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'Victoria's Secret is in danger of losing its relevance'

Ashley Lutz | Business Insider

Victoria's Secret's image is under pressure.

The brand currently controls 35% of the lingerie market and has posted quarter after quarter of same-store sales growth. 

But Victoria's Secret has recently fallen on hard times. 

Several key Angels, including Karlie Kloss and Doutzen Kroes, have left the brand. Start-ups like AdoreMe are poaching top designers and offering similar products at cheaper prices.  

Plus-size customers are petitioning executives to offer larger sizes. And Lane Bryant took aim at Victoria's Secret's models in a recent ad campaign.

"Like Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria's Secret is in real danger of losing its relevance amongst women as the brand is labeled sexist and stodgy," branding expert and University of Southern California professor Jeetendr Sehdev told Business Insider. 

Abercrombie & Fitch ruled the teen sector for years but lost its footing when it failed to adapt to fast-fashion competitors like H&M and Forever 21. Abercrombie was also criticized for excluding plus-size customers and minorities in its stores.

"Victoria's Secret needs to stop hiding behind dazzle and dated '70s concepts such as 'Angels" and the 'Fantasy Bra,' and start having a real conversation with women," Sehdev said. 

The brand famously hires 10 famous models to represent its brand as "Angels." It also spends millions of dollars on a televised fashion show, complete with diamond-encrusted bras and performances by Taylor Swift. 

"The dazzling and over the top fantasy positioning is simply alienating to the modern day sophisticated and complex young woman," Sehdev said. 

As consumers' opinions of beauty change, Victoria's Secret seems outdated. 

The brand faced widespread backlash for its "Perfect Body" ad last year, which featured a row of stick-thin Angels dressed in lingerie. Customers complained that Victoria's Secret was promoting false stereotypes of beauty. 

The company eventually apologized for the ad.

Consumers are also pressuring Victoria's Secret to offer larger sizes. 

The largest panty size it offers is XL, or equivalent to a size 16. The fashion industry defines plus-size clothing as sizes 12 to 24, though many retailers offer up to a size 28 to meet demand. 

Bra sizes are inconsistent. Some styles are offered up to a D, while others go up to a DDD. 

Still, many women feel they don't have a good selection at Victoria's Secret. 

"My money and my credit are good enough for them, but the fact that I can only buy items like perfume, lotion, and body spray sends the message that my body is not," said Dana Drew, a California woman who launched a petition against the brand. "Every year I watch the Angel fashion show and would love to purchase the items I see on my screen but can't because Victoria's Secret doesn't sell plus sizes."

Plus-size brand Lane Bryant took aim at Victoria's Secret in a new lingerie campaign called "I'm no angel."

Lane Bryant's ads aim to "celebrate women of all shapes and sizes by redefining society’s traditional notion of sexy with a powerful core message: ALL women are sexy," the company wrote in a news release.

The plus-size retailer's ads feature notable plus-size models and encouraged users to tweet photos with the hashtag #ImNoAngel.

Victoria's Secret should learn from the Lane Bryant ads, Sehdev said. 

"The brutal social media backlash from the Lane Bryant campaign #ImNoAngel campaign can prove to be a valuable lesson for the brand: less spectacle and more sincerity towards your customers," he said. 

Victoria's Secret needs a new marketing strategy to keep its customers. 

"Women today have never felt stronger or sexier. They have single-handedly redefined sexy as a state of mind and not a specific dress size," Sehdev said. "Victoria's Secret needs to celebrate this new attitude to remain relevant."


The 7 Biggest Comeback Brands Of 2015

Aaron Taube | Business Insider

It has been a difficult year for a number of brands, ranging from newer companies like American Apparel to stalwarts like McDonald's.

Fortunately for these companies, nothing is permanent. We spoke with three branding experts to get their take on which struggling business and personal brands are poised to come back strong next year.

American Apparel

The controversial clothing retailer removed founder Dov Charney from his CEO position in June, reportedly after his board of directors became concerned that he had not been truthful in responding to claims that he had sexually harassed his employees.

Jeetendr Sehdev, a celebrity branding expert and professor at the University of Southern California, expects the company's new leadership to return the brand to prominence with its trademark provocative advertising and a new campaign starring dancing YouTube sensation Brendan Jordan.

"American Apparel remains a challenger brand imbued with masses of cultural currency that perfectly positions itself for 2015," Sehdev says.


The yoga-inspired athletic retailer spent 2014 working to recover from a disastrous 2013, when it had to recall 17% of its bottoms for being too sheer and its founder made comments indicating that women who had a problem with the size of Lululemon's clothes were too fat to be wearing them.

But as 2015 draws near, it seems Lululemon is turning a corner. Erich Joachimsthaler, founder and CEO of the strategy firm Vivaldi Partners, thinks the company is in for a resurgence in the New Year.

Joachimsthaler predicts that the company's new ventures into menswear will make everyone forget the mistakes of 2013. Plus, the recent drop in oil prices will help make its products cheaper to produce.


The world's most famous fast-food brand struggled in 2014 as young people continued to seek personalized, organic options over the brand's signature mass-produced hamburgers and chicken nuggets. Meanwhile, the company was the target of nationwide protests from workers seeking higher wages.

Sehdev says that in 2015, the Golden Arches will succeed with the implementation of re-designed restaurants, a mobile ordering app, and the "Create Your Taste" sandwich option, a test program that allows people to customize their own hamburgers with high-quality ingredients.

"Next year we'll see the start of a necessary re-imagining of the iconic brand as McDonald's demonstrates a greater understanding of business ethics and consumer purpose," Sehdev says.


JetBlue started 2014 by stranding a bunch of passengers in Barbados after canceling flights due to cold weather. Later in the year, it eliminated several features that had been the brand's hallmarks, including its one-class-fits-all boarding system, its promise of generous legroom for all passengers, and its refusal to charge a baggage check fee.

Joachimsthaler sees the company bouncing back in 2015, as it begins to make more money from courting high-end, first-class passengers and its geographic expansion into the midwest. He also thinks consumers will be won over by an emotional new ad campaign, through which the company is giving free flights to citizens who perform good deeds.

Justin Bieber

Biebs began the year by getting arrested for drag racing without a license while allegedly under the influence of Xanax and marijuana. He also made headlines for getting into a fight with actor Orlando Bloom, while otherwise keeping a fairly low profile.

Sehdev sees a 2015 resurgence for Bieber due to the release of a new song and renewed interest from fans who admire his willingness to be his bad boy self in public, regardless of what the critics say.

"There is only one Bieber and his brand not only remains differentiated from a plethora of other pop stars but also is now more humanized than ever before," Sehdev says. "Justin's authentic persona is rewarded with Beliebers that are nearly three times as loyal as other fan followings."


The National Football League's concussion issue lingered throughout the year, as players fought in court over the fairness of a legal settlement that could cost the league $1 billion. And later in the year, several teams dealt with lawsuits alleging they had paid cheerleaders below minimum wage.

Of course, the negative media coverage from those proceedings paled in comparison to what came after the league ignored allegations that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulted his wife in an elevator and TMZ published video footage of the incident. The league also endured criticism when Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted for allegedly assaulting his four-year-old son with a tree branch.

Matti Leshem, founder and CEO of the brand strategy firm Protagonist, thinks the NFL is poised to turn its public image around in 2015, in large part due to its hiring of former Pepsi executive Dawn Hudson to be its chief marketing officer.

Leshem, who worked with Hudson when she was at Pepsi, says her willingness to consider outside-the-box ideas and experience reaching out to constituents on the consumer side will give her the power to redirect fans' attention to the league's on-field action.

"She's an incredibly formidable, very strong woman," Leshem tells Business Insider. "She is going to make a huge difference because she really understands marketing and advertising."

Many people called for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to resign due to the league's poor handling of the Ray Rice incident.


The past year was one of change for Target, which suffered a massive customer data breach at the end of 2013 that will end up costing the company an estimated $148 million. The breach caused CEO Gregg Steinhafel to step down in May, with the company hiring Pepsi executive Brian Cornell to replace him.

Sehdev thinks the brand will return to glory in 2015 due to its unique visual identity, which makes it stand out from Sears and Wal-Mart, and new partnerships with Taylor Swift and Billy Joel.

"The retailer's efforts at creating innovative brand-centric shopping experiences, such as partnerships with Taylor Swift and Billy Joel, will not only further its perception as a dynamic brand in tune with today's audiences but also revive some of that 'Targé' mojo in the hearts and minds of consumers," Sehdev says.

Jeetendr was interviewed by Business Insider on his top comeback brands for 2015. View the original article here


Here Are The Exact Reasons Millennials Say They've Stopped Trusting Jay Z

Aaron Taube | Business Insider

Last week, we wrote a story about a survey that suggested millennial consumers think Jay Z suffers from a lack of authenticity.

As a result, the survey found, the Brooklyn-born rapper and business mogul has not been able to convince young consumers to buy the products he endorses.

The story drew sharp criticism from Jay Z's fans in both the marketing and hip-hop communities, many of whom either took issue with the research methods of celebrity branding expert Jeetendr Sehdev, or felt Business Insider was not qualified to write about hip-hop culture.

Now, Sehdev has been kind enough to share with us some of the exact quotes given to him by the 1,000 millennials he surveyed, many of whom gave Jay Z poor marks in the categories of honesty and trustworthiness. Here is what they said:

On Jay Z's lack of transparency with regard to his personal life:

  • "I don't really know much about his background. He seems quite guarded. I think he was a drug dealer."

On his partnership with Barney's, which was criticized after the upscale retailer was sued for racially profiling black customers:

  • "I never really understood the Jay Z/Barney’s deal. That should have never happened."
  • "I love Rocawear, but don't understand why he'd work with Barney's. It's kind of a contradiction."
  • "What's Barney's got to do with hip-hop?"

On Jay Z's artistic integrity:

  • "He supposedly made Rihanna but he’s got a full team behind him. He probably doesn't even write his own songs."
  • "A pop star and a serious hip hop artist? He’s sold out."

On Jay Z selling his stake in the Brooklyn Nets shortly after he helped move the team from New Jersey:

  • "I thought he was supporting his hood, Brooklyn, not his net income."
  • "It's a shame about what happened with the Brooklyn Nets. That said a lot about his loyalty."

On the "Life + Times" lifestyle website, which some survey respondents found narcissistic:

  • "The website doesn't tell me much about his real life or times, just his real ego."

To be fair, some of these claims (particularly the one about whether Jay Z writes his own music) are sort of silly, and probably come from people who aren't inclined to be influenced by Jay Z either way.

Sehdev said that if Jay Z wants to help the brands he works with sell more of their products, he could work to consolidate his brand by only accepting endorsement deals that fit with the image he hopes to communicate to the public.

While millennials are likely to be drawn to Jay Z's entrepreneurial spirit, Sehdev said the hip-hop star is currently suffering from what he called "brand over-extension."

"He is publicly involved in everything from Barney's to Bacardi to Broadway," Sehdev said.

Though Jay Z's struggles growing up without a father in a poor Brooklyn housing project are the subject of much of his early work, Sehdev said he could benefit from doing more to show this more human side of himself to those who haven't yet experienced it.

"He is widely recognized and respected as a cool and successful businessperson, but millennials have their own struggles and relate well to those who do the same," Sehdev said.

Jeetendr was interviewed by Business Week. View the original article here 


Jay Z's Brand Is Suffering Because People Don't Trust Him Anymore

Aaron Taube | Business Insider

In July, the rapper and business mogul Jay Z partnered with Samsung to release a new album, "Magna Carta Holy Grail," by giving away 1 million copies to the first Samsung mobile users to download a free app.

The deal netted Jay a cool $5 million in sales and a platinum album the moment it was released, and it burnished his image as an innovative businessman. But it's not clear that the $20 million partnership — or other recent Jaz Z ventures — have actually helped Jay Z's image.

According to research from celebrity branding expert Jeetendr Sehdev, Jay Z's partnership with Samsung was the second least popular celebrity marketing deal of 2013 among consumers aged 13-31 (Justin Bieber's partnership with OPI was the most hated). 

In fact, the 1,000 millennials surveyed said the rapper himself was among the people least influential to their purchase decisions among the 80 celebrities Sehdev asked about, a group that included a range of personalities spanning from Tom Brady to Hillary Clinton.

Sehdev said that while Jay Z remains popular with Americans of all ages, his brand is missing one crucial piece needed to persuade them to spend hard-earned money on the products he touts: authenticity.

As a group, millennials consumers place a high premium on buying products from brands they see as being honest and having social goals that go beyond those published in their quarterly earnings reports. And despite Jay Z's promise to "Never Change," these consumers say they don't know what he stands for anymore.

The survey found that Jay Z scored 70% lower in the categories of trustworthiness and honesty than did celebrities like Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Lawrence, an issue Sehdev chalks up to Jay's intense focus on making money seemingly however he can.

For instance, Sehdev said consumers praise Jay Z's intelligence, but question his integrity as an artist, noting that he has collaborated with a variety of musicians from Justin Timberlake to Kanye West, and dabbled in various genres like hip-hop, pop, and R&B.

Perhaps more damaging to Jay Z's ability to persuade consumers through branded partnerships are his constant references to other products in his music. Sehdev said that on "Magna Carta Holy Grail" alone, Jay Z referenced eight different luxury brands more than 20 times.

Despite the album's strong sales, critics condemned it for being an uncreative endeavor motivated by commerce rather than artistic expression.

"Millennials question the exact nature of Jay Z’s role in the artistic process," Sehdev said. "Does he really write his own songs? Is he choosing the artists to collaborate with, or is he just the face of a money-making empire?"

Further, Jay Z's recent business decisions outside music are seen as lacking cohesion with the person he claims to be.

After purchasing a stake in the NBA's New Jersey Nets and serving as the public face of a contentious campaign to move the team to his home borough of Brooklyn, Jay sold his interests in the team less than a year after. 

The sale allowed him to pursue a new venture as a sports agent, while his beloved Brooklyn has yet to receive the affordable housing the Nets promised when they purchased public land to build their new stadium.

"Millennials questions his approach to loyalty, whether it be to a business deal or his fans," Sehdev said. "His motivations to just make money can be viewed by this audience as self-centered, even if they may be business savvy."

Sehdev praised Jay Z's participation in a revealing Vanity Fair cover story last month as a positive step toward regaining the trust of millennial consumers by shedding light on his social views and the family life he shares with his wife, Beyoncé, and their baby daughter Blue Ivy.

To continue this progress, Sehdev said Jay will have to continue to feed the public's thirst for knowledge about his relationship with his superstar wife and be mindful of only taking on partnerships that mesh with the Jay Z brand.

"We rarely see this true side of him," Sehdev said. "I believe Jay Z is going to need more exposure of his true self, meaningful partnerships, and true philanthropic efforts to get back into the good books of Millennials."


Jeetendr was exclusively interviewed by Business Insider. View the entire article here