Dangerous Underwear

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by: Jonathan Salem Baskin

It took an LA traffic cop to discover that Victoria’s Secret underwear can be used as a dangerous weapon. No, not dangerous like oh-you’re-so-pouty-dangerous, but as in actually harmful.

While putting on a pair of the uber-sexay v-string rhinestone-studded panties, a piece of somethingoranother flew off, hit her in the eye, and required her to apply a topical steroid (which was followed, I’m sure, by some serious embarrassment).

Well, it wasn’t embarrassing enough to keep her from filing a product liability suit in LA Superior Court. She’s seeking unspecified damages for the lingerie mishap.

So what’s Victoria’s Secret’s PR strategy supposed to be in this networked social media world of ours? Is it a direct threat to its reputation, or something vague and lingering, like somebody declaring that Procter & Gamble’s logo is the sign of the Devil?

One argument, perhaps the standard approach, would be for communicators to take the filing seriously, and approach the story as something that needs to be controlled

  • Issue a press release declaring "we’re vigorously looking into the matter" and "the Victoria’s Secret brand stands for the utmost in fashion, quality, and lingerie safety."
  • Some staffer or costly vendor tool would troll chat rooms and blogs for evidence that the story was getting repeated, and either post responses (i.e. engagement) or at least track the appearance of words like "cornea damage" in relation to the brand (i.e. reporting). 
  • Every effort should be made to protect the integrity of the brand from the vicissitudes of circumstance, and that includes any words or ideas that don’t jibe with the company’s image of itself.

There’s another argument, though, and it can be summarized in two words:

Who cares?

Actually, I’ll go further. Isn’t this a great opportunity to get more exposure, and achieve greater relevance for the brand?

So Victoria’s Secret panties are a deadly weapon. Why not have fun with the idea, and go after more exposure.

  • Imagine the faux customer service announcements that women should handle their underwear responsibly, because they’re so dangerous. 
  • How about signage or a product tag that says "remove with care."’
  • Why not start a chat or forum on dangerous underwear, and collect stories of men and women being, er, dangerous. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Every time the woman who filed the lawsuit gets publicity, Victoria’s Secret could jump on it and exude grand flourishes of thanks for helping it tell the world of the dangerous of wearing sexy lingerie. 

"Trust us, this is only the tip of the, ahem, ice-berg," the company spokesperson could say, with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

I am often befuddled by the claims that today’s new media don’t operate on the same principles (or for the same purposes) as communications have always required. But, in this instance, I really think a different approach might work.

Don’t try to fix the story. Go with it.

Dangerous underwear? Cool.

Original Post: http://dimbulb.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/06/dangerous-under.html