Fashion as Driver of Social Consciousness during the Pandemic

Social media has become a key tool for marketing designer face masks and other types of personal protective equipment

La moda como motor de conciencia social durante la pandemia

The need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the Covid-19 pandemic prompted fashion accessory manufacturers and sellers to switch to a new product portfolio. Although short, this product line is based on the demand for designer facemasks, colorful cap-connected face shields, and washable designer gloves. For example, e-commerce companies such as Etsy, Kiki ethnic products, and Linda Hermosa market designer ethnic facemasks. Ethnic fashion products companies seek to create customer value by offering products within the PPE category, in order to meet the personal care needs of consumers and stay abreast of the luxury market segment.

The forthcoming paper “Social Marketing of Designer Personal Protective Equipment: Using Fashion as a Driver of Social Consciousness among Women during Pandemic” explores the designer PPE social marketing strategy targeting Mexican female consumers. This study examines women’s perception of the use of PPE in Mexico, analyzing the influence of fashion, social consciousness, and self-esteem. Critically examining the theory of social learning, theory of self-awareness, and theory of objectification, this study analyzed the convergence of the divergent perspectives on adapting to the health regulations, managing appearance anxiety, and boosting self-esteem among women during the pandemic in the Mexico City metropolitan area.  A semi-structured research instrument was admiistered using the snowballing method to 254 women respondents in the 18-to-40 age group in this study.

The role of social media during the pandemic

The study revealed that, although social marketing helped in creating social awareness of public health policies, social mobility restrictions and the use of PPE have caused a high degree of social frustration. Over time, social media channels were used as business communication platforms by local entrepreneurs to market designer PPEs to women customers. The availability and use of designer PPE brands have significantly boosted women’s self-esteem.

The study also found that women understand the importance of social distancing and self-isolation and avoided planned or casual social events. Social media emerged as an effective tool during the health contingency, as the continuous diffusion of information on public policies, self-isolation measures, and life-style trends kept women updated.

Psychosocial effects on women

Although social marketing helped in creating awareness, the restrictions on social mobility and use of PPE have caused high social frustration. In this regard, lockdown has also led to an increased domestic workload and negative emotions resulting in depression and relationship conflicts.

Owing to the use of surgical or industrial masks, such as the 3M’s N-95, some women developed appearance anxiety, affecting their self-esteem. Consequently, fashion-conscious women used designer PPE to keep their self-esteem high. In fact, many women felt a pressing need to reaffirm their personality and self-objectification to recover from this emotional imbalance that undermined their morale and self-esteem.

According to the findings of this study, the availability and use of designer PPE brands have significantly boosted women’s self-esteem. Social marketing motivated them to make the decision to buy designer PPE, which contributed largely to overcoming the impact on personal values and lifestyle during the pandemic. It also served to change shopping behavior, achieving social acceptance among women and educating them about how PPE can contribute to their image and appearance.

Implications of this study

In view of the above discussions in the study, following managerial implications could be drawn:

  • As ethnic products are becoming a fashion icon, enterprises that manufacture and market artisanal products need to set up virtual stores for their products with verbal (product matrix) and non-verbal (visual) resources.
  • Connecting virtual stores with easy payment gateways would increase the inflow of shoppers. Local enterprises engaged in manufacturing ethnic products, including designer PPE, may exploit the potential of social media channels to enhance outreach to customers.
  • Social media may also be used as a customer advocacy forum for sharing product dialogues, discussions, questions and answers, and neurobehavioral guidance on fashion products.
  • Enterprises engaged in manufacturing and marketing designer fashion products may develop neighborhood markets using the hub and spokes model. This model proposes conducting synchronized marketing operations with the product inventory (hub) and multi-point sales (spokes). The hub may be managed by the neighborhood market leaders, while saleswomen work as spokes in selling ethnic products.
  • This marketing model also helps to empower women economically. By implementing it with the proximity shopping approach, it can provide convenience for customers and expand business in new markets.

This study is based on the sociocultural behavior of women affected by social mobility restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Future research could address various unexplored perspectives of social marketing with a focus on gender. The use of ethnic wear and food, natural healthcare products in the female consumer segment could also be explored. In addition, more research is required on the challenges of branding, distribution, and customer services in social marketing models.

The author is a research professor of Marketing at EGADE Business School.

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