By: Kate Kendall
Victoria’s Secret is well known for their beautiful lingerie and world renowned models, however, in October 2014, Victoria’s Secret became known for a campaign that renewed conversations about body shaming and sparked a movement on Change.org and Twitter spreading awareness of the harmful marketing.
The campaign was created to promote the companies new line of bras, but the tagline “The Perfect ‘Body’” and backdrop of models that accompanied the advertisements in the UK and on the companies US website showed a singular image of perfection. It was not long after when the backlash began. Three women in the U.K. launched a petition on Change.org in response to the company’s campaign along with a Twitter campaign the hash tag #iamperfect.
They quickly gained support on social media and the recognition of multiple news sources demanding an apology from Victoria’s Secret and asking the company to change its media habits.
By early November, Victoria’s Secret silently changed their slogan from “The Perfect Body” to “A Body for Every Body”. Though the change was made in the campaign, the damage was already done. Even though the backlash that occurred was done so primarily against the campaigns tagline, changing the tagline did not change the fact that in both campaigns, they only show one body type; skinny.
While Victoria’s Secret offers bra sizes up to a 40DDD, they only use models with a much less voluptuous figure. When they released their perfect body campaign, the main campaign image shows ten women, eight of whom are thin white women and two of whom are thin light skinned black women. To be honest at first glance, they all looked like white women, clearly showing that their idea of the perfect body is skinny and light skinned.
Yes, there are many women in the world who are naturally slim, like the women in this image. However, showing women who range in their weight, skin color and hair type is a much more realistic way to show the “perfect” body or “every body”, in either rendition of their campaign.
An article in PrNewser written while the Victoria’s Secret campaign was underway showed that all around the world, consumers want authenticity from their brands. Meaning they love “a brand that has values and morals and stands by them no matter what while honestly divulging its practices (flaws and all).”
Company’s like Dove and Aerie are getting it right by swearing off Photoshop and using women who more accurately display the real women who use their product. Consumers recently are far more impressed with the companies that embrace this authenticity and create emotional relationships with their consumers than those who are clinging to the previous standardization of beauty.
I believe that this campaign was a social fail. Victoria’s Secret may have intended the “perfection” in their campaign to be their bras, but that meaning was not seen by the company’s consumers. Poor image choices aside, if a company needs to explain their campaign to the public, they have already failed.
I would change Victoria’s Secret campaign first by completely changing the wording. If they are set on using those models with those body types, which I am sure they are, they need to be extremely careful about the way they word their campaigns. It isn’t enough to show beautiful models anymore, companies need to show that they are self-aware and they are aware of what their consumers actually want to see.
Bahadur, Nina. (06 Nov. 2014). Victoria’s Secret ‘Perfect Body’ Campaign Changes Slogan After Backlash. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/06/victorias-secret-perfect-body-campaign_n_6115728.html
Ciambriello, Roo. (30 Oct. 2014). Real Beauty? Nah, Victoria’s Secret Would Rather Celebrate the ‘Perfect Body’: Brand’s Play on words come off tone-deaf. Adweek. http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/real-beauty-nah-victorias-secret-would-rather-celebrate-perfect-body-161114
Coffee, Patrick. (30 Oct. 2014). The 20 Most ‘Authentic’ Brands in the US (and Why). PRNewser. http://www.adweek.com/prnewser/the-20-most-authentic-brands-in-the-us-and-why/103285
Deutsch, Lindsay. (30 Oct. 2014). Folks fire back at Victoria’s Secret with #IAmPerfect. USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/10/30/victorias-secret-perfect-body-petition/18176949/
Serico, Chris. (29 Oct. 2014). ‘Perfect Body’ campaign sparks backlash against Victoria’s Secret. Today. http://www.today.com/health/perfect-body-petition-twitter-users-slam-victorias-secret-campaign-1D80253890