Friday, December 10, 2010

Limited Brands - Mission Statement

Next up on my roster of big brands for mission statement evaluation is Limited Brands.  Limited Brands encompasses Victoria's Secret, Henri Bendel, La Senza, C.O. Bigelow and Bath & Body Works.  Their mission statement is:

"Limited Brands is committed to building a family of the world's best fashion brands offering captivating customer experiences that drive long-term loyalty and deliver sustained growth for our shareholders."

So let me get this straight: Limited's main goal is to be... captivating? Well, okay.  In a retail context, that makes sense: you want to charm and engage your customer, because they're far more likely to stay and spend money.  But some of these brands are more of a success in this experience than others.

Henri Bendel—yes.  Henri Bendel is one of the most luxurious retailers in the United States.  Going to Henri Bendel is a captivating experience.  Victoria's Secret... you've got me there.  Their commercials, fashion shows, and in-store branding captivate me.  It's hard not to be captivated by lingerie and the women modeling it.  La Senza is a Canadian chain, so I can't say if they're captivating, but they're also a high-end lingerie retailer, so my  money's on yes.

Captivate just seems like a weird word though for Bath & Body Works, a brand that started out looking like a farm stand.

Since its acquisition it's gotten more upscale, but I wouldn't call it captivating.  Have you been in a Bath & Body Works lately?  It's homogenized and weird, and the scents, in my opinion, have more chemical overtones.  I actually kind of miss the old Bath & Body Works for their clarity of vision and old-skool charm.  The scents weren't complex, but there's a childhood comfort in the Apples scent that I loved.

That brand felt friendly, and everything from the packaging to the retail merchandising formed a cohesive vision of what it was meant to be—quirky, homey, non-intimidating.  I think something was lost in trying to create a "captivating" experience.  As it turns out, however, not everyone agrees with me.  Sales are up in the 3rd quarter for Bath & Body Works, with a 6% gain over prior year sales.  That could be the economy recovering, or it could be the continued growth of a great brand.  It's hard to say, but for my part, I still think Bath & Body Works fails to offer a captivating experience because I'm not charmed by it, nor do I want to spend my money there.

What do you think?

Emblemist: Yes for Bendel/Victoria's Secret, No for Bath & Body Works
Readers: ?


  1. I agree about BBW. I used to love going in there when it was folksy. They had a line of Gingham perfume that I absolutely adored and wore for years. The box and bottle were really cute (they'd never have something like that now). And I remember the yummy apple you mentioned. I used to spend tons of money there. Now they're - uncomfortable. The one near me is very boutique-feeling with really loud music. I don't feel encouraged to browse. I feel encouraged to buy what I came for and get the heck out. I do like the Dark Amethyst fragrance, but most of the other things I've sniffed there recently have been really unappealing.

    I don't know Bendel, so I can't speak to that. VS is not captivating to me at all. It's entirely alienating. But I am not their target demographic. I haven't been able to find my size there since I was a minor. Apparently they aren't interested in my money now that I actually have some to spend. Even going in there to buy other things (my mother always asks for one of their lotions for xmas) is an unpleasant experience because of the YOU DON'T BELONG HERE vibe they throw at people like me.

    Oh well. I'm sure Cacique is happy to accept my money.

  2. I agree on BBW's brand, as well -- their store experience is just flat-out unconvincing, with that farm-house wood and straw thing they do, in the middle of suburban malls. Everything substantial about the store says "mass-produced"... the chemical smells, the homogeneous galleries of identical products scented with different flowers. The plastic bottles and stock photography. It just doesn't fit.

    The comparison with Victoria's Secret is apt. The VS brand, all glass and plastic and surface, is intentionally superficial, and fits perfectly into the urban centers and suburban malls where it's generally found. There's no disjunction there... when you step into the store, the immersion is complete.

    I think this is a good lesson in how "consistency" is such an important part of being "captivating" (and an important part of branding in general). Because there's nothing that prevents "captivating"-ness more than having to reconcile a store's projected image with what you intuitively know about that business's methods and philosophy.