Generation Z Wants Their Brands To Be Transparent, Not Their Lingerie

Generation Z’s commitment to feminism and body empowerment is turning up everywhere and I think it’s fabulous. Now the dominant consumer segment with $143 billion in buying power, Generation Z will restrict their engagement to brands that are committed to shared values of  inclusivity, transparency and body empowerment and at last, major brands are listening.

Generation Z’s convictions are so powerful that their value propositions are driving major companies like Victoria’s Secret to completely reposition their brand. According to a recent article in The New York Times, “Victoria’s Secret Swaps Angels for ‘What Women Want’. Will They Buy It?”, the Victoria’s Secret (VS) Angels are being replaced with the VS Collective of seven outstanding women who are, “famous for their achievements and not their proportions”.

The Victoria’s Secret reposition featuring a variety of real women may be long overdue, but still highly applaudable, particularly to those of us who grew up alongside the Victoria’s Secret Angels. As a young woman coming of age in the 1990’s, I purposefully ignored anything Victoria’s Secret–the racy lingerie, the “fashion” shows, the super-skinny models–because all THAT made me feel overweight and self-conscious, even though I was a tall young woman with a curvy figure. Today I am the mother of a young woman in her teens and am very relieved to see that brands like Victoria’s Secret, Athleta and Aerie feature and celebrate women of all ethnicities, identities, shapes and sizes. 

Marketers and consumers are questioning Victoria’s Secret’s strategy: first, their delayed response to Gen Z’s demand for brands to be more inclusive; second, still featuring sexy women in opaque (vs. transparent) undergarments; and third, their reactive vs. proactive approach for a brand that has been the brand champion of defining sexy according to men. So I tapped into my insight community of Gen Z women and asked them about the new VS Collective. They all agreed that despite the slow response, the reposition will be highly influential in changing how not only women, but also men and older generations, perceive the female body.  

First, the sheer magnitude of a reposition for a global brand this size, with global net sales of 5.4 billion dollars in 2020, will have ripple effects on female body image in stores around the world. Second, the reposition discards the strong brand heritage of the iconic 44-year-old “Angel”, redirecting attention to a modern iconic profile of a stronger, more independent woman. Third, the reposition will have a major impact on men, particularly the male consumers of Victoria’s Secret, who may need an update on the definition of female body empowerment. No longer will they be seduced by the VS Angels as they strut down the runway, convincing them that this is how all women should look. Now, the same men can go to a Victoria’s Secret store and purchase undergarments that their partner might actually want to wear.

As one of the seven women in the VS Collective said (Megan Rapinoe the 35-year-old soccer star and gender equity campaigner), “I don’t know if Victoria has a secret anymore.” How’s that for transparency?

Thank you Generation Z!



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