Diversity and Brand Success

Ruth Kroch, Account Executive


On November 8th, Vogue released an interview with Victoria’s Secret Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek and Executive Vice President of Public Relations Monica Mitro which sparked outrage on social media.

Razek makes a few alarming claims. Should they have trans women in the show for example? “No. No, I don’t think we should”. Why not? “Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special.”

(Read the full interview here: https://www.vogue.com/article/victorias-secret-ed-razek-monica-mitro-interview)

Trans rights and representation have been at the forefront of conversation both socially and politically over the past year. Many turned to social media to share their anger and disappointment over Razek’s remarks, and the hashtag #BoycottVictoriasSecret started trending.

And just putting this out there, Victoria’s Secret hasn’t exactly had the most diverse track record. These comments do nothing to help. White women have consistently dominated their shows – and let me remind you, they are an international brand. In the show’s history, a plus size model has never walked the runway. Neither has a trans woman.

Victoria’s Secret made more of an effort last year, stating almost half the models walking in the show are BAME, but seemed to ignore all other forms of diversity. If they want to stay relevant, they will need to start reevaluating their brand’s inclusivity. They may still be one of the leading lingerie retailers in the world, but the ratings and sales speak for themselves: their 2017 show was watched by under 5 million viewers in the US, a 30% drop from 2016. Their same-store sales have also dropped 5% in 2018. In the UK, YouGov’s BrandIndex data from the past 2 weeks shows that people are aware of them and their advertising, but that isn’t driving purchase behaviour. Surely this is a sign that they need to reconsider their strategy?

Their approach is a total contrast to current fashion and beauty trends, where diversity is becoming central to a brand’s likeability. A good example that hit the market recently is Rihanna’s brand Fenty Beauty. Applauded from the moment her concealers hit the stores, Fenty Beauty put diversity at the forefront of their product range, and brand promotion. And so far, it has worked. Her Fenty Beauty make-up range reportedly hit $100 million in sales within 40 days. Her new lingerie brand Savage x Fenty follows the same principles, which I am sure will continue raking in the big bucks.

Another brand doing it well is Aerie, who, surprise surprise, focus on body positivity and inclusiveness in their advertising and branding. They are also reportedly gaining market share from Victoria’s Secret, and are boasting a comparable sales increase of 38% during 2018 Q1. They started their body positive campaign in 2014, and have since stopped airbrushing all marketing material.

According to Glamour, ‘Designer Christian Siriano (Project Runway Season 4 Winner) Says He Literally Tripled His Business by Adding Plus Sizes’. Emphasis on ‘literally’. The man wasn’t joking. Maybe worth taking note, Victoria’s Secret?