I read this article from racked.com earlier today, and added it to my death of traditional marketing research. In 1997, Victoria’s Secret catalog was at the height of it’s popularity and was publishing 450 million catalogs a year and bringing in $661 million in mail-order sales. Today, 20 years later, the publication is dead.
Did Victoria Secret go bare belly up? Get pushed out of the market? Lose out to some other company?
The answer: D. None of the above
Victoria’s Secret did something with one of their most popular marketing initiatives, they simply stopped. The result wasn’t a drop in sales or an outpouring of complaints. In fact, according to L brands – their parent company – there was no impact on sales.
A Quick Victoria Secret History Lesson
Before I can validate my argument that traditional marketing is on its way out, you must consider that the VS brand is a strong one. The catalog was started back in the 1970s by Roy Raymond, who made one of the worst business deals ever – selling the company for $1 million to Leslie Wexner CEO for The Limited and L brands – VS was a niche market for men that didn’t want to be seen shopping for lingerie for their significant others. You can literally say from that deal, the rest is history, because Leslie took the brand all the way to current day VS. Using notable models such as Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks and Stephanie Seymour through their various decades of popularity, he used the brand to make women feel comfortable in their own skin, and men bought it, literally. It went from a men’s focused brand to a women’s when they started to have more buying power in the household. They changed the look of the models, products and marketing focus. This made women feel good about the way they looked and independent all at the same time.
Strong Brands make for Strong Customer Loyalty
The data points to VS holding 15% of the lingerie market, 20% of the bra market, $12.5 billion in revenue and over 1,040 stores. 10% of in-store purchases occur without customers using the fitting room, and 67% with those that do.
When you think about that in-store data, it’s no surprise that the catalog lost its appeal. Women were more likely to buy something that they could try on while making a purchase. But that doesn’t speak well to it really being traditional marketing fault. In fact, another strong argument can be made that the televised VS fashion show each year has a huge draw for its audience. Spending $15,000,000 on production and entertainment for a single event, the brand has never been stronger than it is right now.
Transition to Social Media
Like most brands, Victoria’s Secret was able to make an easy transition over to social media. With plenty of good visuals to choose from, their content fit the mold for Instagram perfectly. Pushing content that spoke to all their types of clothing, lingerie, workout, comfort – the brand has over 47 million followers on Instagram alone. The messaging of each post is playful, promotional and informational in nature. They often introduce new products and models to their dedicated audience, and the value is proved in the interactions, often getting between 250,000 to 1 million views per post.
The VS Snapchat (victoriassecret) is a perfect example of what brands can do to authenticate their brand. Allowing models to take over the account, it gives a behind the scenes look at what goes into being one of the “Angels” of Victoria’s Secret. It’s light hearted, playful all while keeping to the brand. Every post is VS focused, but it still feels real. Most takeovers are coordinated to a press day or product roll out. This is what Snapchat is meant for, and VS does an amazing job.
Although Facebook is the adult in the room, the VS Facebook Page still has over 27 million fans. They are utilizing Facebook Live to hold Q&A’s with models and promote their products even more. The Facebook page feels the most traditional when it comes to the VS brand, but it still has an audience to tap.
In general, when you look at their social media channels, you can find a unique approach to content on each. Snapchat is playful, Instagram is sexy and promotional and Facebook is more traditional to the brand. This is exactly how your brand needs to approach your social media marketing.
What’s the Takeaway?
The takeaway is that Victoria’s Secret was built from a traditional marketing platform, and eventually made the decision to move completely away from it, and nothing happened to their sales. They grew as a company with their audience. Observed how they interacted with the brand, and build multiple brand channels to reach each of their audiences. It may be the perfect brand to study as you plan your digital marketing strategy, understanding that each content piece is built for a specific audience. Plus, it’s not bad media to have to look at while you do!