Strategy & Marketing

Victoria’s Secret is "Too Sexy?"

The news today is that lingerie retailer “Victoria’s Secret” is pulling back from their “sexy” image after consumers complain and business declines. We saw it coming in the much subdued spot on the Super Bowl, and it now appears the company feels its crossed the line between “sexy” and “sleazy.” Three interesting issues here:

1) Even though their overall sales are rising, they took their cues from sales results from stores that have been open at least a year. With those stores, they saw an 8% decline. That takes away artificially bumped sales from new stores, and gives them much better and more stable sales data. What should we learn? Look at long term trends – not just immediate results.

2) Is too much too much with any brand? Can a church be too religious? Can a non-profit push limits? Can any retailer go too far? I of course say “yes.” With any brand, you can be too much, say too much, and advertise too much. Some media ministries and secular non-profits in this country send direct mail to their donors as much as 5 times a month. Is it too much? Only results will decide, but I think we too often burn out our donors and customers.

3) Customer opinions matter. When people call or write and express their feelings about an issue like this, in most cases, companies will respond in some fashion. Don’t be a jerk, or on a moral high horse, just express a logical reason why it’s in their best interest to respond. A few years ago, a local sign company put up very inappropriate bus stop ads outside our local high school. When I called the sign company, they responded immediately and had them replaced within 2 hours.

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5 Comments

  1. Victoria's Secret was frustrating their original customer base by chasing after recent trends.  The current trend is sexy street clothes and lingerie that is either frumpy or cheesy.   Self respecting women have always been disgusted by these styles. 

     Victoria's Secret broke into the lingerie market by catering to women who cherished their dignity.  They offered attractive, supremely well fitting lingerie to women looking for sensuality in their private lives.  The strategy worked.  

    It's a good thing Victoria's Secret remembered where their bread was buttered in time to save their business.  They were dead right to drop the sleaze and go back to their original business model.  Many married women were scouring the internet and high end boutiques for the type of lingerie they had been able to buy in Victoria's Secret only 3 years ago.  Another major retailer would have stepped  into Victoria's Secret's former niche if they hadn't gotten back on track.

    There probably is an analogy to be had in terms of church image.   A well-meaning but misguided leader loosely associated with our organization recently published an essay that had an unintended legalistic and pompous tone.  We sat around the church kitchen scratching our heads over it.  The major question was "Does he know how divisive this is?"  The conclusion was that he probably didn't.  He wanted to sound learned and virtuous, but the strategy was about to backfire.  Fortunately for the association, it looks like the essay didn't get the wide dissemination he had intended.  If it had, a few good associated ministries would have broken off in disgust.  Quite a few more would have started to reconsider the affiliation.   

    It's good to have a diversity of thought contributing to corporate decision making.

  2. I think that women, particularly Moms, are getting tired of seeing their kids and husbands watching the Victoria Secret raunch-factor, during shows like American Idol, or Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I'm very glad they're toning it down. (Actually, a lot of families these days, are starting the shows 5-minutes late, and then fast-forwarding through all of the commercials (to avoid ones like Victoria Secret).

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