When Company Values Meet Consumer Values, It Drives Sales

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Michelle Cordeiro Grant wanted to make real women the face of Lively, the lingerie brand she launched in 2016. So she featured Lively’s loyal fans on the company’s homepage wearing its latest products, instead of professional models. There was only one problem: Her data showed that customers were less likely to click through to purchase an item when a curvy, normally proportioned women was shown wearing it.

Two years later, that dynamic has flipped. Today Grant says that customers are far more likely to buy products that are spotlighted by members of the Lively community. She says she began to see the switch as the #MeToo movement gathered steam, uncovering sexual harassment and gender discrimination in virtually every corner of society.

Grant has been thinking for a long time about how lingerie is traditionally marketed. Before launching Lively she worked for Victoria’s Secret, which is famous for its vaguely pornographic imagery of supermodels in diamond-studded bras and angel’s wings. The brand’s iconography suggests that the thing women care about most in their underwear is how sexy they look in it, which Grant thinks is flatly untrue. “They want to be comfortable so they can go out there and do amazing things with their lives,” she says. This, in her view, is “what most empowered millennial women are thinking about when they put on their bra in the morning.”

Victoria’s Secret has dominated the market for years. But there’s some evidencethat the #MeToo movement may be actively harming the lingerie giant. Data from YouGov’s BrandIndex shows that positive sentiment toward Victoria’s Secret among women ages 18–49 has plummeted since 2016, and fewer women say they’re buying from the brand now compared with five years ago. Sales are likewise declining at parent company, L Brands, earning Victoria’s Secret the title, “Sears of Brassieres.”

Grant sees this as evidence that she’s on the right track. That’s why you’ll still find women of different body types and ethnicities on Lively’s website today—all of them actual members of the community the brand has built. “Female consumers seem to be mentally transitioning to wanting images of real women,” says Grant, “not someone’s fantasy of what a woman should look like.”

Liz Segran, Staff Writer, Fast Company