Is it too-little, too-late for Victoria’s Secret rebrand?
It feels like Victoria’s Secret has been falling out of favor for years, first gradually and then suddenly. The decline was precipitated by former exec Ed Razek’s transphobic and body-shaming remarks and the subsequent cancellation of the VS Fashion Show as we all know it. For a few years after, the heritage brand was relatively silent and unchanging as its competitors revolutionized the space, from Aerie’s game-changing shift away from retouching photos to Savage x Fenty’s Vol.1 Show at NYFW.
That silence ended several weeks ago, when the brand introduced The VS Collective. The Collective’s seven founding members represent multiple age groups, races, and careers, and include World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe, activist Paloma Elsesser, and journalist Amanda de Cadenet, among others. The announcement is part of the brand’s break from its previous image and towards a 180° rebrand.
We’re no strangers to a rebrand; in fact, we reckon we’re relatively experienced. But there is still plenty to learn from the heritage brand’s revamp, so we thought we’d break down some of our takeaways. From sharing what the brand is doing well to where they should push some boundaries, read on for our round-up.
Share the process – that’s where transparency lives
CEO Martin Waters admitted that Victoria’s Secret has been slow to change with the pace of culture. Explicitly recognizing that time lag and genuinely committing to change may be precisely what turns a skeptic into a supporter. More than that, sharing the process behind a rebrand is more than an empty PR commitment it shows that a brand isn’t just talking about the work, it’s actively thinking about its meaning and actually doing it.
By sharing the process behind their rebrand, VS can not only show their impact but also shed light on its intentions every step of the way, laying bare precisely what it is they want to achieve.
You can’t (and shouldn’t) appeal to everyone
The announcement of the VS Collective inspired ire from conservatives and liberals alike; it seems the brand is simultaneously doing too much and not enough, and changing both too quickly and too slowly. That’s how it goes for a lot of rebrands in general, and especially for a culture-defining brand like Victoria’s Secret.
The fact is, VS’s rebrand will lose the company some customers; in this case, that’s not a bad thing, it’s necessary. With a pivot like VS’s, to try to appeal to everyone would be counterproductive to its commitment to change. And because they’re going to inevitably lose people along the way, there’s no reason for the brand to not go further in its pivot and actively stand for deeper issues beyond loosely advocating for women’s empowerment. Otherwise, the rebrand feels more #girlboss than revolutionary.
Don’t just reflect the current culture; shape the future landscape
Finally, while the VS Collective is diverse in terms of race, age, and body shape, that diversity is the bare minimum in the current landscape. In an era where the meaning of brand safety has radically shifted and brands are taking more of a stand on a multitude of issues, VS is doing the least and calling it the most.
In selecting members of the collective, the brand could have pushed itself further, partnering with individiuals that don’t just fit within the brand’s curently-limited size offerings but that could truly provide the guidance and creative vision to bring new product ranges to life. In doing so, they wouldn’t just be reacting to the cultural shifts, they’d be creating them.
Victoria’s Secret isn’t the first mall brand to undergo a rebrand; so has Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale. Still, time will tell if the new Victoria will make it or be marked as an attempt that came too little, too late. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, especially since there are some elements of their rebrand that do feel like a massive change, like the new nearly all-female board of directors.
We know that rebrands are more than just a name change or a visual redesign. They represent moments of deep reflection, a refocusing of values, and a re-imagination of ideas. At this current cultural flashpoint, a rebrand is the recognition that to remain unchanged doesn’t make you a heritage brand it leaves you behind.
Brenda Martinez is a culture whisperer who brings her observational superpowers to her work as a Junior Creative Strategist at creative agency New Moon.