Is Victoria’s Secret Showing an Ugly Side?

Do bloggers wield power? You better believe it. Just ask the team at Victoria’s Secret.

Victoria’s Secret recently introduced a new line of lingerie with the centerpiece being: "The Sexy Little Geisha," a mesh teddy that comes with an obi belt, chopsticks and a fan.

The blogosphere saw this as racist, perpetuating stereotypes and just plain offensive.

This was the first reported salvo: "Hooray for exotic orientalist bull----," wrote the blogger.

This blog post was picked up by another blogger, Nina Jacinto, who wrote an eloquent piece about just how offensive the new line was. "It's the kind of overt racism masked behind claims of inspired fashion and exploring sexual fantasy that makes my skin crawl," she said.

This, in turn, was picked up by the Huffington Post and numerous other outlets, including Yahoo.

The result? A search of the Victoria’s Secret Web site reveals that the product has been removed from inventory.

There is precedent for this. In June, Adidas was slammed for promoting an upcoming sneaker that came with, believe it or not, rubber shackles attached.  The outrage at what was seen as a clearly racist product was so intense that the sneaker never saw the light of day.

There are a few lessons worth noting here: First and foremost, brands cannot afford to be racially, culturally and socially tone deaf. As experts on messaging, communications and PR professionals need to make their voices heard at the C-suite level. Cases like these aren’t just PR flaps, they’re full-blown crises.

And second, when the blogging phenomenon began, most communications and public relations professionals either ignored bloggers or disdained them. Today, blogger outreach must be a major portion of any media outreach effort.

And, that certainly is no secret.

Follow Jon Gelberg: @Jon_Gelberg