This ad for NikeWomen says nothing explicitly about shoes or other Nike apparel. The ad, however, says a great deal Nike products by telling viewers about the people who wear them.
People form their perception of products from their impression of the people who use those products. This is the product’s “user image.”
User image can be a very efficient way to communicate with potential buyers, often much more efficient than specific product claims. If, for example, Nike had made a specific claim about durability, this claim would have implied nothing about style. Similarly, a claim about style would have implied nothing about durability. Factual claims are usually perceptually narrow. They don’t generalize. User image is different. People infer that a brand would have the qualities that the stereotypical user would demand. If bright, athletic, and stylish women wear Nike, the brand must be durable, and stylish, and more.
Statements of fact can be questioned. User image is just an impression, not critically evaluated, and often more quickly believed than factual statements.
A brand’s user image can offer potential buyers another reward, image enhancement. By buying that brand, a potential buyer joins that club of perceived brand users. She can gain public image enhancement by being thought of as one of those women who wear the brand. She also can gain self-image enhancement since she can think of herself as one of those women who wear the brand. Self-image enhancement feels good even if others aren’t present.
The women who wear Nike in this ad are young, attractive, and athletic. At the same time, they are aware of their imperfections, self-deprecating and striving for improvement. That says a lot about the apparel they wear.