Victoria's Secret Doesn't Sell Tortilla Chips

The strategist behind Victoria's Secret's much-maligned ad campaign and fashion show Webcast defended the marketing push this week, saying the effort has been a huge success for the lingerie retailer and cataloger. And she is unrepentant in the face of criticism that an erotic Super Bowl commercial promoting the show might have alienated some female customers.

“We're not using women to sell tortilla chips,” said Nancy Kramer, president/CEO of technology marketing and communications firm Resource Marketing Inc. “This is underwear. Everybody wears it.”

Kramer said the Feb. 3 online broadcast of Victoria's Secret's annual runway extravaganza energized the company's brand in time for Valentine's Day and increased sales through its online store at Her firm first developed the Internet fashion show concept for Victoria's Secret last fall, and opened the online store Dec. 4.

Victoria's Secret teamed with Inc., Dallas, to transmit the show to an unprecedented 1.5 million total online viewers, following a 30-second spot of strutting supermodels during the Super Bowl and three days of promotional print ads. Though brought in extra servers to handle the expected traffic increase, viewers complained afterward of being unable to access the site or dealing with broken video streaming. Demand on the site also disrupted sales, Kramer said.

“The traffic ended up being so heavy that a few people could buy things, probably not as many as we would have liked,” she said.

But Kramer noted the online store has seen a “significant” increase in demand since the Super Bowl ads. And as with any runway spectacle, an Internet-based lingerie show has only so many virtual chairs to go around.

“If you didn't have a seat by 6 or 6:30, you just didn't get in the door,” Kramer said. The 17-minute performance started at 7 p.m.

Increasingly, online consumers are unforgiving of technical slow-downs that hamper their ability to shop. A recent study from Jupiter Communications LLC, New York, indicated almost a third of e-shoppers will find an alternative site to regularly make purchases if they encounter poor site performance. But Victoria's Secret is unlikely to suffer because of the sheer volume of visitors the recent campaign has generated, said Marc Johnson, Jupiter's director of digital commerce.

“If you lose a third and gain a hundred thousand new customers, it's often worth it. Particularly Victoria's Secret. They don't have a lot of competition online in the lingerie business. I think this would be much more of an issue if you were talking about a more competitive space,” Johnson said.

Kramer was unable to specify how many new customers Victoria's Secret has gained since the campaign began. Critics have pointed out that the Super Bowl commercial — and its images of bouncing beauties — appealed mostly to males, the wrong audience for a company whose customer base is 90 percent female.

But Kramer countered that the campaign was designed to boost Valentine's Day buying, much of which is done by men eager to see their wives and girlfriends sporting Victoria's Secret's silk and lace. She added that media hype and public anticipation of Super Bowl commercials is enough to draw women to their TV sets during the game.

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