Why does Victoria’s Secret market so hard to men?
You sell bras ffs
Listen, I like a moderately priced thong as much as the next girl, but I have to admit: I’m extremely confused by Victoria’s Secret’s marketing strategy. It’s a company that sells products ostensibly for women, and yet none of their marketing materials — the catalogs, the advertisements and the much-hyped annual fashion show — seem to be created with the goal of appealing to us. Instead, the ubiquitous purveyor of aggressively padded push-up bras has positioned itself to speak loudly and clearly to men.
Think about it. There probably aren’t very many women who feel like going shopping for underpants after watching an hour-long procession of the skinniest, most beautiful women in the world on TV. That’s not to say that plenty of women don’t tune in or that there’s anything wrong with enjoying it (there totally isn’t), but the Victoria’s Secret fashion show doesn’t exactly get me rocketing into the dressing room to try on something skimpy.
It all feels especially played out in 2016, as savvier companies are encouraging us to like ourselves, cellulite and all. Aerie recently tapped Iskra Lawrence, an outspoken plus-size model, as the face of the brand, while a little lingerie label called Lonely Girls made headlines when it featured Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke kicking it in a bathroom for its most recent campaign. Up-and-coming cosmetics companies like Glossier have taught many of us to take a break from contouring and embrace our the idea of showing our actual skin. Even the famed Pirelli calendar, once filled with traditional glamour shots of top models in bikinis, now shows stars like Nicole Kidman, Helen Mirren, Charlotte Rampling and even a professor of political theory with minimal makeup and apparently no retouching.
There’s nothing wrong with old school glamour, but these campaigns feel fresh, exciting and relatable. People talk about them, Instagram them and most importantly for the brands involved, are motivated by them to go purchase things.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s Secret seemingly refuses to deviate from the taut, tanned, padded, pushed-up, blown-out, size 2 standard of hotness. And it’s not just about bodies — plenty of companies use images of thin, airbrushed, unattainably beautiful women to advertise their products. But Victoria’s Secret exclusively touts a plastic, sugary faux-sexuality that frankly feels pretty stale — not to mention extremely far removed from anything real or raw or, you know, actually sexy. Like, who decided giant, presumably back-breaking wings were aspirational?
It may appeal to frat house male fantasies, but it doesn’t jive with the needs, desires and self-image of your average adult female customer. You know, the people who are supposed to be buying your shit.
Seriously, how often do dudes really buy lingerie for women? Once a year, maybe? So why would you base the entire branding concept of a company that sells lingerie for women on appealing to the stereotypical vanilla fantasies of men?
You wouldn’t, if you’re smart — especially once some of your competition has figured out a more effective strategy. This is probably part of the reason the company hasn’t been doing that well in recent years. According to Fortune, sales fell 2% in October of this year. Parent company L Brands, which relies on Victoria’s Secret for about 70% of its annual revenue, was already down 25% from last year. Earlier this year, the brand retired their once-popular swimwear collection, which came as something of a shock to much of the fashion industry.
They’re sinking an estimated $12 million a year into the fashion show, which has become a cultural touchstone and is no doubt great for brand recognition (and, to be fair, they earn a lot of that back from their many corporate sponsors). What might be better for actual sales, however, would be to cast the show (and the catalog and the ads) based on what women (not men) want to see — and that’s diversity, and fun and innovation. And women who look like us and our friends, not people who haven’t consumed solid food in 12 hours.
Unfortunately, high fashion labels can still get away with refusing to appeal to the average woman in their runway shows and ad campaigns — it sucks, but most of those brands aren’t relying on the average girl to go out and buy their $2,000 handbags and $1,000 dresses. But Victoria’s Secret is a mall brand with a significantly lower price point — one that pretty much every woman is aware of and probably owns something from. It’s kind of baffling that they wouldn’t try harder to connect with the majority of their customers, instead of their boyfriends — or whoever.
Because honestly, it’s hard not to wonder how many guys really want to watch a fashion show? Once the initial wow factor of seeing attractive women in their underpants wears off, it’s tough to imagine most men sticking around for the whole glittering, pink-laden thing.
Again, no shade. Pretty much all of the Victoria’s Secret angles are beautiful, talented models and the annual fashion show is a fun spectacle that involves a $1 million bra. There’s a lot to like there. It’s just honestly not clear who it’s motivating to buy underwear.