A year or so ago, I wrote a blog called "How the World's Sexiest Brand became a Fallen Angel." I argued that Victoria's Secret, the well-known women's underwear store, had once succeeded like no other by celebrating women's right to be and show sexy. But, unfortunately, they then lost it all by telling women who could and could not be sexy.
Now, in a drastic revamp of strategy, Victoria's Secret is showcasing an array of diverse female advocates and boasting inclusive styles and sizes. After years of struggling with dwindling sales and moral controversies, the brand is vying desperately against competitors to catch up with the times and ditch their old model of upholding the unrealistic, "perfect" female body and pandering to the typical male perception of "sexy." But will consumers be convinced by this moral facelift? Is it enough to fire their old marketing team and trade out the Angels for #GirlBoss influencers and Olympic athletes?
I say not. For a brand seeking such a significant turnaround, there has to be an empathetic connection with its consumer, a brand vibe that goes beyond checking the box by parading a panel of diverse women. To get that right, the brand must reach deep into the angst the modern women feel and touch a nerve somewhere.
Maybe that's through a mea culpa. Let's remember that no brand knows how to let women be and show sexy better than Victoria's Secret. That is nothing to walk away from. But how about acknowledging that they made a couple of mistakes? How about something like "No Judgements Ever. Simply the Sexiest Bras for Every Body."
Or, how about getting behind some real conversations around the judgments people make about women and their bodies. Now, there the choice of Megan Rapinoe might have been masterful play – not unlike Nike's choice of Colin Kaepernick as their spokesman in the face of the BLM movement. She is smart, thoughtful, and talented. Victoria's Secret may even want to celebrate Brandi Chastain's now-iconic image of tearing her shirt off and exposing her sports bra after scoring the winning goal in the 1999 women's world cup, leaving the many prudes aghast by her 'unladylike' conduct. If ever there was a moment for a brand to take a side with women, that was it. Victoria's Secret, the brand, needs to discover its values and show them to us bravely and authentically.
Maybe the brand can rediscover its vibe. It does not yet feel like it, though.
[Written by: Sandeep Dayal & Maddie Domecq]