Friday, April 25, 2008

OMFG -- Sexy "Gossip Girl" Promos

You may have seen one of the recent network promos for CW's "Gossip Girl." We did; me and my three-year-old son. The promos were hyping interest in "Gossip Girl" newest show since the writer's strike. It premiered Monday, April 21.

The promo aired about 3 pm on Oxygen network. It definitely caught our attention. As Brian Sternberg of Advertising Age noted, the promo "feature[s] Serena, Nate and other characters from the program locked in passionate embraces, with the text message "OMFG" superimposed on top." Couple those passionate embraces with nudity and a high degree of sexual tension to complete the picture.

Network Promos
Sternberg notes that CW is using sex to attract interest in the show. This is most certainly the case. Network promos are intended to hype awareness of programming and increase viewership. In a sense, sex in the promos is an implicit promise of "see more of this" if one tunes in.

CW and Sex
In a recent analysis, we found that CW contains more ads with sexual content (25% of all ads aired during prime time) compared to FOX, ABC, CBS, and NBC. More important, we also found that 38% of CW promos contained sexual content, which was much higher than all other networks. The next highest was NBC with 22% of promos containing sexual content.

Clearly CW, and its advertisers, use sex to appeal to the network's young audience. Sternberg noted that the audience for "Gossip Girl" was 18-34, but I would suspect that it skews much younger.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Victoria’s Secret meets "The Brand Gap"

Is the arbiter of “What is sexy?” too sexy?

“Yes,” say Victoria’s Secret executives. In a recent article, VS President and CEO Sharen Turney, told analysts that the lingerie marketer’s slowing sales are attributed to (1) being “too sexy” and (2) neglecting women in their 20s and 30s.

I read this article as I was finishing Marty Neumeier’s book The Brand Gap (New Riders, 2006). It’s a good read about the basics of branding, and it helps to explain VS’s $370 million hiccup.

VS is Sexy

Victoria’s Secret is an undisputed leader in the intimate-wear category. Owned by Limited Brands (LTD), VS has over 1000 stores and 2007 net sales of $3.7 billion. Victoria’s Secret’s sexual branding strategy took intimates to the next level. It positioned itself as sexy with a stable of supermodel endorsers, a highly successful catalog, memorable Super Bowl commercials, pioneering fashion webcasts, and network television prime-time events during the shopping season. Since its beginning, VS has successfully traversed the fine line between sexy and sophisticated.

VS meets its Brand Gap

Despite these milestones, annual sales are down 10%. It appears that VS is losing its status as a “charismatic brand.” Neumeier defines such brands as products “for which people believe there’s no substitute.” These brands have cult-like followings that must be carefully protected from “a wandering brand focus.”

Victoria's Secret is wandering wide of its core consumer. VS executives admit that they’ve put too much emphasis on their “pink” line; designed for younger women. A sexy positioning strategy makes sense for young women who are less offended by scintillating appeals. And if you can hook them early, they’ll turn into lifelong brand zealots.

But being too sexy is alienating older women as they move from college to careers and families, and who increasingly fail to identify with the latest 18-year-old Brazilian supermodel.

One problem with VS’s approach is that it is continually trying to outdo itself by pushing the limits of “what is sexy?”. As a result, VS has slowly shed the “sophisticated” component of it’s brand.

Nancy Bernard, a brand design consultant and critic, observed the shift. She told us: “I remember when Victoria's Secret launched. The whole point was that it was NOT Frederick’s of Hollywood. It was beautiful, sexy-but-classy lingerie for AnyWoman. Now it’s brazen provocation—hardly a secret Sweet Victoria is keeping.”