A Conversation With… Victoria Beckham
Being one of only 100 people waiting for Victoria Beckham to take to the stage last Monday night, I was struck by the feeling of anticipation that filled the room. The celebrity-WAG-turned-critically-acclaimed-fashion-designer was at The V&A Museum to be interviewed by Vogue International Editor, Suzy Menkes, on the creation of her eponymous fashion brand.
I think it is fair to say that the name Victoria Beckham evokes a reaction similar to Marmite. You either love her or you hate her. With the Spice Girls firmly cemented in my childhood memories, I arrived wanting her to do well and in front of a captive audience of museum members, industry peers and fans, she did. From the minute she walked into the room her cold public image was a distant memory. But what, as a PR professional, did I learn from my hour with Victoria Beckham?
The Power of a Briefing Document
In just 60 minutes, VB’s team managed to deliver an interview designed to sell the ‘real’ Victoria to her audience. Suzy Menkes became the queen of leading questions, often guiding her interviewee through answers that contained so many key messages her PR KPI’s skyrocketed through the roof.
So why has the Victoria Beckham label been such a success? According to a rehearsed Victoria, it’s down to her underlying understanding of what her customer wants and her ability to empower them with clothing that makes them feel confident. During these almost robotic answers we have all viewed hundreds of times on YouTube (or is that just me?!), a glimmer of hope came in the form of an off-the-cuff joke. When asked whether she has always wanted to work in fashion, Victoria responded wittily: “Yes, it’s what I have always wanted. Or should I say what I really, really wanted”. Unfortunately, I have since discovered that she used the exact same line during a similar talk in New York over a year ago, dampening any hope that I had experienced a few seconds of the real woman behind the branded sunglasses.
The Power of Celebrity
Throughout her questioning, Victoria was keen to separate the wider Beckham brand from her fashion label. Claiming the reason her collection often sells out before it has even landed in a store is not due to her name, but to the quality of her products.
Having wrestled a ferocious gang of paparazzi on the way in, and friend Gordon Ramsay sitting alongside loyal husband David on the front row, it was a hard concept to swallow. Would ticket sales have smashed museum records by selling out in four minutes without the incentive that her handsome husband could be there? From the number of confiscated camera phones that were quickly snatched by security when Mr. Beckham took his seat, I don’t think so.
The Power of Brand Beckham
This may sound like I didn’t learn anything from my hour with Victoria Beckham. The truth is I was in awe. Brand Beckham is a slick, well-oiled PR machine that appears bullet-proof and effortless for two people who have been building their brand for 15 years. When Victoria claimed to personally send each and every Tweet to her 8.83m followers, I believed her. When Victoria claimed that Hilary Clinton is the one woman in the world she would love to dress, I believed her. The messages were delivered and I believed them.
As the evening drew to a close, David asked his wife a ‘spontaneous’ question. Would Victoria prefer their daughter Harper to work in music or fashion? It wasn’t an earth-shatteringly original question; however, his ability to land his wife’s key messages was astronomical. Reciting Victoria’s 75 million record sales worldwide, 23 concession stores and recently opened flagship in London as if they were tattooed on the back of his hand, David proved that maybe their brand is so successful because for The Beckham’s, PR runs through their veins.