I always get a guilty little pleasure out of seeing a company loosing money because they’ve lost track of what their customer base is and how to reach out of them.
A recent example of this is Victoria’s Secret (yes the lingerie company, who’s catalogue is a guilty little pleasure for many a man ) who have seen a 12% drop in profits for the fourth quarter of 2007 and their first quarter earnings for 2008 are expected to perform well below Wall Street expectations.
The reasons for this could be many, but Sharen Turney, the CEO of Victoria’s Secret seams to believe it is because the brand has become to sexy and needs to be more "ultra feminine".
"We’ve so much gotten off our heritage … too sexy, and we use the word sexy a lot and really have forgotten the ultra feminine,"
This is where I sit up and take notice because I honestly believe that Victoria’s Secret is not loosing money because their brand in too sexy or not feminine enough but because they’ve forgotten who their market is and who really wields the purchasing power in the majority of households and of course, because of that every present bean, customer satisfaction!
Who buys lingerie?
Who are the market for Victoria’s Secret?
The chain was started in San Francisco in 1977 by Roy Raymond, who said he was embarrassed trying to buy lingerie for his wife and hoped to provide a comfortable place for men to shop.
That little nugget above would appear to indicate that the main market for Victoria’s Secret is men who lack the confidence to to walk into a lingerie store and pick something nice out for their significant other.
I would suspect that the truth is very far removed from that.
The truth is that in most households the women hold control of the purse strings and it is they who decide what lingerie they purchase.
I also suspect that it is due solely to the discretion of those women, that the vast majority of those men, who lack the confidence to purchase lingerie ever get to see a woman in it. But I digress.
These women not only want to look and feel sexy, they also want to feel comfortable and according to one of the best of the mommy blogger’s out there, the lingerie from Victoria’s Secret is quite simply not designed with real women in mind.
Explain to me why your panties are only sold up to size Large, which according to your website is about a size 14. Have you read the statistics lately? Do you realize the average woman in the US is a size 14? So what about the other half, the ‘above average’ sized contingency? Are they just SOL in your book?
In the the technology world this kind of a mistake would be the equivalent of designing an iPod that could only be used by people who were born with an extra finger.
It may look sexy as heck but you’ve seriously narrowed your market.
I buy lingerie for the comfort… Really!
Okay, so lets say that with respect to women, Victoria’s Secret have missed the boat, but what about the remaining section of their market?
- What about that tiny percentage of unconfident guys who do actually order the stuff (and their wives probably never get to see it because they’re to shy to give it to them)?
- What about those egotistical gits who think that because they fancy it their spouse will? (Here’s a free tip: the present is to make HER feel sexy and confident / comfortable!)
- What about the guy who’s buying it for himself (you know what I mean)?
The more I think about these guys the more I am certain that they must feel robbed after every purchase they make.
Imagine you went out and bought and ordered a shiny new MacBook Air today, but when it arrived, you received a machine of identical technical specs, but the case was made out of cheap unfinished plastic?
The Victoria’s Secret catalogue creates exactly that same feeling of disappointment.
I mean, can you image how devastated you’d feel if your MacBook air turned up with plastic cover but with the same innards.
It would be like seeing a thong in the catalogue, on a super models backside, and then when you receive it and get to see it with it’s "real" covering, it ends up looking like a tiny bit of string wedged between two badly parked Volkswagens covered in orange peel.
Disappointment is not the word 😉
Would you buy a product from a company again after the end result was so vastly different from what you’ve seen advertised? I think not?
What do your customers actually want?
So, now we’ve established that VS have lost track of who is spending the money and who they’re real customer base is, so lets attempt to figure out what they can do to pull themselves (no pun intended) out of this rut.
First thing would be to rethink their choice of model. Again Sara said it best with:
You may think you are being progressive and open minded by using super models who are in their 30’s in some of your ads, but we aren’t fooled. We don’t look like those women,
Maybe Victoria’s Secret should take a leaf out of Doves book and their "Campaign for real beauty" commercials. (I can’t find a link to these videos anywhere – but if anybody can find an advert for "Dove Summer Glow" and you’ll know what I mean. I did find one copy on YouTube which has since been removed – go figure!).
Victoria’s Secret needs to get down to the art of making their lingerie appeal to real women. To making them believe that they can feel sexy, confident and comfortable in the their lingerie.
They also need to be promoting the idea that real women are sexy.
Before I go any further. Let me say one thing: Fat is not sexy.
Being fat does not make you are a "real" woman, or a "real" man for that matter. It just means you’re unhealthy.
Neither is skinny sexy, not when it’s unnaturally so. All you after dinner puckers be warned.
Sexy is natural and healthy (emphasis on healthy).
Getting back to roots? Nah!
Victoria’s Secret does not need to get back to any roots of why the company was started.
"I feel so strongly about us getting back to our heritage and really thinking in terms of ultra feminine and not just the word sexy and becoming much more relevant to our customer," Turney said Thursday.
Victoria’s Secret needs to listen to what their current core customer demographic wants from them now and deliver on it. That’s the way forward. That’s they way to pull yourself up by the socks after a 12% drop.
Give the customers that actually spend the money and use the product what they want.
If you do that you’ll build return business, customer satisfaction and improve your brand reputation.
As tenuous as all this may be in connection to technology there is a valuable lesson to be learned here for ever
y company that produces any kind of product.
- Don’t get caught up in your own hype.
- Don’t start thinking that you know what your customers want better than they do.
- Don’t get caught up in some dogmatic idea that the company was founded for one reason and can only exist to service that reason!
People, ideas, societies, cultures and markets change. If you want to stay on top you need to change with them and these changes can be drastic.
Yet, if you pay attention to what your customers want and you and are trying to predict what they might want, these changes can be easy to manage and allow your company to grow to meet their needs.
However, I must stress again, that attempting to predict what your customers want does not mean you’ll get it right and you need to shift gears rather quickly when you get it wrong.