Why Brands Need To Evolve And Meet The Needs Of All Women

This week on The Fix podcast, I had a chance to hear from Heidi Zak, CEO and co-founder of bra and underwear company ThirdLove. Heidi shared her journey in building a truly inclusive brand that meets the needs of real women. On this episode, we also unpacked Heidi’s powerful open letter to Victoria’s Secret and why she was compelled to address the company’s body shaming comments that discriminated against minority groups.

Her Story

In 2013, Heidi Zak, left her corporate job at Google to start ThirdLove. As a direct to consumer lingerie brand, Thirdlove’s mission is to help women feel confident and comfortable.

“About six or seven years ago I was still shopping at Victoria Secret, which is something I had done for most of my adult life and I walked out of the store and I thought to myself, why am I still shopping here? The brand didn't resonate with me. The product quality wasn't high. I didn't really find a bra that fits. I really felt like we women deserve an easier way and a better way to buy bras from a brand that we really respect,” she says.

Apart from differentiating itself in the market, the company also made headlines in November last year when it published an open letter to Victoria’s Secret in the New York Times. The letter was penned in response to comments made by Ed Razek, Chief Marketing Officer of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, L Brands.

The Fix

An excerpt of Thirdlove’s open letter reads:

 “You market to men and sell a male fantasy to women. But at ThirdLove, we think beyond as you said, a “42-minute entertainment special.” Your show may be a “fantasy” but we live in reality. Our reality is that women wear bras in real life as they go to work, breastfeed their children, play sports, care for ailing parents, and serve their country. Haven’t we moved beyond outdated ideas of femininity and gender roles? It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy — let us decide. We’re done with pretending certain sizes don’t exist or aren’t important enough to serve. And please stop insisting that inclusivity is a trend.”

Taking such a public stance, challenged me to think about what my dollars stand for. This weeks fix is to really think about the brands you are supporting with your purchasing power. A lot of companies now are engaging in social impact marketing, where they share what they believe in and value. Whether they themselves work to live up to these values is another thing altogether. But knowing what brands stand for means you have power to decide what values and practices you back and support.

Putting Equality Into Practice

In recent years, we’ve witnessed big organizations miss the mark in addressing the evolving needs of customers. Often legacy brands’ fail to adapt and innovate, startups, which are more in touch with consumers, can compete and increase their market share. For brands that want to meet the needs of women can start by getting comfortable with the uncomfortable - something Zak practices at ThirdLove.

“I don't think you have to start from scratch or rewrite your book or anything like that. I just think you can take initiative to evolve and change the conversation and change how you frame things. Victoria's Secret own the word sexy that is who the brand is right. So, I think the question is what does sexy mean in the year 2019? And certainly the conversation can change. Any legacy company can evolve the core of who they are,” she says.  

Michelle KingComment