"I know Victoria's secret... She was made up by a dude."
I'd tell you the song lyric stopped me in my tracks, but I was driving when I first heard Jax's Victoria's Secret and didn't literally slam on the brakes.
Figuratively, though, I turned all my available attention to the lyrics that would follow.
I wish somebody would've told me that thighs of thunder
Meant normal human thighs
The fuckin' pressure I was under
To lose my appetite
And fight the cellulite with Hunger Games like every night
If I could go back and tell myself
When I was younger, I'd say
I know Victoria's secret
Girl, you wouldn't believe
She's an old man who lives in Ohio
Making money off of girls like me"
Cashin' in on body issues
Sellin' skin and bones with big boobs
I know Victoria's secret
She was made up by a dude (dude)
Victoria was made up by a dude (dude)
Victoria was made up by a dude
There's more, but I think you get the idea.
When brands become very dominant, they sometimes become shorthand for the category.
You might say "I need a Kleenex" when what you actually need is a "facial tissue". Kleenex is a brand of facial tissue, but it's one that's so ubiquitous that it has come to represent the entire facial tissue category.
Do you need to "Xerox" that document? No, you need to make a copy, but "Xerox" sold so many copy machines in its day that the act of making copies simply became known as "Xeroxing".
You might think having your brand represent your entire category would be a good thing, but it's not; when a brand becomes genericized, it becomes much more difficult to protect.
And it's especially not a good thing when your brand comes to represent something that's wrong with society.
That first verse isn't specifically about "Victoria's Secret"; it's about the unrealistic and often unhealthy standard of beauty people (but mostly women) have been held to for centuries.
Was Victoria's Secret the first company to use attractive people to sell products? No.
Was it the first to exploit a person's desire to look and feel better for profit? Of course not.
But with its marketing, Victoria's Secret greatly contributed to creating an unhealthy standard of beauty. It did so for decades, profiting handsomely as a result of its decisions.
So now the brand is now being used as shorthand for "companies that make money by making us feel bad about ourselves."
"Victoria's Secret" isn't just a catchy tune, it's an important lesson for marketers about what can happen if your brand chooses to exploit people for profit.
Especially in an era where information is easy to find, authenticity and transparency are especially valued, and anybody can publish content about your brand.
P.S. Victoria's Secret was indeed "made up by a dude": his name was Roy Raymond, but he lived in San Francisco (not Ohio) until he leapt from the Golden Gate Bridge in 1993.
But the "old man who lives in Ohio making money off girls like me" is referring to a different man: American billionaire businessman Les Wexner, the Chairman Emeritus of L Brands, who bought Victoria's Secret from Raymond in 1982.