When Sex No Longer Sells: How Victoria’s Secret Can Rebuild its Brand
The old way of using to sex to sell products has been “buy this toothpaste for a whiter, sexier smile” or “buy this sports car to feel sexy” or “buy this shampoo for shiny hair that will make you sexy.” Victoria’s Secret has been using sexy images to sell its lingerie for years, and it worked until it didn’t. Victoria's Secret didn’t evolve its brand story. When people don’t see themselves in your brand story, they stop buying.
What happened to Victoria's Secret is the same thing that happened to Kodak and Blockbuster. They didn't keep up with the changing needs of their customers. Women today seek to buy from brands that make them feel empowered, not just sexy. In fact, being strong in your resilience, beliefs and overall health is what is sexy today. No longer do women want to just look good to get a man; they want to feel strong to feel sexy to themselves!
Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign celebrated women of all sizes, and the brand's sales went up. Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty lingerie brand shows women of all sizes, and its sales are soaring.
So what can Victoria’s Secret do to rebuild its brand?
- Find a celebrity that resonates with today’s women and make her more than a spokesperson. Give that celebrity equity in the company to make their endorsement have authenticity. Someone like Chrissy Teigen would be ideal as she just released on social media a look at her old underwear and how she can’t fit into it now. It's OK not to lose the baby weight, and John Legend loves her at any size!
- Get a social cause that's relevant. TOMS Shoes is a classic example of doing it right. For every pair of shoes bought, a pair is donated. Recently, the brand expanded that model to let consumers choose from a selection of charities as another option to donating the shoes. For example, if Victoria’s Secret supported Y.E.S. Fest LIVE!, which is a combination of yoga, entertainment and social impact, it would help its brand image. S. Stephen Huntsman, co-founder of Y.E.S. Fest LIVE!, says that “brands that combine self-awareness, entertainment with social impact are the ones that will thrive.”
- Sterling Hawkins, co-founder of CART, which specializes in helping retailers innovate, says “Victoria’s Secret needs to develop and focus on clear avatars (potential customer types), tell better stories, and unify the customer experience. A renewed sense of purpose is emergent by turning down opportunities and as a company making hard decisions.”
For Victoria’s Secret to revitalize the brand, it needs to redefine what sexy is so that women see themselves in the brand’s new story of “Strong Is Sexy.” This isn't just physical strength, but strength of character. If Victoria's Secret gets the right celebrity to embrace this new vision, partners with a charity for social impact, and lets social influencers know their new purpose, it can be the leader in its category again.
Related story: Can This Brand Be Saved?
John Livesay, author of Better Selling Through Storytelling, is a highly sought-after keynote storytelling speaker and Forbes columnist. During his talks, he shares the life-changing lessons he’s learned from his award-winning sales career at Conde Nast to help people become revenue rockstars by forming emotional connections with clients through stories. Livesay is the host of “The Successful Pitch” podcast, which is heard in over 60 countries.