Where Victoria’s Secret’s rebranding goes wrong

Lenore Fedow

From exclusionary marketing to a lack of eco-friendly options, here’s why the company’s new transformation plan misses the mark.

The executives behind the rebranding of Victoria’s Secret are akin to me in algebra class. They just don’t get it.

I’ve written about the lingerie company’s trials and tribulations previously, noting how slow it’s been to adapt to changing tastes, clinging to an outdated idea of what “sexy” is at the expense of its bottom line.

So when I heard the company was rebranding as part of its spin-off from parent company L Brands, I was eager to see if it was making some necessary changes.

Perhaps it was expanding its size range to better cater to the average shopper, or maybe it was appointing a woman to lead the company.

No and no.

Victoria’s Secret is making the same mistakes it’s always made—failing to listen to its customers or adapt to a changing world.

In exploring the company’s rebranding plan and how it misses the mark, let’s take a look at what retailers need to understand about today’s consumer.

Lesson 1: Representation is everything.

Victoria’s Secret advertising campaigns have never been reflective of the world we live in.

Its ads have historically featured thin, (mostly) white models, known as the Victoria’s Secret “Angels.”

The company is by no means the only retailer to lack diversity in its advertising campaigns, whether we’re talking race, age, body type, differences in physical ability, or any other metric.

I could say the same of many major jewelry brands, who send me press photos of the same type of thin, white woman time and time again.

However, as other companies started to open up their casting calls, Victoria’s Secret doubled down on its exclusionary marketing tactics.

Only after public outcry following some incredibly insensitive comments from former executive Ed Razek about plus-size and transgender women did the brand add more diversity to its roster.

It hired its first transgender model, Valentina Sampaio, and its first size 14 model, Ali Tate Cutler.

In recent years, Victoria’s Secret ads have featured a somewhat more diverse lineup, but if you’re looking for someone over a size 14 or the age of 40, you’re out of luck.

I am a straight, white woman in my mid-20s who wears between a size 14 and 16, and the company’s ads have never resonated with me.

What must it be like for people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, those living with disabilities, the many people who are above a size 14, etc.?

Representational advertising resonates with people. If I can’t see myself in your clothing, shoes, or jewelry, I’m much less likely to buy them. And if I come to your store and you don’t make me feel welcome, I’ll find a store that does.

Other companies have picked up on this. Lingerie brand ThirdLove offers 78 sizes, including half-cup sizes, and its “nude” bras are available in a variety of earth tones in order to match the wide array of skin tones.

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Source National Jeweler

Photo © Vogue – Paloma Elsesser, one of Victoria’s Secret new ambassadors.