Victoria’s Secret has been synonymous with its Angels—a flock of flawless supermodels in push-up bras and angel wings televised in over-the-top runway shows broadcast on TV—for decades.
But what was once perceived as fun and aspirational is now a turnoff for consumers, who in recent years soured on the brand’s promotion of unattainable beauty (which in retrospect always seemed constructed more for the male gaze than for the female consumers Victoria’s Secret was looking to outfit).
Too shortsighted to keep up with changing consumer behaviors and priorities—including the social media–based body positivity movement and the rising profiles of lingerie brands that feature extended sizing, such as Third Love and Rihanna’s Fenty—the L Brands–owned company has been floundering for years.
Faced with nose-diving sales, Victoria’s Secret recently rebooted, installing a new CEO (the old one had social ties to Jeffrey Epstein) and a new board of directors that’s nearly all women. It’s also traded its gaggle of supermodels for a spate of new ambassadors that collectively represent modern inclusivity and diversity. Soccer star Megan Rapinoe, actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas, plus-size supermodel Paloma Elsesser, and transgender model Valentina Sampaio are among the new faces for the brand.
How consumers will respond to the company’s 180-degree flip in spirit is anyone’s guess. Will it come off as opportunistic—an exercise in checking off cultural boxes to lure consumers? Time will tell.
But however it lands in the market, the company’s branding reboot is a valuable case study for all brands, including fine jewelry companies, that are steeped in old-school methods of marketing—such as hiring all size 2 models, then snapping photos of them in ball gowns and diamonds sauntering through rolling country hills (or some other incongruous backdrop).
The turnaround may be most valuable for jewelry brands that are still marketing their merchandise—including engagement rings—solely to men, instead of to the women who wear it.
Because marketing to women has changed significantly in the past decade. And that’s in large part due to the fact that social media has become big media. In 2021, it’s the thrumming engine that drives consumer choices and behaviors.