The public doesn’t appreciate brands that cross invisible but well-established lines in our culture, particularly in the name of greed. For example, don’t break out your storefront Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving Day. Oh, and don’t sell lingerie to girls who are still convinced they’re going to marry Justin Bieber under a rainbow.
By selling lingerie to the “tween” demographic, Victoria’s Secret has broken all sorts of unspoken public relations rules, most importantly “don’t piss off parents”. (We had a feeling this wasn’t going to go over well.) Brands attempting to court the tween demographic should remember one fact: these girls are too young to legally hold jobs, so their primary source of income (and purchasing decisions) is their parents.
Apparently Victoria’s Secret forgot this, didn’t think parents were paying attention, or honestly didn’t believe there was anything inappropriate about a tween girl and her divorced father’s new girlfriend going shopping together for something hot and spicy at the local VS.
The public isn’t a bunch of prudes, but we have our boundaries. And most people would like to ask Victoria’s Secret the same question a father would ask his lingerie-clad tween: what in the hell were you thinking?
Our industry is full of cynics, and that’s a good thing. Many PR experts will characterize this as a savvy public relations move that garnered the brand lots of media attention at very low overhead. They’ll quote that very lamest of platitudes: “There is no such thing as bad publicity”. But we know this isn’t true — just ask BP, Lance Armstrong and the Catholic Church. Bad publicity isn’t always bad because it reveals negligence, greed or ineptitude. Sometimes it’s just gross.
Public 1, Victoria’s Secret 0.