Has Victoria Lost Her Secret? (The Importance of Brand esSense #10)

Victoria’s Secret is a declining brand, losing market share over the last few years. Is this because it’s interpretation of the Seducer archetype as a sexy woman with a certain body shape in “sexy lingerie and bedazzled pants” is no longer relevant in contemporary culture?

Certainly, times have changed and arguably many women no longer find this look fashionable, or even relevant in the era of the #metoo movement. Do women still desire to wear lacy lingerie, or have their needs changed and Victoria’s Secret failed to keep up with them, sticking to an out-of-date view of the meaning of romance and seduction?

An alternative view is that the retail landscape has changed, and the brand is in a much more competitive market, where online retailing offers so many more options. Some of those options include the ability to order products that are much more customized to individual women’s needs.

Victoria’s Secret models definitely conform to a certain image, while women increasingly want models with more realistic (or is that more real?) body types. Shockingly, most women are wearing bras that are the wrong size for them. Victoria’s Secret are perceived by many to have a very conspicuous sexuality and brash marketing which still treats women as objects to be desired. At the same time, other brands like ThirdLove (a popular underwear and apparel startup) offer “real women, realistic measurements”. Comfort and functionality are becoming important drivers of consumer choice, getting beyond the need to conform to an ideal look driven by advertising messages.

And is the colour pink becoming a cliché in the context of love and romance? Globally, needs are moving towards natural looks and relatable beauty (see our recent article on Indonesian beauty here), and a sexy image has value in some contexts, but is not the core need of women. Women no longer desire the “male gaze”.

What is the lesson for Victoria’s Secret? While archetypal branding is powerful, archetypes in culture are constantly refreshed and updated as cultural values change. Love and seduction are no longer about women as sexual objects and Victoria’s Secret need to reflect that in their imagery and marketing communications. That doesn’t mean they need to completely change who they are, but it does mean that they need to update their identity to reflect more contemporary interpretations of love and seduction. And perhaps the “angel wings” are a little out-of-date?

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