Advertising Victoria’s Secret
Victoria’s Secret is a retail seller of women’s clothing and beauty goods, but is most familiar as a dealer of lingerie. Victoria’s Secret had retailing of more than US$ 2.6 billion through their over 900 retail stores in the U.S. in 2005.
In Joseph Jaffe’s “Life After the 30-Second Spot,” he looks at how the mode that most companies and organizations believe is the best way to get their point crosswise to customers and projection – television advertisements. It is significant to note that it’s not that the ads aren’t imaginative, inventive, or are not talking the verbal communication of the spectator – no less than for the most part – that has sourced the need for a “life after” this type of marketing, it’s the empowerment of all of us in the marketplace, letting the people “call the shots” for maybe the first time in a long, long while.
Victoria’s Secret was six money losing lingerie stores and a successful catalog when Wexner bought the company in 1982. It was a business aimed at making men comfortable buying lingerie. But what Wexner saw was an essential appeal to women.
From its inception, Victoria’s Secret’s telephone operators were trained to be soothingly supportive when embarrassed males called. You don’t know your lady’s bra size? No problem. Do you know where she keeps them? Okay, look on the edge of the strap and it will tell you the size.
Today almost exclusively women for women who are mainly buying to please themselves run Victoria’s Secret. Doing only $7 million when Wexner bought it, the business grossed nearly $1.8 billion in 2003, two-thirds from the stores.
Wexner was at his best, grasping the potential of Victoria’s Secret and then realizing that potential. He created stores that enhanced a mood: pretty but not overtly sexy, with satin nightgowns hung on the walls, a color-coordinated spread of undergarments on tables and plenty of room to mill about on thick carpeting.
Thus coddled, the Victoria’s Secret customer buys eight to ten bras a year; the typical American woman buys two. “We’ve made women consider the bra and panty part of their fashion wardrobe,” says Grace Nichols, 48, chief executive of Victoria’s Secret stores. A woman buys an aqua satin bra from Victoria’s Secret in the same way she buys a new lipstick color, to cheer up, to feel better or to indulge herself. “Narcissism is real,” says Wexner. “It’s the key to the business.”
The stores and catalog arc now run separately and carry mostly different goods, with only about 5% overlap. But they reinforce each other. FORBES estimates between 200 million and 240 million catalogs are mailed to 10 million people–with some getting as many as 45 catalogs a year. As much as generating mail-order and 800-number business, the catalogs stimulate women to visit the stores. “We’re in the customer’s face on a regular basis,” Nichols says. She has plans to go from 600 Victoria’s Secret stores to as many as 1,000 stores, adding 50 a year, even without expanding abroad.
Six years ago Victoria’s Secret introduced a line of scented bath gels, soaps and lotions. “These products are indulgence-oriented, so we saw a great emotional marriage between the two products,” says Nichols. The line now constitutes $180 million in revenues and 15% of sales, with better than 50% gross margins.
Not rock music but Vivaldi and Beethoven pour softly from the loud-speakers in Victoria’s Secret stores. Customers started requesting tapes and CDs. Why not? Since 1989 the stores have sold more than 10 million tapes and CDs, recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra for the Victoria’s Secret label.
Cynthia Fedus, chief executive of the catalog operation since 1988, also made major changes. Out went the steamy shots of scantily dad males and females grappling, ogling or embracing each other that were common under her male predecessor. In came a mannered, aristocratic look with British affectations.
Though headquartered in New York, the catalog first listed a London address on the cover. But when people started showing up at that address, an administrative office, it was dropped. The catalog still states a price in pounds. “It became aspirational, with older models posing in rich-looking, lovely settings,” she says. Sales doubled her first year, to more than $100 million.
Fedus also added to the lingerie a line of sportswear and evening wear, which has become 60% of sales. A supplemental swimwear issue debuted, bringing in $12 million in sales. There followed a country issue with rustic clothing and Timberland shoes. Leslie Wexner has always understood that retailing and show business are first cousins.
Victoria’s Secret has become a powerful mainstream retailing brand image. Why. Those with a taste for pop psychology speculate that professional women, denied highly feminine clothes at the office, want to wear ultra-feminine garments underneath. Such talk bores pragmatic Nichols. “I could tell you any bullshit you want to hear,” she snaps, “but you’ll find the [lingerie] category hasn’t grown; we’ve just grabbed market share.”
Victoria’s Secret has aided; perchance more than any other product attract notice to the lingerie industry. Their advertising operations, together with the Victoria’s Secret Lingerie Catalog and Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show are visually attractive and contentious. The notice received by Victoria’s Secret for their violent advertising campaigns has produced invaluable rumor and media bytes to further augment the Victoria’s Secret brand.
Joseph Jaffe, 2005, Life After the 30-Second Spot: Energize Your Brand With a Bold Mix of Alternatives to Traditional, Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Inc