Victoria’s Secret is (finally) trying to get women’s attention


It took time and constant loss of market share. But, before she left L Brands – her home for four decades and the incubator of her once highly successful and man-friendly marketing campaigns – Victoria’s Secret let loose.

They are To be replaced with a group of influential and powerful women, who will help shape the brand’s merchandising and messaging, L Brands said in a press release Wednesday. The first to join this “VS collective” are football star and LGBTQIA + activist Megan Rapinoe; freestyle ski champion Eileen Gu; actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas; Sudanese refugee, model and activist Adut Akech; GirlGaze founder Amanda de Cadenet; model and “advocate of the body” Paloma Elsesser; and openly transgender activist, model and actress Valentina Sampaio.

On the same day, the conglomerate announced a list of boards of directors that include one man – Martin Waters, CEO of Victoria’s Secret – and will start work once the brand is split into a separate company later this year. These developments are essential and require follow-up to be successful, according to Thomai Serdari, Professor of Luxury Marketing and Branding at the Stern School of Business at New York University.

“This is the right direction for VS if they want to attract young GenZ customers and consumers who have a more inclusive definition of what sexy is and what it can be,” she said. -mail. “For the new brand image to stick, the company will need to be constant and consistent in its messages and visuals with campaigns that continue beyond the current VS Collective.”

About the weather

For years, several analysts and investors have pushed Victoria’s Secret to go this way, but the change has been gradual and slow.

This has allowed several brands (including Rihanna’s Fenty, American Eagle’s Aerie and several DTC labels) not only to gain market share, but also to steer the brand with their own feminist critiques and empowerment-based messages.

Meanwhile, the lingerie market, on the way to reach $ 250 billion globally by next year, according to retail analytics firm Edited, has gone from the male gaze. The strong preferences of Gen Z consumers now dictate comfort, inclusiveness (which includes size and nude undertones) and sex appeal that encompasses all body shapes and sizes, according to Edited research.

During a call with analysts last month, Waters reported that the brand received the message. “[Victoria’s Secret is] go from being frankly irrelevant to relevant, from being for him to for her, to be more inclusive rather than exclusive, and the client really notices and votes with their wallet, so that’s great ” he declared, according to a Alpha transcription search.

Speaking to New York Times Wednesday, Waters said it was clear that L Brands “need to change that brand for a long time, we just didn’t have control of the business to be able to do it. ”L Brands founder Les Wexner, who had a personal and financial relationship with a disgraced financier and convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, stepped down as CEO last year and stepped down from the board earlier this year, relinquishing full control of the company after six decades.

But is it too little, too late?

“I don’t think it’s too late, I think it’s time,” said Lee Peterson, executive vice president of thought leadership and marketing at WD Partners and longtime dealer at L Brands, by th -mail. “It will be a great experience on branding, like the Target change in the late 90s and now the Gap attempt with Yeezy. Can a massive brand in the center of the curve like VS activate a relative penny and say, ‘Hey everyone, we’re not this more, we are this’? We’re about to find out, although it will take years to prove itself or wear out. “

The risks

Despite its now problematic reputation, Victoria’s Secret remains a source of money, collecting $ 5.4 billion in sales last year, even with stores closed for months in most areas due to the pandemic. Any type of major change represents a certain level of risk to these sales.

“There is, of course, a large segment of the population who will be offended by the new image (even smoother transformations can offend the consumer who is emotionally linked to a specific brand) and may abandon the brand,” Serdari said. . “In that sense, rebranding comes with risks. However, it can be managed, especially considering that it won’t be the first brand that tries to sell inclusiveness, fourth wave feminism and empowering women through sexy lingerie. FENTY has done it before and done [it] with success.”

Tensions could also emerge between what will be a Victoria’s Secret board dominated by U.S. business executives and the more militant members of the VS collective, Peterson said.

While former L Brands bosses, including Wexner and the longtime chief marketing officer Edward Razek may have stubbornly stuck to what turned out to be a losing marketing ploy, they also “really figured out how to sell A LOT of stuff to A LOT of people,” Peterson said, adding that he’s not. clear what the real power of the collective is, or how it will be exercised.

“What if they tested and sold a ton of clothes that were a little racy, revealing, too warm, a little tacky,” he said. “Are any of the activists going to stand up and say, ‘Hey, that’s just wrong’? And if they do, are they going to shut down a bestseller?”

Basically, however, Victoria’s Secret needs to transfer power to its clients, Serdari said.

“In other words, I don’t see women’s empowerment and sex appeal as opposites,” she said. “On the contrary, the two can coexist but the underlying message must be clear: our lingerie is sexy the way * you (the wearer) want to be.”

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