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In New Rebrand, Victoria’s Secret Focuses On What’s Sexy For Women


A long-overdue culture shift at Victoria’s Secret is underway.  The company seems to have finally grasped that times are changing and that objectifying women to sell their products is no longer an effective strategy. The lingerie giant has recruited some successful, high-achieving women to help rebrand their collections.  The change may not only help Victoria’s Secret, but the new ad campaign will likely promote a healthier outlook for female consumers as well.

The old Victoria’s Secret ad campaigns which featured ultra-skinny models donning high heels and giant angel wings were designed to appeal to male consumers. The company recently realized that these ads were alienating women, the primary purchasers of women’s lingerie. “We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want,” Victoria’s Secret CEO Martin Waters told the New York Times.

The new Victoria’s Secret campaign, the VS collective, focuses on women known for their accomplishments, not their appearance.  Those that signed on the campaign include soccer star Megan Rapinoe who is fighting for equal pay for female athletes; Eileen Gu, a 17-year-old Chinese American freestyle skier; actor, producer and author Priyanka Chopra Jonas; and Paloma Elsesser, a plus-size model who hopes to inspire Victoria’s Secret to carry larger sizes.

While the goal of the new campaign is to revive the Victoria’s Secret brand, the campaign will likely have an impact far beyond the success or failure of Victoria’s Secret.  Despite their recent setbacks, the brand still has a big reach. With over 800 retail locations, a large online presence and wide-ranging brand recognition, the company can help redefine what is deemed sexy.   Paloma Elsesser told the New York Times that this potential for change inspired her decision to join the new Victoria’s Secret campaign. It “goes back to the sheer metrics of the situation,” she said. “I didn’t start modeling to just do all the cool stuff; I did it to change the world,” she added.  “With platforms like VS, where you enter the living rooms of all people, that’s where you make radical change.”

The message sent by the older Victoria’s Secret ads wasn’t just uninspiring, it was harmful. Studies consistently show that women feel worse about themselves after seeing photos of idealized thin models.  In addition to feeling worse about their bodies, young women report worse mood, greater weight-related anxiety and lower self-esteem after exposure to photos of these models.

Not surprisingly, the opposite effect ensues when women are exposed to successful females.  Women find it inspiring. Examples of outstanding women, like those in the new Victoria’s Secret campaign, illustrate that it’s possible to overcome gender barriers to achieve success. They show that all bodies are beautiful. They’re empowering for women.

The culture shift and new ad campaign comes less than two years after allegations that the men who ran Victoria’s Secret presided over a misogynistic culture that objectified women. Senior executives were reported to have sexually harassed models and had no interest in including different body types in their ad campaigns. These antiquated views of women led to a dramatic fall in stock price, the closing of hundreds of retail stores and the cancellation of their annual televised fashion show. Since then, Victoria’s Secret has adopted new leadership. The company now has a new CEO, and a new board will be formed once Victoria’s Secret splits from L Brands and Bath & Body Works to become its own public company this summer.

Time will tell if Victoria’s Secret will be able to win back the women alienated by their previous ad campaigns. At least the company’s efforts are now aligned with the interests of women who seek to be judged by more than their appearance.



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