Dear Victoria’s Secret,
I respect you. This I cannot deny.
It’s a respect that comes largely out of how exceedingly successful at creating your business you’ve been. After all, you’ve created a label that so many people perceive to be a luxury fashion house, and yet it isn’t. For one, your goods are not made by artisans. And then there’s the fact that your stores can be found in every part of America that I’ve ever been to, and I suspect you’re also inside all the shopping malls that I never will enter. But luxury fashion houses aren’t really like this, and yet the perception remains clear in the masses’ heads: Victoria’s Secret = luxury lingerie. Over the last 30 years your marketing machine has created something of a paradox in this notion of “common luxury” and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that’s no easy feat.
But, as of late, that same marketing machine has started to feel a little tired. The first irrefutable sign was your 2010 Christmas video. Directed by Michael Bay of Transformers fame it was all loud noise and bright flashes. It was also pretty damn cool, if you’re a 15 year old boy. But I’m not, and neither are your customers. There have been other signs along the way of course (model as mannequin courtesy of Photoshop, for instance), but I’ve always been willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and see our differences of opinion as a result of the cultural divide that is the Atlantic Ocean. But this month we’ve seen the first video component of your 2011 ‘Bombshell’ campaign and I have to be honest: it leaves me without a doubt that part of your marketing effort, the video part, is really missing the boat.
In fact, I’m writing to tell you that the boat has sailed. It’s the 21st Century and we’re living through a golden age of design, a period where we as customers want to have real experiences with what we buy. Nay, we want to have emotional experiences. We
want need to believe. And your latest video campaign offers up none of that.
Frankly, it feels a little bit too last decade.
I could break it down of course, but I’m sure you yourselves recognise that video’s shortcomings. They begin with the repeated slogan (running for political office are we?) and end with the stroke of Candice Swanepoel’s thigh. But that video honestly isn’t too bad. That is to say it’s not too bad in comparison to Michael Bay’s Christmas video.
Then there’s the ‘behind the scenes’ featurette for the Bombshell campaign.
That featurette had so much potential. A feminine soundtrack, Victoria’s Secret models looking like they were enjoying themselves as opposed to feigning a sultry stare, it was all there, right up until the moment your models started
speaking reading. For reading is what they were doing, and it was obvious. Obviously script. Obviously put together by someone in the marketing department with their eyes on figures and demographics. Which is practically what you had Alessandra Ambrosio recite. She gave us the “this is Victoria’s Secret target demographic” speech as if she was addressing your board. We as consumers don’t want to hear that, we want to hear how lingerie makes her feel. We want to partake in that experience before we go out and invest in it.
Now, Victoria’s Secret, none of your 2011 Bombshell campaign is ‘Michael Bay advert’ terrible. Nor is it ‘make a model a mannequin in Photoshop’ terrible. But neither is it great. And if you want to continue to lead, if you don’t want some upstart to come along and take a big bite out of your market share, then you have to start telling a real story. Your marketing has to come into the 21st Century and start communicating something real instead of a slogan that feels like it was scripted by a writer from LA whose best days were back in the 1990s.
But because this campaign isn’t as terrible as others you might feel the desire to brush all this off, to not adapt to the 21st Century. Don’t. Because you’ve done it right before now and others have nailed it for you. That last video is one I’ve shown to many a female friend and has done more to endear your brand to them then anything you’ve turned out internally. It’s real. It has feeling. That’s where marketing is at these days.
Victoria’s Secret, that’s what we want from you. That’s what we need from you.
Agree or disagree? Sound off in the comments below.