Victoria’s Secret: When Your Brand Problem is Actually the Product
So, it’s official. Victoria’s Secret market share and sales are slipping- and have been since 2016, according to its reports. The real question to ask, is why?
Having actually bought their products over the years, it seems fairly obvious to me: Despite the fact that they have stuck with a marketing tactic of using supermodels to showcase their items, in a time when other brands are focusing more on female empowerment (yes, even in the underwear market!), the deeper problem that Victoria’s Secret has is actually one of product.
"Aren’t they still making the same old things?" you might wonder. No, is the answer. No, they aren’t.
If you were to go to their store looking for a variety of items ranging from lace boy shorts that they used to carry, to certain Body by Victoria bras that they used to carry, to some styles of sleepwear… that they used to carry... you just won't find them anymore. Many of the staples that they used to carry they just don't seem to have anymore.
On top of that, their staff seems to be very keen to measure everyone, and yet not particular knowledgeable about lingerie basics. I personally got into a polite argument about what is and isn't a balconette bra. What’s worse is that the quality that I used to see in their products just doesn’t seem to be there anymore, in the fabrics, or construction, or designs. It wouldn't surprise me at all to discover that their senior management had given a directive a while ago from some kind of profit crisis meeting, to find cheaper factories and cut costs, and that their customers would never notice. Well, guess what? They did.
This was the point at which I started looking further afield to find what I was looking for (as did apparently many other women).
In looking around, I made all kinds of refreshing discoveries. Brands like Cotton:On have similar items for sale at ⅓ the price. Department stores still have comprehensive bra departments with very competent and knowledgeable salespeople. Younger brands such as 6ixty8ight are sexy but more relatable with Instagram-worthy images, without being unattainably perfect as with the VS supermodels.
Frankly, much as I don’t mind the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show that’s their flagship marketing vehicle, it could be time for the company to spend a little less on the supermodel Angels, and more on its product development. It might still be the number one lingerie retailer in America today, but it might not remain so, if it doesn’t fix its current problems. It would be wiser for them to spend $2 million on improving the quality of its regular products on the shelves, rather than on multi-million dollar bejewelled bras that only get worn once on TV.
On top of this, they’ll have to find a way to square their brand messaging of being sexy (presumably as much for men as for the wearers themselves), with the broader societal messaging that women are now embracing of being real, and imperfect, but strong and capable anyway, and that in and of itself, being sexy.
It will be interesting to see where Victoria’s Secret goes from here, as it’s painted itself somewhat into a corner with its current brand positioning. I will watch with interest, to see what its next marketing move is.