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Victorias Secret and the Sexy Little Geisha Lingerie Set Controversy

The Abstract Early in September, Victorias Secret received an incredible amount of backlash from the release of an Asian-inspired lingerie set called, Sexy Little Geisha, as part of their new Go East Collection. The sexy Teddy advertised as a ticket to an Exotic Adventure, encouraged customers to indulge in touches of Eastern Delight and included chopsticks and a fan. After its release on their website, the outfit caught the attention of the mainstream news channels, online bloggers and offended the Asian-American community. After increased widespread media attention over the racist lingerie, Victorias Secret pulled the line from their website with no response without issuing a statement or information regarding the controversy.


1. 2. 3. 4.

Introduction.4 Overview of the Lingerie Industry...4-5 Gender Roles5-6 Victorias Secret...6 4.1 History of Victorias Secret....6-8 4.2 Victorias Secret Mission Statement and Values...8 4.3 Victorias Secret Influence and Impact....8-10 5. Past Victorias Secret Scandals10 5.1 Kate Upton...10 5.2 Photoshopping and Airbrushing.10-11 5.3 Indian Headdress11-12 6. The Scandal ...12-13 6.1 Victorias Secret Response..13 7. Why the Sexy Little Geisha is such a big deal13-15 8. The Aftermath..16 9. Public Relations Campaign Recommendations...16 9.1 Key Publics..17 9.2 Objective and Tactics.17-22 10. Evaluation Process22-24 11. Discussion Questions....24-25 12. References26-29 13. Appendices ....30 A. Photoshopping and Airbrushing of Models..30 B. Indian Headdress from 2012 Victorias Secret Fashion Show.31 C. Sexy Little Geisha Lingerie Set.32 D. Racialicious Blog Article..33 E. The Huffington Post Article..34 F. ABC News Article.....35 G. Social Media Campaign....36 H. Press Release.37 I. Website Text...38

1. Introduction This case study describes and examines Victorias Secret response to the negative attention over the Sexy Little Geisha. The study will present and discuss the implications of the offensive lingerie set as well as how the situation could be handled in a better manner and avoided for future product releases. 2. Overview of the Lingerie Industry The lingerie market is a multi-billion dollar, global industry that is composed of retailers that sell lingerie, nightgowns, shape-wear and other specialty items. Over the past few decades, lingerie has blossomed from a necessary commodity to a high-fashion market segment with a focus on style, evolving fashion trends, novelty and comfort. In 2011, the lingerie industry earned $29 billion globally, with the United States representing 30% of this market and 20% of total apparel sales (Lepore, 2011). Continually, bras represent the largest sales in womens essentials. In 2011, 46% of all lingerie sales were bras, followed by underwear at 25% and socks at 20% and finally shape-wear and daywear with 10% (Badkar, 2012). As the high-fashion market segment has developed, there has also been a major permanent shift in where women shop for intimates. The once dominate, department store outlets have lost their prominence to specialty retailers with more specific niches. The largest retailer with the most market share is Victorias Secret accounting for $5.6 billion dollars of the industry (Lepore, 2011). Followed companies like La Senza, La Perla, and Hanes. Customers are also more likely to purchase from catalogues and online retailers such as ("Underwear industry: Market research," 2012).

The growth of the industry and the emergence of lingerie in the public light has received backlash over the years. As lingerie has become a more integrated part of societies, criticisms have been made to illuminate the gender stereotyping problems this creates as well as the unrealistic expectations it leads women to assume. Leading lingerie companies are under constant scrutiny for the models they choose to highlight their products in advertisements, catalogues and websites as they are often far from the size of the average woman. This industry also receives criticisms for targeting advertisements to a younger demographic in an attempt to sexualize the youth. 3. Gender Roles The effects of media on womens self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, body image distortion and eating disorder symptoms have become an increasingly popular subject of study. Models portrayed in the media are attractive, and have become increasingly thinner in the last few decades. Researches from various disciplines, however, are concerned that repeated exposure to the idealized female form could distort our perceptions of acceptable norms of thinness and attractiveness (Prabu, 3). The main problem is that many regard the images portrayed in the media as if they were real, even though such body types are not easily attainable in reality (Sohn, 20). The level of beauty attained by these actors and models is characteristic of an extremely small percentage of the population, and increasing the distance between societys self-perception and the ideal self (Sohn, 20). Unrealistic aspirations of young females to attain this ideal female body-type has been linked to numerous pathological problems, including depression, obesity, dieting, and eating disorders (KnoblochWesterwick, 79).

A recent report by the Womens Media Center says, In news and entertainment media, women have frequently been underrepresented with minor changes in proportions over the past decade. The female characters cast gender stereotypes and the likelihood of women, to be hyper-sexualized in film is far more expected than men. American teenagers spend an average of 10 hours and 45 minutes absorbing media in just one day. The images women particularly young girls are shown inevitably affect the way they are seen by others and themselves (S. Azad, 2012). Certainly as the leading lingerie company in the United States, Victorias secret has received considerable attention by critics as doing just that. Victorias secret by nature, features highly sexualized women in sexual lingerie sets on their website and in their catalogues. Though the purpose of the companys models is to sell their lingerie products, the affects of those images are proving to be far more reaching on young womens self body image. 4.Victorias Secret 4.1 History of Victorias Secret As the leading lingerie company in the world, Victorias Secret, came from very humble beginnings. In 1977, Roy Raymond opened the first location in San Francisco with a $40,000 bank loan, $40,000 in loans from relatives and his Stanford Graduate School of Business degree. His hopes were to create a store where men and women no longer had to feel uncomfortable when shopping for lingerie, the dcor of the stores were Victorian designed with wood panel walls and friendly staff. Instead of bras and panties being hung on sterile racks, they were paired together in all sizes and mounted on frames (History of Victorias Secret). In its first year alone, the company earned

$50,000 (Webley, 2012). Things continued to grow and Raymond opened up four additional stores and created a 42-page mail-order catalogue. However, by 1982 Victorias Secret was on the verge of bankruptcy and Raymond called a business contact, Leslie Wexner, to see if he wanted to buy the company. Wexner was an entrepreneur who had been spending the past 10 years rebranding his parents retail store, Leslies, to the Limited where he focused to sell womens sportswear separates. By 1969, he had 300 opened over 300 Limited stores and began expanding by purchasing growing brands like Lane Bryant. Wexner agreed to purchase the five locations and the catalogue for $1 million (Adler, 2010). Although Wexner, had not a clue about lingerie, he believed it had the potential to become a very successful business. He moved Victorias Secret to its headquarters in Columbus and infused the brand with colors and textiles that related to the fashion industry. Wexner focused on consistency of fit and costumer relationships fostering an environment of customer loyalty. Victorias Secret began expanding nationally around 1985, opening boudoir-style stores in areas which it had catalogue costumers (Limited brands timeline, 2012). During the 1990s, Victorias Secret had become the largest American lingerie retailer making over a billion dollars (History of Victorias Secret). They also began to use Supermodels such as Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum and Karolina Kurkova amongst others, deflecting from using celebrity models and endorsements. As the company continued to grow it launched new product lines, like swimwear in 2000 and its Pink brand, targeted towards college students, in 2002 (Merrick, 2008). Additionally in 2000, Victorias Secret was recognized for their charitable contribution after they raised 3.5 million for the

Cinema against Aids Charity. (HISTORY OF) Throughout the years, Victorias Secret has remained a highly adaptable company striving to the needs, wants and desires of its customers. 4.2 Victorias Secret Mission Statement and Values The Limited Brand is committed to building a family of the worlds best fashion brands offering captivating customer experiences that drive long-term loyalty and deliver sustained growth for shareholders. The Limited Brand Corporation is made up of a family of household name brandsVictorias Secret, Bath and Body Works, La Senza and Hendri Bendel. These brands are driven by the four core principles and beliefs that their parent company was founded on. These principles are that the customer rules, each brand strives hard to anticipate and fulfill their customers desires. Passion leads to success, engaging emotionally, intellectually and spiritually into all aspects of work is the only way to produce extraordinary results. Inclusion of all others thoughts, experiences, and hopes and dreams encourage and promote diversity and leads to successful connections with customers. Finally, doing right which revolves around doing what is right and following the principle beliefs and all ethical standards when no one is watching (About us: Beliefs, 2012). Due to these values, Victorias Secret should focus on doing right and making sure they are promoting diversity in the best light possible. 4.3 Victorias Secret Influence and Impact Today, Victorias Secret is one of the most powerful brands worldwide. It is known for its sexy and glamorous stores filled with intimate apparel, beauty products, sleepwear, hosiery and more. As of January 28, 2012 there are 1,017 stores across the United States and Canada bringing in net sales of $4,564,000,000 (About: Victorias 8

secret, 2012). In addition to this, Victorias Secret Direct, which consists of Victorias Secret Catalogue and, reaches 390 million customers each year grossing net sales of 1,557,000,000 (About: Victorias secret, 2012). Victorias Secret not only has a huge influence over the lingerie industry, but asserts a certain control over the fashion industry as well. The company targets the middle class of America and prides themselves on Customer Service. They believe in trying to upsell the customer by offering frequent attention along with the Victorias Secret Credit Card, providing customers with additional discounts and coupons on merchandise (History of Victorias Secret). With the creation of the Victorias Secret Fashion show in 1995, Victorias Secret aimed to stand out as the most influential industry leader. Although the initial show was just a preview of the upcoming lingerie line, the show has evolved into a pop culture phenomenon. This started in 2001, when the fashion show was initially broadcast on network television and drew in 12.3 million viewers (Jannarone, 2012). Though the Federal Communications Commission receives complaints about the show every year, the show continues to be aired on television. Today the show is a lavish event with elaborate and expensive lingerie, live music performances, intense lightening and a set design according to the designative theme. As the show has grown it has attracted many celebrities and entertainers to its audience. The show is Victorias Secrets largest marketing event throughout the year and is rumored to have a budget of $12 million dollars but has been reported to be worth $5 billion in sales for the company (cite). According to Pampered Passions Fine Lingerie, Victoria's Secret has helped, perhaps more than any other brand, attract attention to the lingerie industry. Their

advertising campaigns, including the Victoria's Secret Catalog and Victoria's Secret Fashion Show are visually appealing and controversial. The attention received by Victoria's Secret for their aggressive advertising campaigns has generated priceless wordof-mouth and media bytes to further enhance the Victoria's Secret brand (Victorias Secret, A Brief History). 5. Past Victorias Secret Controversies Victorias Secret is no stranger to controversy. As a brand, who by nature, features risky lingerie, it comes to no surprise Victorias Secret is consistently under criticism for crossing boundaries. 5.1 Dissing Kate Upton Unworthy of being a Victorias Secret Angel When the creative mind behind the past Victorias Secret fashion shows, Sophia Neophitou, made a statement to The New York Times, regarding the use of Sports Illustrated cover model, Kate Upton, as a Victorias Secret Angel, the media went crazy. Neophitou said, [Kate Upton is] like a footballers wife with the too-blond hair and that kind of face that anyone with enough money can go out and buy (A. Klasser, 2012). This statement makes Victorias Secret look harsh and very critical of womens appearance, which just perpetuates this idea that women are not worthy unless they are similar to Victorias Secret models. 5.2 Photo shopping and Airbrushing of Models (See Appendix A) Although airbrushing and Photoshopping of retail images is a commonplace in todays society, Victorias Secret has the tendency to be criticized for taking things a step too far.


Earlier during summer 2012, the brand posted photos of very thin thighs of a model posing for one of the brands bikini bottoms. According to The Daily Beast, Customers were quick to notice the blunder, posting more than 2,000 comments about the image on Victorias Secrets site. It was just one of over a dozen instances in which VS has been called out on its Photoshopping B.S. The company has accidentally disconnected legs from hips, bulked up muscles, lengthened legs, and completely disproportioned just about every body part, all with the click of a mouse (A. Klasser, 2012). 5.3 2012 Victorias Secret Fashion Show Indian Headdress (See Appendix B) Victorias Secret model Karlie Kloss walked the runway wearing Native American style costume during the Victorias Secret Fashion Show airing on December 4th 2012 on CBS. The brand decided to pull the portion of the show from broadcast as it offended the Native American culture by putting an Indian feather headdress on the leopard-print lingerie model. Feather headdresses or war bonnets are a symbol of bravery and usually worn by Indian chefs and honored warriors, but not women. Those who criticized the use of the headdress claimed the company disrespected the Native American history and culture. Victorias Secret issued a statement on their Facebook page saying, "We are sorry that the Native American headdress replica used in our recent fashion show has upset individualswe sincerely apologize as we absolutely had no intention to offend anyone. Out of respect, we will not be including the outfit in any broadcast, marketing materials nor in any other way (Victorias Secret to Cut Indian Costume, 2012). Model Karlie Kloss also expressed her regret, tweeting, "I am deeply sorry if what I wore during the


VS show offended anyone. I support VS's decision to remove the outfit from the broadcast (Victorias Secret to Cut Indian Costume, 2012)." 6. The Scandal In early September 2012, Victorias Secret launched their new collection titled, Go East. The collection included an Asian-inspired lingerie set called, Sexy Little Geisha (See Appendix C). The $98 set included an Asian floral detailed teddy, removable obi belt, a matching fan, and chopsticks. The Sexy Little Geisha was advertised as a ticket to an exotic adventure and encouraged customers to indulge in touches of Eastern Delight. After its release on the Victorias Secret Website, the Sexy Little Geisha caught the attention of Racilicious Blog writer, Nina Jacinto. On September 6, 2012, Jacinto criticized Victorias Secret and their Sexy Little Geisha lingerie set on the Racialicious Blog; a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture (See Appendix D). Jacinto condemned the brand for stereotyping Asians as a Western sexual fantasy claiming, Its a narrative that says the culture can be completely stripped of its realness in order to fulfill our fantasies of a safe and nonthreatening, mysterious East (N. Jacinto, 2012). Jacintos blog post is considered the initial step in the widely criticized scandal and jump-start to the negative attention surrounding Victorias Secrets Sexy Little Geisha. After the Racialicious Blog post, many other online bloggers such as The Frisky, The Huffington Post, Vogue, The Daily Beast, and GlobalPost featured a story regarding the release of the offensive Sexy Little Geisha. (See Appendices E & F for more stories).


By the end of September, the Sexy Little Geisha set had been a topic of discussion on most mainstream media stations and publications across the United States such as ABC News, Fox News, the Today Show, E News and many others. All of the news surrounding the lingerie set advertised the piece as highly offensive to the AsianAmerican culture. 6.1 Victorias Secret Response Due to the widespread negative media attention, Victorias Secret pulled the Sexy Little Geisha set along with the entire Go East Collection. The collection is no longer available for purchase or viewing on Victorias Secrets website. The collection was removed from sale without a statement or acknowledgement to the public, causing a lack of information amongst the public and speculations to arise over the mysterious pull. According to Shine by Yahoo, when feminist website Bust reporter went to check out the teddy described in Jacintos story, it had disappeared from the website. According to Bust, A Victorias Secret representative suggested the teddy had simply sold out. Shine by Yahoo also stated that when major news outlets called Victorias Secret for a comment to the press, their requests were declined (P. Weiss, 2012). The company has yet to issue a statement or confirmed its decision to remove the line. 7. Why is the Sexy Little Geisha such a big deal? Racism has plagued numerous cultures around the world. Most companies try to avoid making racist remarks, or offending a culture by their products. Although generally unintended, companies make racist suggestions frequently, creating negative attention in the press and media.


As Bust magazines blog noted, there is nothing necessarily wrong with a clothing company, or a lingerie company, incorporating some pretty Japanese-style flowers. That in itself isnt racism, its globalization. But [the Sexy Little Geisha] isnt just a pretty Asian-inspired pattern. Its an entire outfit a sex costume, really based on the accouterments of the Japanese geisha to make your lingerie exotic and signify the sexual submission and exploitation of Asian women (L. Intern, 2012). US blog Racialicious guest contributor Nina Jacinto stated, When someone creates a collection like [Victorias Secrets Sexy Little Geisha], making inauthentic references to Eastern culture with hints of red or a fan accessory or floral designs, it reinforces a narrative that says all Asian cultures and their women are exotic, far away but easy to access. (N. Jacinto, 2012) There has been a long-standing tradition to represent Asian women as hyper-sexualized objects of fantasy and as submissive individuals who exist to serve male fantasies. Due to this sexual stereotype, it is not surprising the Asian-American community is deeply offended, especially considering how their history has been stereotyped (N. Jacinto, 2012). Considering the complicated history of geishas, repurposing the geisha look for a major corporation to sell as role-playing lingerie seems a bit tasteless said Jessica Wakeman of The Frisky Blog (J. Wakeman, 2012). There are obvious misconceptions, fueled by the medias tendency to broadcast them in such a way, of geishas being prostitutes when in fact they we not. Geishas are traditional Japanese female entertainers who act as hostesses and whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music, dance, and games. Geishas were trained in the art of communication to make guests feel at ease with


conversation while attending meals, banquets and other occasions (Geisha). Geishas have their roots in female entertainers such as the Saburuko of the seventh century and the Shirabyoshi, who emerged around the earth 13th centuryIt was in the late 16th century that the first walled-in pleasure quarters were built in Japan, which became the grounds for the misconception of prostitution (F. Staud, 2012). Traditional Japan embraced sexual delights and husbands were not constrained to be faithful to their wives. Men went to courtesans instead of their wives for sexual enjoyment and romantic attachment. In the 16th century when pleasure quarters were designated for classified and licensed yujo, play women. Outside of these quarters, prostitution was considered illegal. The highest yujo class was the "Oiran", a combination of actress and prostitute. (F. Staud, 2012) They performed erotic dances and skits for clients, and these pleasure quarters quickly become popular entertainment centers offering more than sex. The term geisha, as the first entertainers, did not appear until the turn of the 18th century. Prostitution was legal in Japan until 1958 and many occupying soldiers during World War II used professional prostitutes who styled themselves as geisha, which is another reason outsiders may be misinformed about geishas offering sex to customers. The use of counterfeit geishas tarnished the meaning of the word in the eyes of many (F. Staud, 2012). Despite widespread belief to the contrary, being a geisha is considered a true honor in Japanese cultures, so it is offensive for a corporation to stereotype a geisha as a sexual fantasy on sale for consumers to purchase.


8. The Aftermath The widespread attention from the media surrounding Victorias Secrets Sexy Little Geisha controversy demonstrated apparent flaws in the internal workings of the company. The media and bloggers criticisms highlighted significant problems that need to be addressed within the company in order to avoid similar situations in the future and remain a reputable brand. However, overall this controversy did not have an outstanding impact on the company as a whole. Victorias Secret saw no drop in sales or stock prices and this years fashion show viewings increased from last year. One reason that this controversy may not have had dramatic implications is that scandals within the industry are often unavoidable because of the nature of the business. In addition to this, Victorias Secret will always receive criticisms and backlash from certain publics regardless of what they are producing. This industry is driven by consumers who remain loyal to the brands by continuing to purchase the companys products regardless of what is going on.

9. Public Relations Campaign Recommendations Through thorough research of public relations management and the Victorias Secret Corporation, we have developed recommendations for the organization moving forward. For the following sections, suggestions are made in order to properly handle Victorias Secrets public relations blunder in the creation of the Sexy Little Geisha lingerie set in the Go East collection. This includes identifying key publics, objectives, tactics and strategies to implement that will prevent a similar crisis in the future. 9.1 Key Publics


With a brand as recognizable as Victorias Secret, any crisis will likely garner media and public attention. This is why it is necessary for the organization to act promptly in executing an effective public relations campaign that targets key stakeholders within the organization. Stakeholders, or publics, are defined as the different groups of people who take an interest in the organization (Swan, 2010). The first step in the intended campaign involves identifying the key publics for the Victorias Secret organization. Without proper identification of publics, the campaign will lack effectiveness in achieving any intended goals. As a global company, Victorias Secret has a diverse group of stakeholders that each has different needs from the organization in response to the Sexy Little Geisha crisis and subsequent public relations campaign. The targeted stakeholders include employees, customers, bloggers and online media, social media, and mainstream news media. The strategies used to identify and successfully reach these publics through the campaign will be explained in the succeeding sections. 9.2 Objectives and Tactics The following section of this campaign will address our recommended objectives for Victorias Secret and how we plan to execute these public relations strategies following the removal of the Sexy Little Geisha lingerie set from stores, catalogs, and website. The overall campaign goal is to manage brand reputation with its publics and rectify the missteps within the organization. Reputation can be defined as an on-going index of previous responses to situations, making the most immediate response strategy a key element of that index(Payne, 2006). A good reputation involves factors such as: quality products or services, recognition of a familiar logo built over the years, wellestablished CEO, stand-out advertising, and sponsorship of a high profile event


(Payne,2006). Victorias Secret is an established force in the lingerie and womens wear industry with impressive and effective advertising campaigns. The brand is synonymous with risqu yet classy sex appeal; however, the current crisis can be classified as a tactless attempt at exotic erotica. Objective 1: To rebuild the organizations reputation with key publics through internal communication efforts and social media. This objective focuses on acknowledging the crisis situation and issuing an apology to the public. Our first tactic in order to execute this objective will be to send an internal email to all employees from the chief executive officer. Employees are an extremely valuable public and internal communication must be utilized to keep them informed during any crisis or change (Swan, 2010). As a substantial corporation with many departments and franchises, it is crucial to send an organization-wide email in order to properly inform the employees as the primary public to become aware of the situation and maintain positive internal relations. Previous research has revealed that if an organization is dealing with a preventable crisis, practitioners should employ accommodating strategies (Claeys & Cauerghe, 2012). The following tactic in accomplishing this objective involves implementing social media with an apology response strategy. Consumers increasingly rely on Facebook groups as a trustworthy way to acquire information and opinions regarding an organization, creating a place for consumer brand relationships. Victorias Secret already actively uses Facebook to disseminate messages and generate interest in the brand (Chu, 2011). Twitter and Facebook will be used to issue an apology to the public for the creation and sale of the Sexy Little Geisha lingerie set (See Appendix G).


By employing social media to communicate the apology, Victorias Secret can reach a significant number of individuals at once due to their substantial following of 1.6 million on Twitter and over 20 million Likes on Facebook (See Appendix H). In doing so, Victorias Secret will take full responsibility for the crisis and ask stakeholders for forgiveness of the mistake (Coombs, 2006). Objective 2: To increase the organizations favorable coverage in uncontrolled media. Practicing effective communication with the media is paramount in crisis communication (Veil & Ojeda, 2010). Victorias Secret Sexy Little Geisha lingerie earned extensive media coverage and backlash due to the nature of the product as well as the lack of response by the organization once criticism ensued. The campaign should be directed heavily towards effective media relations including: being the first to address the pull of the item, being available to the media during the handling of the crisis, and establishing a spokesperson to deliver the central message of the public relations efforts. The first tactic to accomplish this objective is to send at least one press release to national and international media with the first 24 hours of the product removal (See Appendix I). Instead of allowing the media to direct the outcome of the crisis by being the first to acknowledge the removal of the Sexy Little Geisha, Victorias Secret must send a press release in order to properly address the crisis and continue reputation management. A separate press release will be tailored to external bloggers as that public played a significant role in creating buzz and mainstream media coverage of the controversy. An influential external blog is defined as any blog that initiates and/or amplifies a crisis for an organization (Jin, 2011). By addressing this public separately and


acknowledging bloggers as a relevant producer of media, Victorias Secret can improve the relationship and hopefully increase favorable coverage of the organization in the future. The second tactic in this campaign will be the designated spokesperson, CEO Lori Greenly, who will be available at a press conference within 48 hours as a prebuttal. The organization will invite national media to hear Victorias Secrets statement and directly answer any questions that may arise to prevent additional speculation or criticism. This portion of the campaign will utilize repentance as a rectifying behavior strategy in which the organization will take responsibility for the crisis situation as well as discuss changes to its practices to prevent a similar situation from occurring again (Swan, 2010). Victorias Secrets spokesperson will make the public aware of the new internal risk assessment program being developed that will focus on product approval and guidelines for acceptable themes for the creative design team. These internal developments will be addressed in detail with the following objective. Objective 3: To implement internal strategies to prevent future similar occurrences. While Victorias Secret may not have intended to offend, the crisis was completely avoidable. Although apologizing and promising situations of this nature will never happen again is a good initial step, the organization must further their efforts to the public by setting setting standards in terms of what themes can be used for appropriate lingerie in the future. This corrective action will enable the brand to not only achieve reputation management, but also a risk assessment function that shows the crisis is being taken seriously. Victorias Secret is not just trying to make it go away but rather insure


it will not occur again. The public relations team, with the help of the other management positions in the organization, will work to create specific guidelines for lingerie design themes, especially those themes that should be avoided at all cost. For example, the following topics should be avoided for all lingerie and sleepwear product creation: Any obvious cultural references (Asian, Native American, African American, etc.) Keep away from any stereotypically submissive and over sexualized career (maid, nurse, etc.) Collection titles that involve any illusion to prostitution, escort services, etc. Additionally, through the approval process, these questions should be considered and answered before a product can be approved: Will this product garner any negatives feelings involving racism, gender stereotyping etc.? Can this product be sold internationally with no subsequent backlash? Is this piece representative of Victorias Secret innovative and classy brand image? The following ideas can be implemented as safe suggestions for future lines and inspiration: Take inspiration from global cultures without turning the piece into a costume (textures, patterns, prints, colors, etc.) Use gender-neutral career pieces not limited to stereotypically female occupations (fireman, police officer, doctor, military, etc). 21

Incorporate various time periods as decade lingerie from various global eras (flapper, pin-ups, etc.)

Pull inspiration from every-day life including pop culture, seasons, nature. Consider launching a line of products for the mature costumer demographic including more conservative, flattering pieces while keeping the trademark sex appeal. This could highlight everyday women as a sexual fantasy.

10. Evaluation Process In order to examine the success of our public relations campaign we must evaluate the effectiveness of our response strategies. The appraisal of each individual objective will be determined by the results of the tactics executed. The following will assess the first objective: An internal survey will be distributed to all employees to quantify the effectiveness of crisis communication in the organization. Using a Likert scale for responses, (strongly disagree-strongly agree) the first question will ask, Did the e-mail adequately inform you of the crisis? The second question would ask, Did Victorias Secret respond in an appropriate manner that aligns with our company values and policies? All social media interactions on Victorias Secret twitter and Facebook accounts will be monitored through environmental scanning. The public relations team should focus on comments and conversations surrounding Victorias Secret specific tweets and statuses regarding the controversy. In addition, the public relations team should account for the number of


followers and likes, on each respective page, gained or lost during the time of the crisis and the period immediately following. The following will assess the second objective: Media scanning will be utilized to assess what publications used the press release in their coverage of the Victorias Secret controversy. Supplementary media scanning will be employed to see if the targeted external blogs shared our press release with their follows or reposted about the crisis on their blog following the organizations press release to the site. The press conference will be assessed based on the number of media representatives that attended and conduct media scanning following the press conference to monitor the response and dissemination of Victorias Secrets messages. The following will assess the third objective: The organization will conduct an internal survey on the new risk assessment program to see how effective the product approval process is so far. The organization will accept any suggestions from employees who are partake in the program (i.e. management, design and production team, public relations team). After a new line has passed the guidelines set forth by the internal risk assessment team program, a focus group will be conducted inviting several different media outlets to provide feedback or criticisms prior to its release (mainstream media, fashion media, bloggers). This will evaluate how well the guidelines work to filter out any pieces that could be offensive and improve


the organizations media relations. Participants will get a sneak peak at the Victorias Secret product development process. 11. Discussion Questions 1. Do you think Victorias Secret is ethically responsible to society regarding perceptions of the lingerie industry? 2. What else do you think Victorias Secret could to further stray from gender stereotyping, body image controversies, and cultural implications? 3. Does the campaign adequately address all key stakeholders? 4. What types of corporate social responsibility do you think Victorias Secret could implement to improve reputation management (i.e. charities, community events)? 5. What other industries besides lingerie do you think are plagued with image issues? 6. Do you believe its Victorias Secrets responsibility to work toward alter in medias depiction of beauty with changes to models, advertisements, fashion show etc., to depict a more realistic standard? 7. How else could social media be utilized in furthering an organization-public relationship in times of crisis? 8. As a member of the public relations team, how would you shift the focus from the crisis to the upcoming Victorias Secret Fashion Show? 9. What are some other ideas for safe, appropriate lingerie themes? 10. What are some other things that Victorias Secret should avoid in their products? 11. Do you think that its necessary for Victorias Secret to have their own company values versus just utilizing The Limited Brands umbrella values?


12. Why do you think Victorias Secret endures numerous controversies but still manages to be an immensely successful brand?


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Lepore, M. (2011, January 24). Everything you need to know about the red-hot, growing lingerie industry. Retrieved from you-need-toknow-about-the-rapidly-growing-lingerie-industry-20111?op=1 Limited brands timeline. (2012). Retrieved from Lutz, A. (2012, November 6). 18 years in the evolution of the victoria's secret fashion show. Retrieved from show-history-2012-11?op=1 Merrick, A. (2008, February 29). Apparently, you can be too sexy. Retrieved from Payne, L. (2006). Synthesizing crisis communication and reputation management: an experimental examination of memory. Quanitative Research , 161-180. Prabu, David, Liu Kaiya, and Juliann Cortese. "Effect Of Thin Vs. Plus-Size Models: A Comparison Of Body Image Ideals By Gender." Conference Papers -International Communication Association (2003): 1-40. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 4 Oct. 2012. Sohn, Steve H. "Body Image: Impacts Of Media Channels On Men's And Women's Social Comparison Process, And Testing Of Involvement Measurement." Atlantic Journal Of Communication 17.1 (2009): 19-35. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 4 Oct. 2012. Staud, F. (n.d.). Japan zone: Geisha. Retrieved from: http://www.japan Swann, P. (2010). Cases in Public Relations. New York: Routledge.


Underwear industry: Market research reports, statistics and analysis. (2012, September). Retrieved from Veil, S., & Ojecda, F. (2010). Establishing media partnerships in crisis response Communication Studies , 412-429. Victoria's secret, a brief history. (n.d.). Retrieved from Victorias secret to cut indian costume from broadcast. (2012, November 13). Retrieved from: Wakeman, J. (2012, September 24). Victoria's secret offends with "sexy little geisha" outfit. Retrieved from: offends-with-sexy-little-geisha-outfit/ Webley, K. (2012, April 02). All-time 100 fashion icons: Roy raymond. Retrieved from,2880 2110513_2110512_2110720,00.html Weiss, P. (2012, September 25). Victorias secret geisha lingerie sparks controversy: How one blogger took on a brand. Retrieved from: controversy-one-blogger-201500394.html


13.Appendices Appendix A Photoshopping and Airbrushing of Models


Appendix B Indian Headdress from Victorias Secret Fashion Show 2012


Appendix C Sexy Little Geisha Lingerie Set


Appendix D Racialicious Blog Article Victorias Secret Does it Again: When Racism Meets Fashion
By Guest Contributor Nina Jacinto In case you missed it, Victorias Secret recently launched a new lingerie collection. Entitled Go East, its the kind of overt racism masked behind claims of inspired fashion and exploring sexual fantasy that makes my skin crawl. From the website: Your ticket to an exotic adventure: a sexy mesh teddy with flirty cutouts and Eastern-inspired florals. Sexy little fantasies, theres one for every sexy you. The collection varies in its level of exoticism. The Sexy Little Geisha is a perversion of its reference, featuring a sultry white model donned in lingerie, chopsticks in her hair, fan in her hand. Other items in the collection include red sleepwear and nightgowns with cherry blossoms. I might have glossed over some of these pieces entirelyexcept the catalog descriptions had me reeling. Indulge in touches of Eastern delight. Translation: Buying these clothes can help you experience the Exotic East and all the sexual fantasies that come along with it, without all the messy racial politics! When someone creates a collection like this, making inauthentic references to Eastern culture (whatever that means) with hints of red or a fan accessory or floral designs, it reinforces a narrative that says that all Asian culturesand their womenare exotic, far away but easy to access. Its a narrative that says the culture can be completely stripped of its realness in order to fulfill our fantasies of a safe and non-threatening, mysterious East. But when a company takes it one step further by developing a story about how the clothes can offer a sort of escape using explicit sexualized and exploitive language, it takes the whole thing to another level. Its a troubling attempt to sidestep authentic representation and humanization of a culture and opt instead for racialized fetishizing against Asian women. Theres a long-standing trend to represent Asian women as hypersexualized objects of fantasy, so its telling that none of the models wearing the Go East collection appear to be Asian. Perhaps this is a way for the company to distance itself from accusations of racism, given the backlash of previous campaigns such as Wild Thing, a fashion show segment in which black models wore tribal body paint and African-themed wraps. In the case of Go East, Victorias Secret is avoiding a stereotype by removing Asian women from the picture while still capitalizing on it. The lack of Asian women here simply exposes the deep-rooted nature of the Orientalist narrative, one that trades real humanness for access to culture. Besides, it can only feel sexy and exotic if its on an American bodywithout the feeling of accessing something foreign or forbidden, there can be no fantasy. Im not trying to deny that people have their own unique sexual desires and sources of pleasure. But like all things, sex and sexuality dont live in a bubble. They intersect with our historical and cultural contexts. Donning a sexy Geisha outfit to get the ball rolling in the bedroom remains offensive because it confirms a paradigm in which Asian people and their culture can be modified and sexualized and appropriated for the benefit of the West. This particular kind of racism has existed for a long time, and were far from moving beyond it.


Appendix E The Huffington Post: Victorias Secret Sexy Little Geisha Outfit Sparks Backlash Victoria's Secret's troubles are usually limited to Photoshop fails, of which they've committed many. But the lingerie retailer has hit a snag of a different kind, offending customers with a misguided new product: the "Sexy Little Geisha" outfit. Part of Victoria's Secret "Go East" collection, the "Sexy Little Geisha" outfit consists of a mesh teddy with "Eastern-inspired" floral print fabric on the bra cups and crotch, plus a coordinating (and removable!) obi belt. The matching fan and chopsticks, which South African model Candice Swanepoel sports in the product shot, are included. The entire get-up, the website writes, is "your ticket to an exotic adventure." The negative reactions began several weeks ago. On Racialicious, Nina Jacinto took Victoria's Secret to task for essentializing Asian identity and reducing "Eastern" culture to a stereotype of exotic sexuality. "Its a narrative that says the culture can be completely stripped of its realness in order to fulfill our fantasies of a safe and non-threatening, mysterious East," she argues. Done at the corporate level, "its a troubling attempt to sidestep authentic representation and humanization of a culture and opt instead for racialized fetishizing against Asian women." The Frisky concurred: "Considering the complicated history of geishas, repurposing the [geisha] 'look' for a major corporation to sell as role-playing lingerie seems a bit tasteless." Victoria's Secret has responded to the protests, if only tacitly: type in the URL for the Sexy Little Geisha product page and it redirects you to In fact all the product pages for the "Go East" collection, including the Printed Chiffon Robe we highlighted last month, now simply redirect to the Victoria's Secret homepage. Removing the products will probably appease critics... as long as Victoria's Secret avoids similar missteps. Otherwise they could be the next Urban Outfitters with a reputation for offending various religious, racial and ethnic groups at every turn.


Appendix F ABC News Victorias Secret Under Fire for Sexy Little Geisha Outfit Victorias Secret sends models down the runway in angel wings and next-to-nothing outfits, but its a Sexy Little Geisha outfit that has the nations most famous lingerie company in hot water. The Columbus, Ohio, company, famous for its annual televised Fashion Show, has removed its entire Go East collection of Asian-inspired lingerie wear from its website after feeling heat from bloggers for the Sexy Little Geisha it described on its website as Your ticket to an exotic adventure. The $98 lingerie one-piece featured a sexy mesh teddy with flirty cutouts and Easterninspired florals, according to its description, which has since been removed, on its website. The outfit also included a removable obi belt with a bow in back and came with a matching fan and hair chopsticks. The Go East collection drew criticism last month for an apparent Photoshop job done on one of its models, and then the Sexy Little Geisha number was singled out this month by bloggers who questioned the companys taste. Considering the complicated history of geishas, repurposing the look for a major corporation to sell as role-playing lingerie seems a bit tasteless, wrote Jessica Wakeman on the womens website Its the kind of overt racism masked behind claims of inspired fashion and exploring sexual fantasy that makes my skin crawl, blogger Nina Jacinto wrote on When someone creates a collection like this, making inauthentic references to Eastern culture (whatever that means) with hints of red or a fan accessory or floral designs, it reinforces a narrative , she wrote. But when a company takes it one step further by developing a story about how the clothes can offer a sort of escape using explicit sexualized and exploitive language, it takes the whole thing to another level While the product has now disappeared from the Victorias Secret website, screen grabs of it have gone viral. Links for both the Sexy Little Geisha URL and for the entire Go East collection now lead straight to the companys home page. Victorias Secret has not made a statement on the line, or its disappearance. A request for comment by the company from ABC News was not returned.


Appendix G Social Media Campaign


Appendix H Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Victorias Secret Pulls Sexy Little Geisha and Go East Collection from Website Columbus, Ohio September 26 2012 Victorias Secret has decided to pull their new Sexy Little Geisha lingerie set from their Go East Collection on September 25, 2012, due to criticism over the offensive nature of the piece. The Sexy Little Geisha set along with the entire Go East collection has been removed from all future sales with the Victorias Secret Brand. Victorias Secret CEO, Lorie Greenly, apologizes to the public stating, We would like to extend a sincere apology to all individuals who were upset by our offensive Sexy Little Geisha lingerie set. The Victorias Secret Brand strives to respectfully represent all cultures of the world and we take full responsibility for the tasteless collection. We had absolutely no intention to offend or mock Eastern culture. Greenly explains that the brand hopes the complete pull of the collection is a well-received first step in repairing their relationship with the public. As a result of severe criticism from the media and public over the highly offensive nature of the collection, Victorias Secret has decided to make internal changes to their current practices. Greenly says, In the future our brand will make strives to continue to represent all cultures in the most respectful way possible. We are making internal changes and instilling a Review Board to ensure this does not happen again. Victorias Secret will be holding a press conference on September 27, 2012. Greenly will be available for the media to ask questions and express concerns over the situation. Interested members of media can contact Erica Zumehy for more information regarding the time and location of press conference. Contact: Erica Zumehly 123 Main Street Columbus, OH 12345 (614) 577- 7281 ### Founded in 1977, Victorias Secret is an American retailer of womens wear, lingerie, and beauty products. As the largest segment of Limited Brands, Victorias Secret operates over 1,000 stores in the United States, producing sales over approximately $5 billion annually. The iconic brand is recognized for their spokeswomen known as the Angels, who perform in the annual Victorias Secret Fashion Show. As an industry leader, the organization receives significant media coverage and attention worldwide.


Appendix I Website Text Victorias Secret would like to extend a sincere apology to all individuals who were upset by our recent Sexy Little Geisha lingerie set from the Go East Collection. We are so sorry that the collection offended members of the Asian-American community. The Victorias Secret Brand respectfully represents all cultures of the world and we had absolutely no intention to offend or mock Eastern culture. In light of recent events and responses, we have decided to pull the Go East collection from our website all together. We hope that this is sufficient action for our unjust mistake. In the future our brand will make strives to continue to represent all cultures in the best way possible. We are making internal changes and a Review Board will be put into place to ensure this does not happen. Again, we are sincerely sorry.