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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Brendan Semon

Professor Rizza


1 October 2018

Media Manipulation

The lifestyle of health and fitness truly does possess great transformative power to one's life, however in stark contrast there is a crooked side to the industry bent on marketing unrealistic expectations to consumers. “Muscle and Fitness” magazine markets false expectations to consumers by way of unrealistic guarantees of muscle gains from simply following their featured workout regimen, namely “The Rock's 4-Week Muscle Building Plan”.

Whether it be Chris Evans in Captain America, or Zac Efron in Baywatch, the magazine constantly utilizes trending actors, celebrities, and models to endorse their products and exercise regimens. The magazine will typically feature a photo of a muscular actor from a new box office hit, along with the actor's workout routine and diet regimen. In addition, there will be outrageous claims of muscle mass gains. In the the August 2018 issue of “Muscle and Fitness”, the magazine features a workout plan endorsed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, renowned actor, producer, and wrestler who was recently preparing for his role in the box office hit Hercules. The magazine offers a forewarning along with the workout plan: “Warning: It may make you look like a Roman god” (Muscle and Fitness, 08/2018). Alongside the precautionary note, there are captions exclaiming “Blast Fat!”, “Perfect Body Plan: Look Your Best in 28 Days”, and “Big Arms Now”. The regimen, designed by Dave Rienzi of Rienzi Strength and Conditioning, was allegedly the same one used by Johnson in his preparation for Hercules. The use of celebrities is indeed very effective, a large reason why many consumers are so misinformed. With renowned celebrities promoting their workout regimens, the magazine instills trust and familiarity into their consumers. In 2011, a Taiwanese study titled “The Influences of Perceived Value on Consumer Purchase Intention: The Moderating Effect of Advertising Endorser” was performed collaboratively by Dr. Hsinkuang Chi, Dr. Huery Ren Yeh, and Yi Ching Tsai. As stated in their dissertation, the study aims to “[E]xplore the effects of advertising endorser on perceived value and purchase intention” (Chi, Yeh, Tsai, 2011). Based on questionnaires from 450 research participants, the study suggests that the consumer will attribute the perceived value of a product to an endorser's recommendation. Furthermore, the researchers state in their dissertation: “[I]t is suggested that business advertisers hire a high credibility endorser (an idol or a famous athlete) to promote their products in order to advance consumer purchase intention” (Chi et al. 2011). Statistics from the study reveal that consumers are able to remember products that are endorsed by celebrities, and are even more likely to purchase the product if they are fans. The celebrity endorsement bears similar effects to receiving advice or recommendations from a close friend. These findings are significant as they can easily be applied to the endorsement between Muscle and Fitness and Johnson. Consumers are likely to view the muscular Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a credible source of health advice, as they are familiar with his charismatic personality and chiseled physique. Muscle and Fitness magazine's use of celebrities to promote their magazines is effectively brilliant marketing, however the method of marketing is extremely deceptive. In addition to the endorsement, the magazine markets the product by fooling the consumer to believe that the physique displayed by Johnson is attainable. In a matter of fact, many of the photos pictured in the magazine are taken under optimal circumstances: professional photographer, high-tech camera, perfect lighting, editing/photoshop. Many people are familiar with Instagram, a social media app that allows users to considerably edit and then post pictures; the end result is sometimes a version that does not even closely resemble the original photo. A similar situation applies to Muscle and Fitness magazine; professional photography can make an immense difference between a good and bad picture. In conclusion, Johnson's public image as a charismatic and health-oriented individual greatly contributes to the magazine's manipulation of the consumer psyche.

Muscle and Fitness also makes unwarranted guarantees of muscle gain from Johnson's workout plan as muscle growth from resistance training depends on several factors, such as workout, diet, age, gender, genetics, experience level and muscle memory. However, the main factor that contributes to the aesthetic physique of the cover models is the use of anabolic/androgenic steroids. For example when considering gender, the average natural male will gain a total of 40-50 pounds of muscle in a lifetime, opposed to the average natural woman will gains a total of 20-25 pounds of muscle. In a study titled “The Effects of Supraphysiologic Doses of Testosterone on Muscle Size and Strength in Normal Men” researchers observed the correlation between anabolic steroids and increased rates in muscle growth, as opposed to drug-free health regimens. The study involved 47 male participants, who over the course of ten weeks, engaged in an highly regimented workout regimen overseen by the researchers. Group one, the control group (no exercise/steroids), experienced no significant changes in muscle mass over ten weeks.  Group two, who were supplied 600mg of testosterone but didn't exercise, gained seven pounds of muscle mass. Group three, who were natural and exercised throughout the study, gained only four pounds of muscle mass. Meanwhile, group four, who took steroids and exercised gained thirteen pounds of muscle. One evident conclusion can be made from this study: the use of steroids greatly affects muscle mass. With the exercise regimen being highly monitored by experts, the participants were subjected to close to optimal conditions with respect to their test conditions. It can be inferred that the average consumer does not have a group of highly educated doctors, state-of-the-art exercise technology, or PEDs at their disposal, so the resultant muscle gain for a natural lifter on their own can possibly be even lower than four pounds. The sad truth to the magazines is that many of the endorsers use anabolic steroids to enhance their physique. When discussing the topic of anabolic steroid use in an interview with MTV, Johnson stated ”It's a bad example that you set for kids.” Ironically however, Johnson has admitted to previous PED use in the interview by stating “I used it. Me and my buddies tried it back in the day when I was 18 or 19”. Johnson simply contradicts himself by condemning steroid use but later admitting that he had used them when he was younger. It is with great doubt however that Johnson discontinued use of PEDs during his youth. In Hercules, Johnson arguably looks more muscular and defined at 42 years old, than when he was twenty years years younger competing as wrestler in the WWE. The use of PEDs among Johnson and others allows them to easily build credibility as a fitness expert. Many fitness enthusiasts look up to the endorsers, and would not suspect their use of an illicit, and potentially detrimental substance. By the prevalent use of anabolic steroids by the cover models, Muscle and Fitness magazine creates an unrealistic goal for the consumer.

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