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Did Lane Bryant's Ads Make the World a Better Place?
By: Luke Willoughby
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Perhaps it's a standard we should all start questioning. 

Lane Bryant, a maker of plus-sized women’s clothing, has been one of the strongest emerging brands in 2015 based on the significant presence and conversation gained. In April they launched the #imnoangel program, which boldly carved its place in the market as a challenger to the well-known branding of Victoria’s Secret. In September, they launched #plusisequal, which in only the last week (10/19), according to analytics platform Keyhole, has reached 1.4M Twitter profiles.

Ignited by an extensive media launch across the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, Vogue, and NYC subways, the plus-sized friendly message quickly tapped into an underlying sentiment about the controversially narrow and thin imagery that exists in women’s fashion and apparel. The social web was there to catch the conversation.

It’s almost easy to see why the campaign would be successful, which is an indication only of how well it was done. Aside from simply branding itself with a market, as opposed to a market, here are three more reasons it was successful.
Recent awakening to the issues: The Lane Bryant brand has been around since 1900, and as late as 2012 they were spending $10 million on advertising annually, according to the NYT. But a review of their fall 2012 branding from former agency MODCO shows a much more formulaic message than #imnoangel and #plusisequal. It wasn’t until they adopted a new agency, YARD, and decided on a relevant and differentiated message that Lane Bryant achieved such prominence.
Innocent by association: By offering an alternative, you win by association with not only the solution, but also the negative feelings associated with the problem. Here, Lane Bryant outwardly challenged the status quo of sex appeal in retail and is thereby accessing the vast audiences and attention associated with one of the most well-known brands in the world: Victoria’s Secret. In other words, the program successfully drives awareness for Lane Bryant, and at worst a neutral sentiment, whether or not someone has a positive or negative sentiment for Victoria’s Secret. This story of challengers also creates additional media pickup, like this article in Fortune, which would otherwise have you questioning why Fortune is writing about lingerie.

If it’s activism, then is the world a better place?: As a component of a massive multi-billion-dollar holding company, Lane Bryant might struggle with this if it weren’t for this campaign. But now new ideas have been created, expressed, and inspired across an entirely new social community built around personal well-being. Seth Godin, a leader of human-centric messaging and communications and frequent TED speaker, would be proud. For marketing, it's clear evidence of a strong response to a message with meaning and value. 

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About the Author
Luke Willoughby works in the digital media landscape of New York across varying agencies and brands. He also has a background in video and content production, and is invested in the resurgence of the full-service advertising agency and the associated opportunities for the marketing industry. Originally from Denver, Colorado, he's a fan of most outdoor activities and otherwise enjoys reading and film.
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