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Learning from Victoria’s Secret Failure to Change

Victoria’s Secret’s Decline

I was a loyal patron of Victoria’s Secret for years. My credit card was poised for financial bedlam every time I stepped into one of their stores. The collective motif of their Angels, the in-store pizzazz, and the once celebrated Victoria’s Secret Fashion show were powerful symbols of what being a woman meant. In other words, sex sold. Picture-perfect, flawlessly photo-shopped sex, that is. That was then. The current market is no longer acquiescing so easily to such images. More importantly, they aren’t forgiving towards brands who continue to perpetuate them.



Victoria’s Secret saw a decline in in-store sales during the 2018 holiday period (digital fared much better). This follows over two years of sales issues for the brand, and a lamentation by L Brand’s (Victoria’s Secret parent company) CEO Les Wexner that deep discounting and promotions have eroded the Victoria’s Secret brand. Executive and product assortment changes are being made, yes. However, Victoria’s Secret now has to contend with the likes of Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty and American Eagle Outfitters’ Aerie, among other, more inclusive, brands.

Fundamental Changes

Embrace thine stretch marks. They are nothing to be ashamed of or cover up or edit out. ❤️ #saynotoairbrushing #letabitchlive — Jameela Jamil (@jameelajamil) October 23, 2018

For me, the issue goes beyond Victoria’s Secret new offerings or them developing high-end ideals. Their brand voice, which has for years marketed an ‘unattainable’ identity to women, is at the core of what needs to change. In the era of #metoo, diversity and body positivity, hyper-sexualized imagery that is geared towards the male gaze no longer works. Women want, and are, demanding more. Like the decorated Serena Williams to model, Ashley Graham to actress Jameela Jamil. Women across the globe are speaking up about their experiences, and unabashedly so. Brands need to listen if they want to survive.

We Can Do Better

Change is inevitable. This is an age-old adage that many within our local market are waking up to. The truth is we are notoriously averse to change. We choose bare minimum planning and execution in the short-run, instead of employing meaningful, long-term strategies to elevate our businesses and brands. I wrote about that aspect in a past blog:

Our market is still learning, but I have to wonder if we’re too slow to understand the value of a well-versed strategy, and by extension how to leverage the channels at our disposal. Social media has done wonders to build community and conversation for one of my clients. On-the-ground customer interactions and discussions have provided one of a kind insight into buying behavior and product usage. Marrying both to build a seamless experience for the audience as they move between online and offline has given credence to the ROI. For local businesses looking for that edge, perhaps it’s time to go back to basics by giving consideration to a carefully crafted marketing strategy and marketing plan. Online vs Offline Media. Why Not Both?

Change comes in many forms. For Victoria’s Secret, it came in the form of their target markets’ buying behavior shifting towards more natural and self-confident images. How closely are we listening to the market in our respective industries locally? Are we efficient enough in adapting to changing mindsets, and bringing differentiable value to them?  How much does our thinking go beyond the bottom line, and truly takes the consumer’s needs into account? Victoria’s Secret failed to ask (or answer) those questions effectively. We have an opportunity to learn and do better.

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