beauty or an aspect of beauty. It is important to remember that we are proposing dimensions of beauty that go far beyond the physical attractiveness phenomena, particularly when thinking about the beauty of things. Therefore, we included a musician and a mathematician among our "experts" and ordinarily, we suspect, they would not be considered.

The ten individuals were recruited using a snowball sampling technique, starting with colleagues, friends, and relatives. Although the number of key informants may seem insufficient, previous researchers have endorsed using samples of ten or fewer, (assuming the research methodology is appropriate), to identify emergent themes (Fetterman 1989; Geertz 1973). The ten experts included: an athlete, a cosmetics consultant, a graphics artist, an interior designer, a landscape architect, a musician, a philosopher, a photographer, a studio artist, and a theoretical mathematician. Six of the ten informants were female, their ages ranged from 22 to 50, and one was African-American, the others white.

Interview Procedure

Each interview began with a relatively informal and nontechnical discussion of the general purpose of the research and the types of questions that would be asked. Demographic data were also collected.

Human beauty: In the first section of the interview, respondents were asked to consider the meaning of human beauty. Specifically, they were asked, "When you describe a person as 'beautiful,' what dimensions of that person have you evaluated?" This question was used to probe the facets that people are thinking about when they label someone "beautiful." Respondents were then asked to furnish at least three words that "best describe a 'beautiful' person?" The words generated from this section of the interview were the foundation for the quantitative segment of the research which will be discussed in the next section. Finally, informants were asked to "provide some examples of people whom you consider 'beautiful' and then explain why you chose these people?" Respondents were asked the same questions regarding their perceptions of an "ugly person." This method has been used to study the sacred/profane consumption dichotomy and it was believed that a deeper understanding of beauty would result from a concurrent understanding of ugly (Belk et al. 1989 questioned nuns about profane consumption to obtain a richer meaning of sacred consumption).

Product beauty: The second part of the interview focused on product beauty rather than human beauty. Respondents were asked "Do you think products can be beautiful? Please explain," and "What are the characteristics of a 'beautiful' product?" The interview concluded with the question, "Can you provide some examples of products you consider 'beautiful'? Why did you choose these?"

Analysis of Depth Interviews

Interviews were audio taped when possible and then transcribed. Notes were also taken during all the interviews. Following the procedures recommended by Fetterman (1989), Hirschman (1986), McCracken (1989), and Wallendorf and Belk (1989), (amongst many others), key ideas and words were coded and then each interview was analyzed to identify emergent themes. The coded data were also compared and contrasted with respect to beauty versus ugly and human beauty versus product beauty. The analyses, comparisons, and contrasts ultimately produced two broad categories or dimensions of beauty.

Emergent Themes

The themes which emerge from the depth interviews do not support the age-old adage, "Beauty is only skin deep." Beauty, based on our interviews and experts, is more than skin deep - it is physical and non-physical; outward and visible and inward and non-visible, non-choice in certain aspects and high-choice others.

Physical Beauty: The meanings of physical beauty are dominated by what can be seen externally; this includes visible features such as face, body proportions, and body shape and visible traits such as poise, grace, and presence. As would be expected, BH, a female cosmetics consultant, started with the physical dimension (face and hair) to describe beauty. Make-up, body shape, clothing, jewelry, and polish followed - "before they even open their mouth ... so there is no inner beauty involved in that even though I know it is important." For BH, Raquel Welch personifies physical beauty because she is "beautiful in her face." Physical attraction was the only dimension TS, a male graphics artist, talked about when he described a beautiful person until he got to the very end of his list. "Height has to be in proportion to weight; I am extremely offended by fat people."

LL, a male musician, focused on the external and internal features of a person when describing his perspective of beauty. However, the attributes he immediately contributed were abstract, "For a person to be beautiful, I usually know the person, they have a great outlook on life, are together, and warm, and share my values." Then he went on to say that clothes, body shape, style of dress, hairstyle, make-up (or lack thereof), and shoes were also important indicators of beauty.

KV, a female interior designer, started her description of beauty at facial features. Facial expression ("smiling, sparkling eyes") and appropriately proportioned facial features ("not too skinny or too fat") were the first dimensions and she admitted that "these lie at the most shallow level of beauty." DW, a male photographer, also notices facial features before anything else. "I look at the bone structure of the face - the eyes, nose, mouth, and the relationship amongst those features." Body proportions were next. If the proportions "fit my sense of beauty," then I think that person is beautiful." Beautiful people are physically attractive, poised, and well-proportioned. Examples of physically beautiful people for DW included: Lola Falana, his wife, and the older daughter of one of the co-authors. Why are these women beautiful to DW? They are "nicely proportioned pieces of sculpture."

BM, a female landscape architect, began her discussion of beauty by stating that beauty is based primarily on physical attractiveness and she pointed out, as did CK, a female studio artist, that "there is no one standard of beauty." Dimensions of beauty that were important to BM included an overall healthy appearance and intelligence. "Beauty is not being stupid rather than being smart."

Speech, posture, and deportment were important dimensions of beauty to BH and TS. Grooming habits, particularly those that are subject to smell, touch, and sight, are the important "choice" characteristics that help to determine beauty. Cleanliness may or may not be next to godliness; it is very close to beauty in our study -being clean is essential, as is being neat, not obese, finished, combed, well-shod, polished.

RG, a male philosopher, remarked that beauty and attractiveness are not the same thing - beauty is a much "deeper" construct than attractiveness and for him, attractiveness was the physical descriptor. However, he did go on to add, that if a person "achieved the unexpected or overcame a tremendous obstacle, then he/she could be beautiful." External physical dimensions, those aspects that one confronts directly and visually, are typically evaluated first. We have concluded, however, that after that first scan and determining "how well put together a person is," there has to be something else, something that transcends outward appearances and what we have chosen to call the non-physical or internal dimension.

Non-Physical Beauty: Non-physical dimensions of beauty are chosen and embrace the way -one acts and the way one sees the world. Our experts delineated "spirituality" and "soul" as distinct and apparent characteristics without which a physically attractive person cannot be "beautiful." GE, a male athlete, had trouble articulating what beauty is and how to describe it without resorting to words such as "spiritual," "soul," "personality," and "intelligence," and TS added "a classy personality" and "an intriguing intellect." Similarly, NL, a theoretical mathematician, looks first at "the depth of character," then "at liveliness," and then "exoticness" before pronouncing a person "beautiful." Physical appearance is considered later and "unattractive people can be attractive because of their personality." Beautiful people, for NL, are "strong," ,'multifaceted," and "connected to me." She considers two of her friends "beautiful" because of who they are and not how they look; she also considers Katherine Hepburn beautiful for the same reason.

For BH, beautiful people are polished on the outside and loving on the inside and it is summed up in CK's statement, "Somebody could have tremendous physical attractiveness and I could say, 'Too bad he's a chump.' " That person could not be beautiful! Olivia Newton John is an example of a non-physically beautiful person for BH "what makes her beautiful is the way she is with people ... the person she is inside." RG went so far as to start his interview by saying, "I don't really think of people as being beautiful, I think of things like sunsets, art, sculptures as being truly beautiful. He thought about it for a moment and then said that a person's beauty stems from his/her character (internal and external features). He used words such as purity, unblemished, untarnished, and innocent to describe the inner and outer aspects of people. RG indicated that a person could have a beautiful face or body, and be an extremely ugly person. He had a more difficult time describing facets of an ugly person than he had had describing a beautiful one.

KV described deep beauty as a beautiful personality: grace, charm, tolerance, wholesomeness, and other-centeredness." For her, the final and deepest dimension is "spiritual beauty" which transcends and exceeds attractiveness and personality and only after knowing someone can this be determined. Beautiful people, therefore, are beautiful on the inside as well as on the outside -their souls and their bodies are beautiful.

Ugliness: Our experts also agreed that people who are selfish, greedy, ignorant, uncultured, crass, unrefined, obnoxious, loud, nasty, hurtful, angry, vengeful, destructive, and self-centered cannot be beautiful. "Ugly people," according to KV, "are self-centered and have the power to inflict pain and do so. They are abusive, loud, and violent." For KV ugly does not have a physical dimension - "products can be physically ugly, people cannot!" NL agrees. "A person being ugly is not related to appearance. Ugly people are superficial, sneering, and hurtful." LL believes that a beautiful person "is not stressful to be around and can be identified by his/her "attitude." Therefore, he also believes that people who have "negative attitudes" are ugly. "All they care about is themselves and trying to impress other people. They have a lack of self-respect and usually a lack of respect for others. Ugliness is bitter and shallow people."

BM would not want to be around those types of people; she did not want to be around ugliness and it is largely because of personality that a person is ugly to her. However, she did indicate that an ugly person is also someone who is unkempt- the suggestion that there is, for her, a physical dimension to ugly in addition to a personal dimension. DW agrees. For him, an ugly person is disproportional, unpoised, and "lacks presence."

The examples of ugly people our informants gave us included: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Adolph Hitler, Anthony Hopkins (in Silence of the Lambs), Jimmy Durante ("because of that big old red nose with all the bumps on it"), Charles Manson, Jesse Helms, Jerry Falwell, and Phyllis Schlafly, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Beautiful Products: It was almost unanimous that products can be and are beautiful. RG responded, at once, that beautiful products are characterized "by the way they work." "My belt sander is beautiful because of the way it works ... it is balanced just right ... it is practical ... it is functional ... it has a certain unity about it." LL mentioned that a beautiful product is functional, well designed, high quality, and high tech, and that products have their own personalities. Each person, according to LL, has his or her own beliefs about which products are, in fact, beautiful. He suggested that the choice of a beautiful product is a function of the individual's level of involvement with it: the more involved a person is with a product, the more beautiful that product will be perceived by that person. Examples of beautiful products for him included a guitar with the shape, finish, and design that will permit the guitarist to easily reach high notes and a bike with a shiny, high-tech, customized frame and design. BH added lingerie, lace, eyeglasses, candles, vegetables, woods and cosmetics because they create beauty, are packaged beautifully, and smell good. For the majority of our experts, coffee makers and chairs are beautiful; perfume bottles and soaps are beautiful. Design, proportion, and shape are essential ingredients in a product's beauty.

GE, however, doesn't see products as beautiful because they have no "souls." His feelings about products are summarized in his comment: "products have no inner being therefore they cannot be beautiful." NL also initially indicated that products could not be beautiful because beauty is related to character, personality, and connectedness. "There are no emotional ties to a product therefore it cannot be beautiful although it can be attractive or appealing." Then she decided that "a beautiful product is one that is aesthetically pleasing and fulfills a function - objects that make me feel good when I look at them." Beautiful products, for her, are Tiffany lamps, fine china, fine crystal, and certain pieces of art.

Analogous to a person having to be "beautiful on the inside" in order to be considered "beautiful," a product, to be considered beautiful, must also promote a good purpose and function. Form is a necessary yet insufficient condition for a beautiful product; the product must also serve. "Form must follow function" according to TS. He likes modem and high tech things that are designed to be useful and elegant. Examples he gave of products he considered beautiful included a high-tech streamlined telephone, Ban deodorant's new package design, and a Honda CRX-XI. KV agreed. A product for her can be and is beautiful when it serves a good purpose and is physically elegant. It should be functionally useful also. If it is harmful to society or is environmentally unsafe, then it cannot be beautiful. Examples she gave of beautiful products are toys that serve a learning function and medical products that are not useless!

BM considers all products that are "properly designed" and "have the right shape" have an inherent beauty. On occasions when she has had a choice between two products that perform the same function, she always has always chosen the one that is physically more attractive. Products she considers beautiful include soap and one of her own bottle openers. "I could spend hours in the soap section looking at all the different colors and smelling the various soap scents." DW, adding the perspective of a photographer, expects beautiful products to be well-proportioned, well-textured, and well-designed. Products that are beautiful to him are: "architectural structures, like the Guggenheim Museum in New York, coffee makers, like the Braun, and anything that has been influenced by the De Still School (a Scandinavian avant-garde movement that has influenced things such as furniture, appliances, etc.)." Wood surfaces and wood grains can also be beautiful, "especially teaks and other hardwoods."

Packaging versus the product is an unresolved issue for some because a beautiful package can contain an environmentally harmful product. Some experts separated the packaging from the product in their evaluation, others did not; and some experts considered the visual aspects to be primary, for others it was touch and RG perhaps summed up the dilemma in saying "the packaging is often more beautiful than the product it contains."

The Interview That Taught Us The Most: CK, Studio Artist, Female 40: We have included a detailed description of our interview with CK because it is apparent that CK-has done considerable thinking about beauty, it truly is an integral aspect of her life, and we learned the most from what she had to say to us.

"As a visual artist, naturally my first reaction is to evaluate the visual aspects of the person first-the physical notion first and then the 'inner beauty' of the person after the preliminary evaluation of physical beauty." Physical proportion was a key word. "The primary consideration is the face which is a fairly traditional response. Then the overall proportions of the person, and how they conform to different canons of beauty." CK also noted that physical beauty is culturally determined ("I always have this rather marvelous 'aha' about how the beauty of a particular culture, as seen in its sculptures and paintings, conforms to the actual physical types within that race and ethnic origin.") and it is a factor over which people have no control. After that, "the things a person makes some choices about."

A "beautiful person" for CK is graceful, spiritually balanced, well proportioned (which "doesn't have to be normal looking, it can be an exotic set of proportions"), and animated. Examples of "beautiful people": Elizabeth Taylor (who was also cited by NL), Dorothea Tanning ("a brilliant painter who was married to Max Ernst"), and Louise Nevelson, an artist, who was "exquisitely eccentric in what she wore including incredibly big false eyelashes which she wore in her 60's, 70's, and 80's."

"Ugly" uses the same set of criteria: proportions of the figure and face. CK adds other elements after those such as cleanliness and behavior. "It takes quite a bit of really bad behavior for me to see somebody as ugly on the inside. It's not something that I come to naturally. A person would have to work real hard for me to perceive him or her as ugly." An ugly person, therefore, is misproportioned, graceless, unkempt, and bad.

Well designed products are beautiful. "Well designed" is described as "coming back to proportion and that applies to very beautiful laws of nature ... or science ... or mathematics." Beautiful products are Braun coffee makers, the Barcelona Chair by Mies Van der Mier in the Museum of Modem Art, and Salvadore Dali's perfume bottle "Lips."

Evaluation of Qualitative Research Results

Our understanding of the meaning of "beauty" was significantly expanded and deepened by the results of the depth interviews with our "beauty" experts and, as their responses indicate, we were also expertly educated on the relationship between "beauty" and product marketing.

The second phase of the study was to turn our qualitative understanding into quantitative outcomes.


Scale Development

The qualitative research discussed in the preceding section served as the conceptual foundation for the development of the BEAUTY scale. In the initial phase of scale development, a list of adjectives describing beauty were compiled from the depth interviews and existing research. In addition, fifty undergraduate students were asked to respond to an open-ended question asking about their beliefs regarding beauty in general. Students were also asked to describe human and product beauty.

The findings resulted in 144 adjectives representing various facets of beauty. An instrument consisting of a ten-point, Stapel Scale ranging from -5 to +5 was then administered to 25 undergraduate students. Respondents were instructed to rate how accurately each of the adjectives described beauty by circling a plus number for words that describe beauty accurately and circling a minus number for those adjectives not describing beauty.

Scale Purification

The scale, designed to measure beauty, was purified in several stages. Initially, as suggested by Churchill (1979), the reliability of the instrument was assessed using coefficient alpha (Cronbach 195 1). Adjectives having an item-to-total correlation of below.50 were deleted from the instrument. Based on this preliminary analysis, 81 items were deleted. Next, exploratory factor analysis was conducted to determine the dimensionality of the remaining 63 items. Based on the qualitative findings two factors were expected to emerge. However, the initial principle -component factor analysis resulted in over ten dimensions that were not easily interpreted.

To address the large number of dimensions and further purify the instrument, a second factor analysis using oblique rotation was performed on the 63 adjective pool. After several more iterations, a final set of 40 items loading on two factors emerged (see Table I for factor loadings and coefficient alpha on the final set of items). These two factors clearly represent the beauty construct definition as they included both the internal and the external aspects of beauty. As such, the dimensions subsequently named the Physical (Body) and the Non-Physical (Soul) dimensions of beauty.


Body and Soul

If any one cliche were to be chosen as the explanation for advertisers' selections of celebrity endorsers, then it would have to be "What is beautiful is good" (Dion, Berscheid and Walster 1972). Advertisers assume, (at least according to advertising researchers), that they can, at least, double their effects by combining celebrity status and physical attractiveness (Friedman and Friedman 1979; Kamins 1990; Singer 1983). Their assumption is not without strong support. As indicated in our Introduction, considerable evidence has accumulated, in the social sciences and in marketing, that beauty sells and that beauty changes attitudes towards products, people, and places (e.g., Belch, Belch and Villareal 1987; Block and Richins 1992; Caballero and Pride 1984; Chaiken 1979; Kahle and Homer 1985; Kamins 1990; Ohanian 1990). However, that's not the whole story, it doesn't always work that way, and on occasion, advertisers have learned the hard way. The body beautiful may be necessary, it is not sufficient.



Our study revealed that, although the initial evaluation of an unknown quantity (i.e., person) appears to be based on physical appearance and attractiveness, real beauty goes beyond that part of the person that is physical. Values, habits, personality, and behavior are the "soul" of beauty. After ail, our bodies are only a part of who we are and with judicious investments of time and money, they can be changed. We can change our hair color and hair style, lose weight or gain weight, surgically remove or add or alter features, and we will still be the same people. BH described it as "the inner person, the soul inside, what is offered to another person." CK described it as "inner spiritual balance that creates a kind of pulsation toward me." NL described it as "depth of character, strength, and kindness." And GE talked about "soul," "spiritual," "personality," and "what's inside." The qualitative evidence left little doubt that a truly beautiful person must be beautiful to the core.

The quantitative evidence of the factor analysis, the first step in the creation of what we have chosen to call the BEAUTY scale, contributes additional support to our contention that beauty consists of physical and non-physical dimensions - what we have chosen to call BODY and SOUL.

Endorser and Product "Soul" Compatibility

Products can be and have been examined based on their "body" attributes such as packaging, color, and size. Their"souls," however, have been ignored. Unquestionably, some products have personalities or "souls" that are as strong, if not stronger, than their endorser counterparts. For example, Oil of Olay's personality has been described as ..."a secretary on the Riviera, by the swimming pool, in a silk bathing suit, reading Vogue, with her mink coat on the adjacent chair" (Plummer 1984/1985. p. 29). Moreover, understanding the personality of an individual product/service becomesparticularly critical if "the person on the street" or a relatively unknown celebrity is used as the advertising endorser. For these matches, the "soul" of the established product/service may transcend the unfamiliar or unrecognized personality of the endorser. Given the potential implications of possible mismatches, researchers and practitioners may be obliged to acquire an understanding of the "soul" of the product.

That the match between endorser and product/service will have an effect, (positive or negative), on the celebrity and the product/service he or she endorses is, by now, an-accepted truism. Bo Jackson's intensity and courage inspires us to Just Do It (with Nike), Cher's brazen and independent personality motivates us to get fit at Bally's, and Bill Cosby's bouncy and cheerful humor invites us to have fun eating Jello. Nevertheless, although researchers have labored to understand the effects of the endorser's "body" (i.e., attractiveness) and to some extent the endorser's "soul" (i.e., credibility) on the match, not much attention has been given to the effects of the product/service on the match - an intriguing and, as yet, unresearched question. Can the "soul" and/or "body" of a pure and unsullied product, for example, Ivory Soap, influence the image of an unchaste and sensual endorser, for example, Madonna?

Multi-Method Research

Most of us have followed the recent debates on quantitative versus qualitative research, positivistic versus post-modernistic research, and empirical versus interpretive research; some of us with considerable dismay about feeling forced to select one side and then, of course, vilify the other. For this study, multi-method research proved to be (in our opinion) far superior to an either/or strategy. The depth interviews, an accepted traditional qualitative research method, gave us a wide range of nuances of meanings and understandings of what people mean when they use the descriptors "beauty" and "beautiful." Without the interviews, we would have missed CK's discussion of the racial and ethnic determinants of beauty, DW's discussion of the role of proportion in beauty, KV's discussion of the spiritual beauty which transcends attractiveness, and LL's discussion of the beautiful person as one who is not stressful to be around. The multi-dimensionality of beauty would have been significantly understated without this aspect of the study. (For a full discussion of the interdependency of goals, assumptions, theories, and methodologies in positivism and interpretivism, please see Hudson and Ozanne 1988 and Ozanne and Hudson 1989.)

The quantitative component of the study confirmed and supported our notion of the "body and soul theory" of beauty. One can almost guess with 100 percent accuracy into which factor a particular adjective will fall and it is pleasing to be able to report the "hard numbers" we generated. For our results to be practical, in terms of assisting and benefiting advertisers, scale development is an appropriate endeavor. The quantitative results from this research will form the basis for further scale development and validation.


The present study is a preliminary (although indispensable) effort to understand the multi -dimensional nature of beauty. Improvements and extensions are planned for future research.

First: we developed the BEAUTY scale using a somewhat small and extremely convenient sample of marketing students. This sample contained a relatively narrow range of ages and, because it was all students, a relatively narrow range of incomes, occupations, and educational levels. There is, therefore, the potential for an age response bias and a "lifestyle" (for want of a more descriptive word) response bias. It is reasonable to assume that peoples' concepts of beauty are transformed as they age and their life circumstances change; a restricted sample on either and/or both these dimensions necessarily constrains the results. A larger, more diverse sample of respondents would improve the generalizability of the results and, perhaps of even more consequence, would expand the breadth and the enrich the depth of the results.

Second: we consider the scale developed in this study to be far from the final version of the BEAUTY scale. We see the present scale as a first-step in a long march toward measuring"true beauty." The psychometric properties of the instrument (i.e., scale reliability and scale validity) require further examination and additional refinement. In addition, the scale needs to be tested by asking respondents to appraise the beauty of a specific person. Future studies should use an improved and refined version of the current BEAUTY scale to evaluate the "beauty" of Madonna, Tom Selleck, Bill Cosby, etc. The appropriateness, applicability, and "goodness" of the scale cannot be assessed without tests of this nature.

Third: we want this study to ignite interest in additional empirical "beauty" research. Beauty is a ubiquitous notion - it is constantly with us and around us in marketing and in everyday life. However, not much is known (empirically based, that is) about its impact. Future research should investigate positive and negative sides of beauty; economic, social, and psychological consequences of beauty; and male and female perspectives of beauty - all are extraordinary and fascinating subject matter for prospective studies.

Finally, and perhaps more relevant and pertinent to advertising/marketing researchers, we suspect that dimensions of beauty and standard variables such as salesperson effectiveness, ad effectiveness, and product involvement are related. We hope this study will inspire other studies which, along with our own, will support our contention.


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Lynn Langmeyer, Northern Kentucky University
Matthew D. Shank, Northern Kentucky University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22 | 1995

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