Jacob models (sorta) bare it all

Sharon MacLeod and Joseph Bonnici weigh in on the no-retouching policy, and accompanying campaign, announced by the Montreal-based retailer.

For women’s fashion brand Jacob, it’s now all about going au naturel. 
In mid-August the family-run, Montreal-based retailer decided to abstain from retouching the images of models for its Jacob and Jacob Lingerie brands. The policy represents a long-term commitment to present a realistic image of the female body.
“It was important for us to differentiate ourselves as a company that’s taking a stand on something that is as important as retouching, and then showcasing a healthy woman’s body,” says Cristelle Basmaji, spokesperson and communications director, Jacob. The brand will continue to digitally alter some aspects of its images, however, like calibrating colours for better product representation, evening out skin tones, or erasing tattoos and scars.
At the same time, Jacob also unveiled a new one-stop-shop positioning. Jacob and Jacob Connexion are now under one roof, which is being touted via an internally helmed in-store campaign promoting its fall line. POS posters feature a mosaic of smaller images of a model wearing items from the fall line, with copy that reads, “From work to play, now just one Jacob.” The no-retouching policy is being communicated via cash counter cappers that show a retouched image and the untouched version, plus PR efforts.
Jacob plans on extending the message to a media campaign later this month, which will include social media focused on Facebook.
We asked Sharon MacLeod, a marketing director at Unilever, and Joseph Bonnici, CD at Zulu Alpha Kilo, if Jacob’s efforts are fashion forward, or a fashion faux pas.

Overall strategy
MacLeod: Jacob’s strategy has gone into a few interesting spaces, which means it isn’t a tight strategy.  “Work to play,” “under one roof,” “seducing to snuggling” lingerie and body shape of models, they are trying to do too many things and achieving none. My advice is to choose the strongest space and do it well.  
Bonnici: I think Jacob has hit on a powerful insight that they can own as a retailer. The new retouching policy is brave. However, leaving the message to a PR campaign that might not reach the intended target seems to be a lost opportunity. The second part of their strategy, bringing the two Jacob banners under one roof, makes complete sense. Especially in a world where women can now shop almost any store in the world online with just a click of a button. Unfortunately, these two strategies seem disconnected from one another, so neither is conveyed effectively.

Campaign elements
MacLeod: We girls know that we’ll walk a mile over hot coals for aspirational style and they’ve done a nice job with the mosaic of styles they offer in the execution. The before and after visual helps advance the media literacy of shoppers, something I’m always in favour of.
Bonnici: The campaign elements don’t do an effective job of relating the new retouching policy to women. Why not feature models in Jacob intimates with in-store posters and point out not a single one of them was retouched? It’s a missed opportunity on every level. Beyond that, the posters barely do the job of letting women know both Jacob banners are now under one roof. The design just feels ordinary.

The no-retouching policy
MacLeod: I applaud Jacob for taking a step towards portraying the accurate shape of their models.  Dove initiated the no-retouching approach in 2004 and has taken it much further, striving to realistically portray women by accurately depicting the natural shape, size, skin colour and age of real Canadian women versus models. Jacob falls short. They may not be retouching body shape but are still retouching skin tone, tattoos and scars of stereotypical models. Sounds like Jacob is retouching if you ask me, which isn’t much to base a campaign on.
Bonnici: The new retouching policy of Jacob is admirable in a world where 50-year-old celebrities and models are made to look like dewy, flawless 20-somethings. They should be shouting this from the rooftops. It’s a positioning that is completely unique in the Canadian retail landscape. Unfortunately, it seems as if Jacob is whispering the message.

The creds
Lead: Valerie Vedrines, vice-president, image and marketing at Jacob