For a very, very long time, the Victoria’s Secret catalog occupied a distinct space in the direct mail world. Featuring pages and pages of beautiful women wearing expensive underthings, it was considered essential reading by many and a mainstay of the brand’s identity. But Victoria’s Secret announced today that the catalog is over – if you want to check out what their angels are wearing, you’ll have to go to Instagram.
This wasn’t a capricious move. In the last quarter of 2015, Victoria’s Secret decreased their catalog production by 40%. Sales during this critical sales period didn’t dip at all; in fact, according to this AdWeek article, direct sales went up 15%.
The first Victoria’s Secret catalog appeared in 1977. With a nearly 40 yearlong presence in the brand’s marketing mix, it’s easy to see how the catalog could be considered essential; enduring and untouchable.
But times change. Stuart Burgdoerfer, finance chief of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, L. Brands, stated that the company had to consider the situation as if they were starting the brand anew in 2016? “Would you start with one of your major ideas being a paper-based catalog sent through the mail as one of your key, if not your key, marketing activity for a global brand?”
The important takeaway here is that we’re all doing business in today’s current reality, not in bygone days; what may have been tremendously effective for years, even decades, still needs to be assessed for effectiveness in today’s markets. Hard data is always better than a general feeling or impression that things have changed; the fact that Victoria’s Secret made a meaningful change, tested the impact, and considered the results before moving forward is a lesson we can all learn from.
Don’t be afraid to question ‘how we’ve always done it’. Producing the catalog was obviously part of Victoria’s Secret business as usual for a long time – but it did consume a tremendous amount of resources. If those energies are equally or more effective deployed in other channels, such as social media, then the choice is clear. When it comes to smart marketing, the measurements that really matter are those that drive your bottom line.