November 15, 2018
Victoria’s Secret May Have a Generational PR Problem
Not that long ago, from a branding perspective, Victoria’s Secret practically owned the lingerie market. Even today, if you ask anyone over 40 to name a national lingerie brand, the majority will get to Victoria’s Secret quickly. But, as with many other established brands in many other markets, young people are trending away from this clothing brand.
According to a recent survey, for the first time in many years, Victoria’s Secret Pink is no longer among the top clothing brands for teens. That may be hard to believe after years of seeing older Millennials and their moms sporting Pink sweats at the coffee shop and the mall, but it appears VS, and, in particular, Pink, is out of fashion with today’s teens.
But it’s just one survey right? Well… not so fast. In another survey, teens were asked to name a store they shopped in once but never went back to. Victoria’s Secret made that list, which may be even worse news than not being in the top ten favorites.
Some have said that these surveys are part of the overall trend of teens staying away from major shopping malls, where most Victoria’s Secret retailers are located. But that doesn’t account for the fact that they could be buying these products online, and they’re not. Is there another factor? Yes, some market watchers say, cultural trends are hurting Victoria’s Secret as much as shopping trends.
Some of today’s teens are simply not responding to the “racy” ads that worked for their mothers and grandmothers. Where, in the past, some men felt uncomfortable walking beneath a massive, nearly naked woman to go buy their wife a negligee, now women are also expressing displeasure about the ads, especially younger women. This has led to a sales slump in 2018, after flat sales before that.
So, is it message more than product? Yes, say many market watchers. While Victoria’s Secret is struggling, some other brands, like American Eagle, which have pushed out a more “body positive” message are seeing steady growth. In fact, AE recently announced a 38% increase in same-store sales at Aerie, which made a huge splash on social media with photos of models who look like “regular girls” and others depicting women with disabilities still enjoying their “pretty” products.
The message, then, seems pretty clear. Based on the perception of the marketplace, one brand is sending out “this is how you should look” vibes, and the other is sending out “you are beautiful” vibes. Given the current cultural trends, this latter message is certainly resonating, while the former message is, literally, losing its audience.