“Have you seen my pussy?”
So the petals are falling off the roses, the cards are gathering dust on the mantle, and our bank balances are a chunk lighter than they were last Wednesday, and I’m wondering about some of the brand messages I imbibed over the Valentine’s period.
Since we work with the luxury lingerie brand Something Wicked, I’m on the mailing list of a number of lingerie brands, to keep a close eye on lingerie branding and creative strategies. This means my inbox usually contains a rather interesting array of imagery – from the decadent to the downright kinky. The annual pre-love-day push is usually pretty full-on and this year it showed no sign of abatement. However, the thing that struck me was the sudden shift in brand messaging, as the target audience shifted from women, to men – and the apparent misunderstanding of how a lingerie brand might wish to communicate with a male audience.
Having spent seven figures rebranding last year, Ann Summers underwent a largescale brand overhaul. Speaking in an interview in Jan 2012, Jacqueline Gold commented on the lingerie branding exercise:
“We realised Ann Summers had lost its mojo. Customers were saying we were less edgy compared to the rest of the high street and that there was a lack of naughtiness when comparing the Ann Summers of today to the Ann Summers of old. We recognised that we had become a little too safe and had started to lose what made us different. It gave us the opportunity to reinvigorate our brand. Some businesses might think we were mad to spend on research at such a difficult economic time, but for me it was crucial. It’s the businesses that stand still and stop listening to their customers that will suffer more.”
The rebrand was designed to reposition the brand as one which was influenced by pop culture and women like Rihanna and Christina Aguilera – raising the profile and credibility of the brand, essentially making it more up-market.
For the most part, they’ve done a fantastic job; sales are up, brand awareness is up, and Ann Summer has positioned itself as an open and accessible sex-cessory and lingerie retailer. Their advertising creative and brand messaging has taken a really positive leap forward. Then I saw their 2013 Valentine’s Day offering (clearly targeting men). Surprising to say the least…
Copy-wise, it starts well, with what promises to be a smart script, but then quickly sinks into a pretty tacky approach to marketing the brand’s Valentine’s lingerie range – the low point being a badly edited close-up of a woman’s wide open mouth, catching copious amounts of goo (one assumes lubricant) as it’s poured all over her face. From a brand perspective, I can’t help but wonder whether it’s taking the brand backwards after all the hard work in raising credibility; from a consumer perspective, I cringed to the point of whimpering.
In the same week, I received the first of a suite of slick, well styled/shot emails, from my old friend Agent Provocateur…
Ever since I saw their cinema ad featuring Kylie Minogue, I’ve been a big fan of AP. I’ve loved their brand advertising; their e-commerce, their packaging and indeed their products. Top-class lingerie branding and always have been. From an ECRM perspective, they’re smart and intuitive; and I can’t help but smile every time they catch me out with content-fed online display ads shortly after I’ve been browsing through their site. All-in-all, a phenomenal luxury lingerie brand in my view. And then came their 2013 Valentine’s Day ad:
“Have you seen my pussy?” REALLY??!!
So what’s going on here? Two brands with aspirations that were clearly shot down by Cupid’s arrow – both of which have sold out this Valentine’s Day, in favour of using tacky, low-market, unsophisticated creative. I’m not sure what this says about the brands’ understanding of the male partners of their typically female clientele? Are we (men) all mindless morons, driven by heinously unsubtle images of lube-soaked lips? Are we so thick and unsophisticated that we need the use of the word ‘pussy’ in lingerie ad creative, in order that we’ll engage? I genuinely don’t believe so.
Perhaps we as consumers will forgive the brands we’re loyal to, for their occasional off-brand blips? Or is it possible that having such tangent ‘cease-fires’ on brand strategy, could seriously damage our perception of the brands we know and love? Only time will tell I suppose.