12 June 2023

12 June 2023 - Jax - Victoria’s Secret

On June 12, 1977, Victoria's Secret was founded by Roy Raymond and his wife, Gaye, in Delaware.  The first store was opened in Palo Alto, California.  The Victoria in the name is a reference to Queen Victoria (because her undergarments would be classy, right?).

In 1982, the Raymonds sold Victoria's Secret to Leslie Wexner, founder of both Bath & Body Works and clothing company The Limited.  

Leslie Wexner is a dude.  

From Ohio.  

Who, by the way, was a friend and associate of Jeffrey Epstein (who didn't kill himself) and the subject of an not-so-complimentary documentary on Hulu, Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons.

Victoria's Secret is one of the few retail chains that has been the subject of scolarly research, but they probably wish they weren't.  For example, in a 2008 article sponsored by the University of Waterloo and authored by Erin J. Strahan, Adèle Lafrance, Anne E. Wilson, Nicole Ethier, Steven J. Spencer, and Mark P. Zanna, they state, ""Women's body dissatisfaction is influenced by socio-cultural norms for ideal appearance that are pervasive in society and particularly directed at women." Their study was quite interesting.  Participants were randomly assigned to the experimental or control condition. In the control condition, participants viewed four neutral commercials containing no people. In the experimental condition, participants viewed the same four neutral advertisements intermixed with two additional commercials conveying sociocultural norms. One commercial featured supermodels wearing Victoria’s Secret bras, and the other featured a very thin, attractive woman promoting Dove soap.  Their clear conclusion, based on their study, was that "[e]xposure to societal messages that reflect the socio-cultural norm for ideal appearance has a negative effect on women."

The article was titled "Victoria's Dirty Secret: How Sociocultural Norms Influence Adolescent Girls and Women" and yes.  I read it.  You can, too.  

So, fast forward to 2022.  3rd Place finisher on American Idol Jaclyn Miskanic, known professionally as Jax, co-wrote a song that was rather critical of body image projection by companies like Victoria's Secret. She made a lot of solid points about Victoria's Secret - Roy Raymond wasn't from Ohio, but a lot of their modern marketing sure was made up by a dude from Ohio - and it was Les Wexner who was Jax's clear target.  

Her larger target, of course, was the culture, not a brand.  It resonated, becoming a top 40 US hit in the summer of 2022, and also charting worldwide.  That is no surprise - the song is catchy and witty.  

Flash mobs featuring the song popped up in front of Victoria's Secret stores everywhere.  This one, led by Jax herself, may be my favorite. 

Of course, Victoria's Secret has tried to do damage control caused by the song, praising Jax for raising these issues, and has distanced themselves as far from Les Wexner as possible, but the damage is done.  And by damage, I mean their sales are up since this song came out.  That's true.  They dipped slighty year over year in the 4th quarter of 2022, but, really, this song was a net positive for them. 

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