Internet mommy warriors were up in arms last month against Dutch stroller company Bugaboo following the release of promotional images for its latest launch, the Bugaboo Runner jogging stroller. The images of Dutch supermodel Ymere Steikema running in a bikini pushing her daughter in the new stroller were shot for a feature with Vogue Netherlands and sparked a heated debate online over whether the Dutch company has crossed the line with this magazine spread.
Bugaboo is not your average stroller brand, with its base model retailing at $600 online (and over $900 in the UAE). Needless to say, the company targets families with higher disposable income and its marketing, both in terms of advertising and its tie-ups with famous designers like Viktor & Rolf, has always reflected this. Below are a few examples of their ads.
Aspirational imaging is nothing new in the marketing world, but it strikes a sensitive chord with mothers. Opponents of the images claimed that Bugaboo was propagating the immense pressure and unreasonable expectations of “the perfect” mother that women face. They also argued that images such as these alienated women who may have actually wanted to purchase such a running stroller as the model’s fitness levels do not reflect that of the “average” woman. Supporters, on the other hand, insisted that there’s nothing wrong with highlighting a different type or mother and that those that were offended were oversensitive and perhaps even jealous.
While some may argue that these images do not offend Bugaboo’s core audience, the firestorm that erupted following their release has called into question Bugaboo’s support for empowering new mothers and inspiring positive self image. I personally don’t see a difference between this type of aspirational advertising and the styles used by other luxury brands, but the reality is that there is a fine line between aspirational and arrogant. This minefield is all the more difficult for brands to navigate when targeting mothers. It didn’t help that this particular photo was also marred by accusations of sexism due to the way that the Dutch model was dressed coupled with the follow up image that Bugaboo released of a fully dressed model father using the stroller. ‘Why wasn’t the father flaunting his six pack?’ was the question on critics’ minds.
While I don’t support the objectification of women, my real question is whether anyone would have batted an eye lash if we inserted this image of Steikema into a Nike shoe ad. I doubt the sports brand have been bashed for setting unrealistic expectations for runners. Would anyone would have balked at her six pack or quads? I doubt a female runner would feel offended because she doesn’t look like Steikema. Instead, in industries like fitness consumers perceive these images as both aspirational and inspirational. Perhaps the issue with motherhood is that we want to stop aspiring to be anyone else and simply want to be comfortable with our own style of motherhood. However, the onus is on us as individuals to feel confident in ourselves and the way we individually define motherhood. We cannot rely on brands to do that for us.
What do you think? Did Bugaboo take it too far or are people being too sensitive? Leave your comments below!