• Adam Morris

What Brands Can Learn From Cardi B's "Girls Like You"


Cardi B's "Girls Like You" is catchy on the surface level, but imbued with deeper meaning. (Image source: www.directlyrics.com)

Brands (whether business-to-consumer or business-to-business) have the ultimate goal of appealing to people. This can be reframed from a scientific perspective: In order to appeal to people, brands must appeal to the brain. Within the disciplines of marketing, branding, psychology, and neuroscience, professionals have discovered what appeals to the brain – or more simply, what it just plain likes. This is often why certain brands, stories, products, or services resonate, while others fall flat.


The various techniques and devices that appeal to the brain are by no means limited to certain disciplines (eg. Interior Design), industries (eg. music), or subsequent categories (eg. pop music). Instead, techniques and devices that appeal to the brain are more universal. Recent sensation Cardi B's "Girls Like You" verse contains numerous techniques and devices that appeal to the brain, on top of expected pop music fundamentals like melody, harmony, pitch, tempo, and rhyming. Below is Cardi B's verse, followed by an examination of notable lyrics.

Not too long ago, I was dancing for dollars

Know it's really real if I let you meet my mama

You don't want a girl like me, I'm too crazy

But every other girl you meet is fugazy

I'm sure them other girls were nice enough

But you need someone to spice it up

So who you gonna call? Cardi, Cardi

Come and rev it up like a Harley, Harley

Why is the best fruit always forbidden?

I'm coming to you now doin' 20 over the limit

The red light, red light stop, stop

I don't play when it comes to my heart, let's get it though

I don't really want a white horse and a carriage

I'm thinkin' more a white Porsches and carats

I need you right here 'cause every time you're far

I play with this kitty like you play wit' your guitar

"Not too long ago, I was dancing for dollars"

  • Storytelling ("Not too long ago, I was dancing for dollars")

  • Alliteration ("dancing for dollars")

  • Metaphor ("dancing for dollars"; metaphor for exotic dancing)


"Know it's really real if I let you meet my mama"

  • Matrimony/Tradition ("Know it's really real if I let you meet my mama")

  • Alliteration ("really real")

  • Alliteration ("meet my mama")

  • Slang/Nickname ("mama")


"You don't want a girl like me, I'm too crazy"

  • Reverse Psychology ("You don't want a girl like me, I'm too crazy")

  • Association ("girl like me" associated with "Girls Like You", the song name)


"But every other girl you meet is fugazy"

  • Slang ("fugazy", meaning fake)


"But you need someone to spice it up"

  • Metaphor ("spice it up")


"So who you gonna call? Cardi, Cardi"

  • Rhetorical Question ("So who you gonna call?")

  • Self-reference ("Cardi, Cardi")

  • Repetition ("Cardi, Cardi")


"Come and rev it up like a Harley, Harley"

  • Metaphor ("Come and rev it up")

  • First-word Mnemonic Device ("Harley", referencing the full name Harley-Davidson)

  • Brand Reference ("Harley", referencing Harley-Davidson)

  • Repetition ("Harley, Harley")


"Why is the best fruit always forbidden?"

  • Biblical Reference (Book of Genesis; Adam and Eve)

  • Rhetorical Question ("Why is the best fruit always forbidden?")


"The red light, red light stop, stop"

  • Repetition ("red light, red light")

  • Repetition ("stop, stop")

  • Association ("red light" associated with "stop")


"I don't really want a white horse and a carriage

I'm thinkin' more a white Porsches and carats"

  • Comparison ("white horse and a carriage...white Porsches and carats")

  • Brand Reference (Porsche)

  • Association ("carats" associated with diamonds)

  • Theme of Love ("carats" associated with diamonds > diamonds associated with marriage > marriage associated with love)


"I need you right here 'cause every time you're far"

  • Contrast ("right here" and "far")


"I play with this kitty like you play wit' your guitar"

  • Simile ("I play with this kitty like you play wit' your guitar")

  • Sexual Reference ("I play with this kitty")



What's the Implication for Brands?


Language is powerful, and should be leveraged by brands in an effort to appeal to the brain. Brands can use themes, literary/mnemonic devices, associations and references just like music, movies, and other facets of pop culture do. Consider Coca-Cola's use of rhyme and alliteration in its name, John Deere's simile "Nothing Runs Like a Deere", or Wendy's rhetorical question "Where's the Beef?".


The brain likes what it likes. Best practices include giving the brain what's easy to process (eg. rhyming and alliteration), what it's familiar with (eg. the theme of love), or simply what's novel (eg. Cardi B herself is a new popstar). When a person likes something—whether it's a brand, song, movie, product, service, etc.—but can't quite describe why, it's often the result of techniques used that appeal to the brain on a subconscious level. ▲

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