What is the real success behind the Victoria’s Secret brand?
It’s all in the the EIA gift. Victoria’s Secret is a fantastic example of MDNA and Brand Culture.
The “Core Why” for the world famous brand was born when Roy Raymond walked into a department store to buy his wife a gift of lingerie. He had a horrible experience. He felt like the sales associate treated him like a pervert. Everything from the product design to the visual merchandising was wrong for him.
He then realized that other men had the same experience. So he decided something had to be done. First, his concept was to create a store where men would feel comfortable to shop. Second, the product would be sexy as sensual lingerie was not an accepted everyday fashion at the time. Finally, the name Victoria’s Secret was chosen in association with Victorian class with her “secrets” underneath.
The idea took off. He made millions at first.
Not much is known about Roy Raymond other than his suicide after selling Victoria’s Secret (we’ll get to that). But based upon his intrinsic motivation to start the lingerie brand, we would profile him as an EIA (Empowering Inspiration and Attraction).
The EIA is all about the social experience–their own and others’. Social Experience is the Brand Culture an EIA imprints as the DNA of a company. Roy’s idea was all about bringing men together for a social experience. It is not uncommon for the EIA to invest in appearance for the sake of social experience. Victoria’s Secret turned lingerie, which was at the time limited to being affordable, practical and reliable, into a sexy product, delivered through a sexy experience, designed to enhance the social experience of customers.
Yet Roy did not fully embrace the EIA MDNA within Victoria’s Secret’s Brand Culture.
The first Victoria Secret’s catalogs were all about sensuality and appealed to men. They verged on erotic. All the stores were designed to give the same sense with dark woods and a sensual ambiance. The issue was that this only appealed to men. Raymond did not understand that the social experience needed to expand beyond one gender into the masses. This is what an EIA is designed for. Reaching the masses with a message and starting movements.
It wasn’t until Roy Raymond sold Victoria’s Secret to Leslie Wexner that the brand’s true DNA and culture were realized. Wexner redesigned and modernized everything to appeal to both sexes. The social experience of buying unmentionables was no longer shameful or limited to men. But now it also embraced women’s social experience as well. Sexy lingerie became main stream–you could say it was a movement.
Tragically, Roy Raymond failed at recreating the same social experience in high-end children’s retail. He then took his own life.
Today, Victoria’s Secret is still a Social Experience Brand Culture. It appeals to the EIA in us all. What other lingerie line can pull off a fashion show like a rock concert and dominate media?
Victoria’s Secret Exposed and Challenged
The Social Experience brand must understand how to navigate the core competence of attraction. In other words, the EIA must understand what attracts others and why. The important principle behind this is reality. The EIA must embrace the reality of what is being attracted, positive or negative, and what needs to happen to attract properly.
An example of this is the Aerie lingerie line from American Apparel. How does another lingerie brand compete with Victoria’s Secret and attract a market?
Aerie went complete in the opposite direction of Victoria’s Secret’s airbrushed and photoshopped visual approach. Aerie is embracing the realities of female body image. Aerie models are no longer touched up. They truly listen on social media to their target customer’s negative experiences of trying to buy lingerie that is appealing and fits without have a Victoria’s Secret body. The #AerieReal campaign has been a massive success. (A road that the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty had already paved.)
This is what happens when a Social Experiences Brand fully embraces reality to create a different type of social experience. Through social experience the brand really connects with their stakeholders. EIA stands for empowering inspiration and attraction. Aerie, targeting the 15-35 year-old female that is backlashing against the “frankenbeauties” in media that harm body image, is empowering and inspiring women while making them more attractive.
In our opinion, Aerie has figured out the real secret.