retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

So, I got a press release from Victoria's Secret, a company I don't ordinarily get a lot of mail from. Some highlights:

"Earlier today, a breast cancer survivor and her daughter hand-delivered more than 118,000 petition signatures to Victoria's Secret's New York office on Thursday, asking the lingerie giant to make a line of 'survivor' mastectomy bras to help breast cancer survivors feel beautiful again.

"After delivering the signatures, Allana Maiden and her mother Debbie Barrett met with Tammy Roberts Myers, Vice President of External Communications for Limited Brands, Victoria's Secret's parent company, to share their ideas for a 'survivor bra.' Myers then invited the mother and daughter to travel to the Ohio headquarters of Limited Brands for further discussions ... Allana started her campaign asking Victoria’s Secret for a 'survivor line' of mastectomy bras after years of watching her mom, a breast cancer survivor, struggle to find bras that were pretty, affordable, and a comfortable fit for her new shape."

Here's the paragraph that I found most interesting:

“If there’s anything I could tell the 118,000 people who’ve signed my petition right now, it’s that Victoria’s Secret is taking very seriously the comments from survivors and their families and friends who want to see ‘Survivor Bras’ in their stores,” said Allana, after leaving the meeting.  “I know their heart is in the right place and they want to do the right thing. Making this bra line would be a win for Victoria’s Secret and a win for survivors -- there’s no downside. I think they see that now.”

Now, I want to compare this message with a story that was noted on MNB about a week ago:

"The Los Angeles Times reports that 'brominated vegetable oil, a synthetic chemical that has been patented in Europe as a flame retardant, will no longer double as an ingredient in Gatorade sports drinks ... PepsiCo denied that a petition on generating more than 200,000 signatures had anything to do with the decision."

When the brominated vegetable oil story ran, I commented that it made no sense to me that Pepsi seemed to go out of its way to say that 200,000 petition signatures had no impact on its decision, that it was engaged in the process of eliminating it for more than a year. Even if that is true - and I'm willing to accept on faith that my friends at Pepsi are being honest about it - it seemed pointless to essentially demean people (many of them customers) who only signed that petition because they cared about an issue

It would not have killed Pepsi to give them some credit, to offer some respect, to acknowledge that 200,000 signatures have meaning.

Compare that to the Victoria's Secret approach ... which seems to embrace the fact that 118,000 people signed a petition, and that these signatures amounted to a kind of corporate consciousness raising. If Victoria's Secret actually makes that "Survivor Bra," there are going to be more than a hundred thousand people who are going to feel invested in that product, in that company.

I bring this up not because I want to pick on Pepsi, but because the Victoria's Secret story offered such a contrast, such a powerful, Eye-Opening lesson.

The balance of power has changed. Deal with it. Embrace it.

Taking direction from the shopper is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. Of confidence. Of being tuned in, not tuned out.
KC's View: