The Brand "Victoria’s Secret". Does the Brand Need a Makeover?

Just sex does not sell anymore

Term Paper, 2020

10 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Problem Definition
1.2 Objectives
1.3 Course of Investigation

2 Theoretical Foundation
2.1 Importance of Brand Image
2.2 Relevance ofCorporate Communication and Rebranding

3 Actual state ofthe Problematic

4 Research method
4.1 Description ofthe Strategy
4.2 Adaption to the Case
4.3 Research Result

5 Summary
5.1 Management Recommendations
5.2 Outlook

List of References

1 Introduction

1.1 Problem Definition

Every year the Victoria’s Secret fashion show is broadcasted to millions of viewers. A flurry of top models called ‘Angels’ strut down the runway in sexy lingerie next to famous pop stars performing their best songs. It’s a visual celebration of the top lingerie retailer in the United States, which consistently captures around sixty percent of the market (Ell, 2019a, p.1). But lately, Victoria’s Secret seems to be losing some of its magic.

If you look at the profit numbers of its parent company L. Brands Inc., which have fallen from $1.25 billion in 2016 to $575 million in 2019 (Ell, 2019b, p.1) or the declining fashion show viewing figures (Bhasin, Holman, Alexander & Melin, 2019, p. 3), you can see a widening gap between what Victoria’s Secret sells as sexy and what the average woman looks like.

Decades ago, they revolutionized the lingerie industry but now they seem to fall behind the competition. In times of "body-positivity and #MeToo movements" (Ell, 2019b, p.1) women believe that they do not longer have to chase an angelic body ideal.

Additionally, other competitors use the lack of innovation ofVictoria’s Secret as an advantage to gain market share by emphasizing racial, body and gender inclusivity in their brand messaging with a huge success and consistently positive consumer response (Shedd, 2019, p.1). Victoria’s Secret has now reached a point where it has to take actions to remain competitive and to respond correctly to the market change.

1.2 Objectives

The aim of this term paper is to give profound recommendations how the brand should react to this market situation and the current trends which influence the industry and the consumer behavior. “Victoria’s Secret needs a makeover” (Ell, 2019a, p.1) - but what exactly and how is the question I will discuss in my work. These two dimensions are linked with the topics brand image, corporate communication and rebranding, which should reveal some optimization potential. A problem analysis with subsequent consideration of the communication strategy should help to identify strengths and weaknesses of the brand and make it possible to give management suggestions for now and the future. To answer my research question, I am applying a qualitative approach based on collecting relevant information and literature review of key sources.

1.3 Course of Investigation

To illustrate the problem, the main part of my work is divided into three parts. First, a theoretical foundation should prove why the image is a very important part of a brand nowadays and how communication is linked with rebranding, which is necessary if customers can no longer identify themselves with a brand. Next, the actual state of the problematic shows exactly why this applies to Victoria’s Secret. Here, social views and attitudes clearly contradict the values of the brand, which explains its current bad reputation. In the last main part, a research method is used to examine more closely the corporate communication of the brand in the context of an image change process. The description is followed by the adaption to the Victoria’s Secret case and how its communicated rebranding could contribute to solve the brand’s problem as the research result. Finally, in the summary, the results are turned into management recommendations, as well as an identification of opportunities and threats, which could guide the brand’s behavior in the future.

2 Theoretical Foundation

2.1 Importance of Brand Image

The lingerie market is a strong growing industry with a highly brand competition characteristic. Many companies want to convince potential customers to choose their brand and offer them a variety of products in different categories, sizes and qualities (Sanchez Torres & Arroyo- Canada, 2017, p.1). But the final purchase decision depends on several factors, ultimately its base is always the brand image. Because buying sexy underwear depends a lot on your own self-confidence and your own image (Hume & Mills, 2013, p.32). If consumers decide to buy something it is important that they can identify themselves with the personality of the brand (Maehle & Supphellen, 2015, p.460), which can only happen if the company has a good brand image and uses an effective branding strategy.

There are two helpful strategies to get a message across to the consumers. The first is the brand user strategy which utilizes celebrities as an advertising medium to win their fans as new customers. The other one is the brand image strategy with advertisement that emphasizes the brand name, logo or slogan (Clow & Baack, 2005, p.20). The usage of these strategies will influence the positioning of the brand in the mind of the consumers and can lead to desirable outcomes, like a broader target group and growing sales. Therefore, a faulty image should be corrected as soon as possible, because it is directly related to the success of the business (Ell, 2019c, p.1).

2.2 Relevance of Corporate Communication and Rebranding

Corporate communication is an important part of strategic and operational management and it underlines the vision, mission and value proposition of the brand (Mihai, 2017, p.109). It is the total communication activity generated by a company to its public audience in order to achieve planned objectives. This communication is divided in external and internal, with the aim to create identification, activation, motivation, trust and loyalty in the different interest groups. An effective and efficient corporate communication has a positive influence on “developing and promoting corporate image and identity” (Dolphin & Fan, 2000, p.19). But if a brand wants to make a big change in its own image, it has to think about the right strategy before using its communication channels.

Rebranding can be necessary approach to rework your brand position, values and target group. Reasons for consideration could be the aim to strengthen the position in the market or to adjust the position including the values. It will lead to a reposition of the brand in the perception and minds of the consumers, potential new customers and stakeholders. This can achieve the change of emotions and attitudes towards the brand in a positive way (Bolhuis & van den Bosch, 2018, p.13; Zhao, Calantone & Voorhees, 2018, p. 797). Rebranding is an ongoing process which can include changes in four different categories: marketing positioning, visual (brand) identity, corporate name and values. Researches showed that rebranding strategies with an adjustment in these areas have a positive effect if your brand is already well- known (like Victoria’s Secret). Finally, there are many benefits of a successful and systematic rebranding process like the ability to reach a new audience with your reworked look, to differentiate even more from the competitors to gain market share and to stay innovative to be ahead of the competition. But most importantly and why it is relevant for every brand: It helps a business to achieve its strategic goals and to stay profitable (Zhao et al., 2018, p.796; Phang lng,2012, p.296).

3 Actual state of the Problematic

The effects of a catastrophic brand image, wrong corporate communication and a lack of rebranding could not be better shown as in the example ofVictoria’s Secret. They decided to cancel the annual fashion show of 2019 after the lower viewing rate of only 3.3 million in 2018 and it is planned to close 53 stores in North America. In addition, the connection to the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who has been part of the parent company L. Brands Inc. (Bhasin, Holman, Alexander & Melin, 2019, pp.1-3) became public.

The current circumstances lead to continuously declining share value and trouble with investors and stakeholders.

Nevertheless, Victoria’s Secret is still the market leader domestically and abroad (Ell, 2019b, p.1), but their weakness is a chance for their competitors to be innovative and to turn around the whole competition. By “promoting size-inclusivity and real women - the antithesis of Victoria’s Secret’s perfect angels” (Ell, 2019b, p.1) competitors like Arie, TellTale, Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty, ThirdLove and TomboyX hit exactly the current trend which has arrived in the fashion market years ago (Ell, 2019c, pp.1-2). The lingerie industry dissociates itself away from the sexualization and objectivation of women, the promotion of unrealistic body images and the manipulation of beauty standards (Amy-Chinn, 2006, p.172; Madden, Janoske, Winkler & Harpole, 2018, p.177; Workman, 1996, p.70). As a result, Victoria’s Secret should try to change its marketing and messages (Ell, 2019a, p.1), by reflecting on their core values and overthinking their brand image and corporate communication.

4 Research method

4.1 Description ofthe Strategy

There are several different research methods to investigate a topic more precisely. Surveys, interviews, questionnaires, experiments and data collection are some of the approaches to choose from. In this work a case study is used as the research method because I do not have further resources to get more information. Its base is a qualitative and quantitative theoretical foundation which is already defined in chapter two. It helps to examine and understand a complex problematic with a concrete example (Zainal, 2007, p.1). This case study of Victoria’s Secret identifies and clarifies the cause of the process and outcome of the mentioned theoretical theories.

4.2 Adaption to the Case

Victoria’s Secret is a good example for a company which is suffering because of its bad brand image. But to understand the whole problematic, its corporate communication and rebranding also calls for investigation.

First, the image needs to match the expectations that a customer can identify oneself with the personality of the brand (Maehle & Supphellen, 2015, p.460). But women nowadays do not want to be an “eye candy for men” (Bhasin, Holman, Alexander & Melin, 2019, p.2) anymore and cannot relate to the beauty ideal of Victoria’s Secret. Instead they turn their back on the brand because it has no shared values as an incentive to buy lingerie from it (Perpinâ Subinas, 2019, p.4; Kite & Student, 2011, p.13).

A successful corporate communication is effective and efficient while supporting the promotion of the brand image and identity (Dolphin & Fan, 2000, p.19). Victoria’s Secret has an excellent marketing communication management which is able to reach customers on every possible level. It contains the catalogue, printed advertisements in magazines and newspaper, tv­commercials, special events for launching new collections, well-designed stores for unique shopping experiences, its annual fashion show and famous supermodels as the advertising medium. Additionally, for the distribution they use multiple channels to maximize their sales numbers (Chang & Mak, 2004, pp. 3-5).

When considering a rebranding process, the aspects need to be carefully examined. This means the brand has to overthink its position, values and target group (Bolhuis et al., 2018, p.13; Zhao et al., 2018, p. 797). Victoria’s Secret is currently reworking its brand positioning in terms of changing the sexy image, to no longer fulfill men fantasies and actually meet their customers, the women’s needs (Ell, 2019b, p.1). In addition, the brand tries to position themselves with focus on online business by placing high investments in this area (Ell, 2019d, p.1). However, the main cause of its problems are the outdated corporate values. Victoria’s Secret should rethink and reflect their identity and try “embracing a broader definition of beauty” (Bhasin et al., 2019, p. 2). This includes the possibility of a new segmentation of their target group and adapt the value proposition to attract new customers for example in the plus­size ortransgendercategory (Zhao et al., 2018, p. 796; Ell, 2019c, p. 1; Ell, 2019a, p.1).

4.3 Research Result

The from the image resulting bad brand positioning explains the current failure of Victoria’s Secret. Therefore, the company should improve its brand management since it is the base for customer loyalty and high profits (Zhao et al., 2018, p.795). But not only the message should be changed, but also its way of communication. It was normal for the lingerie industry to market everything with the slogan ‘sex sells’ (Bhasin et al., 2019, p.2) but now the way of thinking is changing, and more realistic honest advertisements get more attractive. Victoria’s Secret got a lot of assets in terms of “brand awareness, brand regard, foot traffic in stores, visits online, sourcing and logistics management” (Ell, 2019a, p.1) and has to use them in the right way for its communication. The industry evolved to be more online than offline, which impacts the store business because shopping malls are closing (Ell, 2019b, p.2) and social media presence has more influence than ever before (Sanchez Torres & Arroyo-Canada, 2017, p.1). It is a good move of Victoria’s Secret to focus on its online communication to be able to stay in the competition. Moreover, the use of a rebranding strategy can help the brand to win its old strengths back. Because companies, which are able to innovate and adapt their strategy during market changes, gain and sustain a competitive advantage (Zhao et al., 2018, p. 795).


Excerpt out of 10 pages


The Brand "Victoria’s Secret". Does the Brand Need a Makeover?
Just sex does not sell anymore
European Management School (EMS)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
Corporate Communication, Rebranding, Victoria's Secret, Marketing, Brand Image
Quote paper
Katrin Finkler (Author), 2020, The Brand "Victoria’s Secret". Does the Brand Need a Makeover?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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