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Dove - A not so ethical brand

I used to be a real fan of the Dove campaigns. Effective, socially responsible marketing that appealed to women all over the world, regardless of age or culture. The key here however, is 'used to be'.

Dove's award-winning campaigns - and associated initiatives such as the 'real beauty' TV shows, pro-age calendars, etc convinced us ('us' being women) that the brand really cares about women. That it wants to correct, protect and educate us and our daughters about realistic expectations of beauty, a healthy self-esteem, about self-worth. I was impressed by what I thought was one of the very few socially responsible brands who shouts out for what it believes in against the stream of cosmetic brands toting airbrushed, Photoshopped perfection above all else.

But it seems I was wrong. Dove actually isn't a very socially responsible brand. It just developed some good marketing campaigns. So what's my problem with Dove you wonder?
Simply this: it tests its products on animals. (Dove belongs to the Unilever group, which is black-listed by many animal rights activist groups for testing on animals.)
I wonder how many of Dove's female consumers know this...

If Dove really was a socially responsible brand; if it really wanted to take its 'campaing for real beauty' to the next level, it would also take a stand and stop testing its products on animals.

If only Dove realised the opportunity it is missing. It could become The Bodyshop of the 21st century, the vanguard of all the values we hold dear privately but miss so often in this age of want-more-for-less globalism.

So don't believe Dove just yet. They may have an ethically responsible approach to women and beauty, but behind the scenes they do not accord the same principles of ethical behaviour toward animals. So until Dove stops using animals to test and develop the products that pamper, cleanse and moisturize our bodies into a ripe (and hopefully beautiful) old age, they are nothing more than just another brand that has some great advertising campaigns.

It's time to get real, Dove!


Female Fever

This TrendWatching report give a pretty detailed overview of the exponential growth in the number of 'marketing to women' initiatives in various industry sectors.

Looking at the various products aimed at women being launched in so many different industries, my first thought was "wow! Companies are finally waking up to the enormous (sales) potential of marketing products specifically designed for women."
But as I kept reading, my frustration kept growing. It seems some stereotypes - very irritating stereotypes, by the way - die hard. As I kept scrolling through the photos and texts on each product I kept thinking "why do I see PINK everywhere? And what's with all the curly-thingies all over the place?" So even though some of the initiatives really hit the spot (check out the ABN AMRO 'Lady Delight'(bad name, great concept) investment fund!) many just 'paint it pink' - both literally and proverbially - in order to attract the attention of female consumers.

A fluorescent pink Swiss-Army Knife? thanks.
A pink road-side safety kit for women? And exactly why would I want that in pink???
A beer called 'Hoegaarden Rosee'?
Pink taxis, pink shoes, pink yoghurt tubs, pink, pink, pink, pink. Really guys: some of the ideas are great, but the (pink) marketing really kills it!
Its quite an eye-opener to realise many brands are still stuck in the 'pink phase' when it comes to marketing to women.

But ok, Rome wasn't built in a day, they here's hoping we all move out of the pink phase really soon...before I go completely crazy.


Mercator Insurance - funny or not?

When this ad first came on TV and I began to watch it, I found it quite funny. I could so totally imagine myself trying to drill a hole in the wall - with very little success (and a lot of damage to the wall). But then, as the ad comes to an end and the tagline is shown, I ain't laughing no more. I'm not going to give away the tagline here, you'll have to judge for yourself whether you think it's funny...or not.

NO MORE marketing to women

...well at least for today. As some of you who know me will know, I am madly in love with South Africa (a marriage of the soul "through good and bad times"). But very few of you will know that deep down at heart, this girl is a HUGE rugby fan (I hide it well). And at the moment, the World Cup Rugby is being played in France. Tomorrow is the finals....and guess who's playing???? South Africa! (Against England, if it should interest you). But don't worry about the details, that's not what this is about. Here we go: For once this closet-rugby-fan comes steps proudly into the public spotlight with her hidden boy-side. It's World Cup Finals and my team is playing!!! Out comes the green-and-yellow warpaint, the scarves, and god forbid, I'll even drink a Castle Lager if I could find one right now.... But even if rugby doesn't interest you one hoot (as I suspect it does), at least you can have a good laugh at this ad in support of the South African rugby team. ...And now here's hoping we win....!

Inspiration for all women

In 1934 she dropped out of school at the age of fourteen. In 2007, two weeks short of her 88th birthday, Doris Lessing, one of the great female intellectuals of our century, is awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

Although I could never be as presumptious as to put myself in the same category as Lessing, I can relate to her life and experiences as a woman, and she has served as a great source of reading-satisfaction and inspiration to me over the past years.

Lessing is a largely self-taught author who has drawn heavily from her time living in Africa, exploring the divide between whites and blacks, in much of her writing. Because of her criticism of the South Africa's former apartheid system, she was even prohibited from entering the country between 1956 and 1995.

Lessing however, is probably best known for her exploration of the male-female relationship in "The Golden Notebook", published in 1962 and considered by many a feminist classic, although Lessing does not consider the book to be a political statement.

Personally, I think Lessing deserves our respect not only for winning the world's foremost prize in literature, but also for the example she sets as a woman. For the way in which she has led her life, always questioning the status-quo, never taking 'the path of least resistance', always expecting the best of herself and living her life to the full - regardless of society's views of her choices. In this alone, she is already a memorable example to us all.

Here some memorable quotes by Doris Lessing

Dove does it again

After their win with the 'Evolution' campaign at the Cannes Advertising Festival earlier this year, Dove is back with another viral film called 'Dove Onslaught'.

It continues Dove's strategy of demystifying the beauty industry and helping set realistic beauty goals for all women.

Check it out!


Free Hugs Campaign.

I found this beautiful clip on the Rolling Talks blog. Caroline in turn found it on Facebook.
Talk about the power of viral marketing....

Take 5 minutes (3:39 minutes to be exact) out of your busy day to see this....It helps remind us all that being nice doesn't cost any money...And our world can do with a little more love and tolerance at the moment!


Nolita 'No Anorexia' Campaign dominates the media

This has to rate as one of THE most controversial (and succesfull) PR campaigns of the past few years...Ok, I consider myself to be fairly up-to-date on my Fendis, Pradas, Guccis, Manolos and the like, so when I saw the schocking image of this ad campaign the first question I asked myself was 'who in the hell is Nolita?' (Communication objective: raise awareness - tick; objective: position the brand as socially responsible, daring, outspoken - tick; PR objective: generate media coverage - tick).

This campaign is a brilliant example of two communication objectives companies so often set themselves, yet so seldomly achieve:

1."integrated" communication efforts. We all know the drill...."all communication efforts - ("through-the-line" in industry jargon), should be complimentary and strengthen the message". But how often have you really seen this in reality? Thought so....

This campaign is a great example of how advertising and PR can and should work together. I'd love to do an AVE calculation and ROI analysis on this one for the about being a good news bearer!

2. This campaign is just great marketing to women! Anorexia and an acceptable body weight for models have been THE topics of discussion the past 2 years. Nolita has taken a high-profile current-afffairs topic and used it to promote its own brand in a positive manner, putting it in direct opposition to the other fashion brands vying for attention around the time of the world's foremost fashionweek happenings.

99% of the world's women are not affected by anorexia directly or indirectly - most of us don't suffer from the disease nor know women who do, yet the pressure all women feel to look great has made many of us irrationally wish at some point in our lives that we did suffer from anorexia, just so we could be a little thinner, a little less 'in love' with food. Of course for 99% of us this is a fleeting, irrational thought that stays just that: a thought. But as this campaign so graphically shows, the reality of anorexia is devastating. And for the first time in history, 'the enemy' (read: the high fashion brands we deem partly responsible for the trend of thin, thinner, thinnest) takes a stand against all its cohorts and says: NO MORE.

So how did this campaign affect women across the world?

- suddenly we all know the brand Nolita

- we automatically link it to the 'No anorexia' campaign

- we see the brand as a vanguard leader, a socially responsible brand that dares speak its mind in the face of an industry that we all know in effect does nothing to reverse this trend, simply denying the problem or turning a blind eye.

Kudoz to Nolita for having the proverbial balls to launch this campaign.

Now what would be really great is if they kept the momentum of the campaign going by extending it to include other communication efforts: a section on their website that educates consumers about eating disorders and anorexia, a blog of the model in the campaign linked to their website, one year from now another campaign featuring the same model hopefully further along the road to recovery,....I can think of a million ways to continue promoting the cause (and the brand) in the coming months...


Anita Roddick - pioneer of smart marketing to women

Long before Dove woo-ed the world with it's 'campaign for real beauty', long before we all discovered that women make or influence up to 80% of all purchase decisions, long before the phrase 'marketing to women' was thrown about in every ad agency across town, there was Anita Roddick and The Body Shop.

Although Roddick was one of the world's great entrepreneurs who made millions by establishing The Body Shop as a sucessfull retail brand across the globe, she was first and foremost a woman and an activist...someone who spoke her mind, cared about the world around her and who never underestimated the power of 'one'. In her own memorable words: "one mosquito can do a lot of damage in a room full of people".

Roddick didn't like the beauty industry, calling it 'the nastiest in the world'. And she didn't like the direction in which, during the late seventies and early eighties, globalized commerce was spreading its first tentacles across vunerable countries and cultures at the expense of all in its way, refusing to play the game by the new rules. Instead, she swam upstream, and founded a company that held values such as respect, sustainability and environmentally-friendly at its core, long before they became fashionable labels most companies wanted to stamp across their brands.

And thus, long before marketing to women became the goose-that-lay-the-golden-egg it is today, Roddick made millions by tapping into those values which we now know women hold dear: be brave, be real, show value.

May her example as individual, woman and entrepreneur shine bright for generations of women to come.

Lessons in Seduction

It must be my all-time favourite lingerie ad campaign: Aubade Lingerie's 'Lessons in Seduction'.

Tongue-in-cheek humour, beautiful photography and a very clear brand and campaign identity that no-one ever confuses for another brand.

But here's the really surprising thing in the oh-so-fleeting world of ad campaigns: this campaign has been running since 1992. read it right...that's a 15-year campaign!

Seeking to revitalize the then-flagging brand, CEO Ann-Charlotte Pasquier fell in love with a publicist's idea to market each new set of underwear as a “lesson” in seducing men. The idea took off, and Pasquier now spends over 12 percent of the company's annual budget on marketing and communication. Sales have soared from €15 million (US$18M) in1992, when the lessons campaign first launched, to $50 million (US$60M) in 2002.

So why does this sexy campaign appeal to women as much as it appeals to men?
Simple: It provides a light-hearted look at the game of love, without being tacky or pornographic. And women (all women) identify with the tongue-in-cheek tips they are given to seduce a man. The tasteful black-and-white photos further help position Aubade as a luxury brand. And the campaign also hits home in drawing together women by the sharing of tips, which are clearly worded from a female perspective.

The campaign's message is clear: create desire, and give consumers (both men and women) a way to fulfill that desire through purchase of the product.

Talk about a win-win situation for both men and women! ...And Aubade of course!

A woman's guide to thriving in the corporate jungle

Any career woman worth her salt will tell you that it’s no easy job surviving in the corporate jungle. Standing your man – or your woman in this case – is not only a question of education, experience and sheer determination, but also of finely honed inter-personal skills.

First Impressions Count – for more than you may think.They say it takes us about 10 seconds to form an opinion of some-one we meet for the first time. In business, make that 3 seconds. Like it or not, people will have judged you on the way you dress, the way you move, the way you do your hair and your hand-shake before you’ve had the time to introduce yourself.The key to a positive first impression is so obvious; we almost always forget to mention it: pose. Nothing beats grace, style and finesse. The best way to convey your sense of ease in the corporate jungle is by dressing appropriately. Emulating your male counter-parts in the way they dress may sound ridiculous, but it will instil in them a subconscious recognition: she is one of us. Invest in a clean-cut black or grey pant-suit; add a splash of colour by donning a bright shirt or t-shirt. Always round off the out-fit with appropriate shoes: polished, black, mid-level heels. …and keep your hairstyle slick and conservative. Tied back in a low pony-tail if long, immaculately combed if short. The corporate world is no place to experiment with creatively brushed, wispy hairstyles or long bouncy tresses cascading over your shoulders. Also keep make-up and perfume minimal and subdued. Going in as Cleopatra incarnate conveys the wrong message altogether.

Body language – the unspoken conversation
Psychologists say that 80% of all communication between people is non-verbal. But what does this imply for women in the business world? Simply said, it means that our spoken words count for a mere 20% of the stimuli on which our conversation partner bases his or her opinion of us. So what are all those unspoken things they use to construct an opinion of us?During a business introduction, our conversation partner will judge us on things such as the firmness of our hand-shake, the way in which we look at them (or try to avoid looking at them), the tonality and pitch of our voice as well as the way we walk and stand. We in turn, will judge the other party’s frame of mind, their attitude (submissive, overpowering, and indifferent) by looking at their body language too. Taking this into consideration, it is worthwhile to train your body in the many little nuances of assertive body language.

A few handy hints:
- Walk the walk! Ever noticed how you form an opinion of a stranger you are about to meet as they walk toward you? The way they look at you, the way they move their body tells us more than the few polite words we will exchange during our introduction! Walk proudly and with purpose. Don’t fiddle with your clothes or files you are carrying to mask nervousness. Remember: 80% of all communication is non-verbal! People first pick up any nervousness from your body language…not your words.

- When meeting someone for the first time, don’t wait for them to extend their hand in introduction. Take charge! Extend your hand first and introduce yourself - it gives a clear signal that you are both self confident and at ease in the situation!

- Be prepared: always have business cards ready. Know the purpose of the meeting you are attending as well as the roles and names of the people attending. (Understanding their role in the decision making process may come in handy too). Make sure you have a pen and writing paper handy. Nothing leaves a worse impression than entering a meeting unprepared. Knowing the agenda of the meeting up front allows you to once again take charge and open the meeting with a targeted question or remark related to the topic at hand.

Choose thy words carefully
People who are trained to analyze our personality type be listening to the words we use can tell a lot from sentences such as “I feel that the deadline you are suggesting is a little unrealistic”, or “I sense that you want to change the day’s agenda”. Using words like feel and sense indicate that the person speaking is very much emotionally driven. Women, who are intrinsically more emotional than men, tend to use such words more often than men do. As a woman in a man’s world, it is best to avoid emotionally loaded words. Notice the difference if the words feel and sense are replaced by less emotional words: “I think that the deadline you are suggesting is a little unrealistic”, or “Do I understand you correctly when you say that you would prefer to change the day’s agenda?”. Words such as think, understand and comprehend immediately make your sentence sound more factual and logical, and thus more suitable to a business environment.

Life in the corporate jungle is cut-throat – even at the best of times. As a woman, surviving (and thriving) requires a lot of guts and finely honed inter-personal skills. But regardless how high our educational pedigree or carefully chosen our words, if our demeanour and body language convey a different message, we loose credibility. Remember…the devil’s in the details!


Holiday season food for thought

A quote I received from a client recently that is well worth sharing...

Il est difficile d'être une femme
il faut penser comme un homme,
avoir la dignité d'une dame,
ressembler à une jeune fille,
et travailler comme un cheval.


Dove "Evolution" campaign wins at Cannes

It's official! The Dove 'Evolution' campaign walked away with the Grand Prix at this year's Cannes Lions advertising festival!

Congratulations to OGILVY & MATHER (Toronto, Canada), the agency responsible for this brilliant campaign.

For those who don't know the background to this campaign, here's some more info:

The film was developed as extention to Dove's well-known 'Campaign For Real Beauty'. The goal of the film: to drive traffic to the company's website. First posted on Youtube 8 months ago, the Evolution film as been viewed well over 4 million times! (talk about a great word-of-mouth tool!)

But here's the really amazing thing about Dove's "campaign for real beauty" and its spin-offs: Although the campaign was launched a mere 3 years ago, it has single-handedly taken Dove from 'just another cosmetics brand' to 'vanguard, promoter and protector of realistic, individual female beauty'. And in doing so, it has won the attention, the hearts and no doubt the purses of millions of women world-wide!

Dove campaigns:
Evolution campaign


Cannes Lions 2007...And the winner is?

As the industry rats amongst us will know, the Oscars of the advertising world are awarded in Cannes, France each year...and right now the Cannes Lions 2007 are in full swing.

As the usual crowd of creative directors, agency CEOs, designers and account directors descend on Cannes for a few fun-filled days of sun, networking and of course the odd party or two, the biggest question remains: who will be this year's big winner?

The contest, according to leading industry sources, is clearly between 2 very worthy contenders: The Sony Bravia Campaign and the Dove "Evolution" campaign.

As a strong advocate smart marketing to women you can guess which one of the two I'm hoping will win...

The reason I like the Evolution campaign so much - because it is such an obvious rebellion against the stress-inducing ideals served up by the advertising industry - may seem a little odd given my profession. But of course it's not, because no matter what I choose to do professionally, I am a woman first, and no matter how much experience or professional insight I have into the ways of the industry, I remain susceptable to the joys (and irritations) of advertising, just like all women do.

Professionally and personally, here's why I'm hoping the Evolution campaign will win:

1. If we judge the sucess of a campaign not merely by the accolades it is awarded by industry peers, but primarily by whether it positively influences a) the perception and positioning of the brand and b) the sales of a product, then the 'Evolution' campaign can certainly be considered sucessful.

2. This campaign is a sign of the times in the advertising world. Consumers (not just women) have become more than a little rebellious about the blatantly manipulative sales messages so often thrown at them...They're clever, media-savvy and they know they have the power to make the ultimate decision of whether they listen to your message or buy your product, regardless of what they are told (also see the post on the ClueTrain Manifesto). They want you to treat them with respect - a lot of respect. They will not forgive their intellingence being underestimated. What they want to know is "do you get me and what is really important to me here, in the real world?...And do you know what I opposed to what you think I want?"

3. And personally, I hope the campaign wins because of the positive, reaffirming message it sends to all women, young and old, out there. Dove becomes the magician that reveals the way in which it performs the age-old trick that has kept us spellbound for so long. And in doing so, they broke through all our insecurities, our doubts and our anxieties by saying: "relax ladies, we'll show you how an ordinary woman, just like you, is transformed into a killer-babe...with the help of loads of stylists, truckloads of hairspray, buckets of make-up and of course, technology!"

And so, dear reader, Dove gets the respect (and the sales!) of millions of women world-wide. And respect is what it's all about when you want to connect with female consumers in a real, meaningful way.


Women love luxury cars

Women like cars as much as men do - but in a different way.
A recent North American survey confirms the fact that I'm apparently not the only woman in the universe to like sexy, racy cars (that offer style, class, safety and comfort too, of course).

What did surprise me, however, is the brand and model which holds the top spot on this list:
the BMW Z4.
Apparently there are a lot of women out there who like sports cars A LOT more than I do...
Of course the Z4 would be a lovely car to drive - on a sunny mid-summer sunday. I never expected it to be in prime position on the list though.

However, let me not keep you in suspense any longer. The 10 finalists (in order of priority):
1. BMW Z4
2. Audi A3
3. Volvo S60
4. Volvo V70 and C70
5. Lincoln Zephyr
6. Volvo S40
7. Audi A6
8. Land Rover Range Rover Sport
9. Cadillac SRX
10. Lexus IS

Kudoz to Volvo for the 4 models it has on the list (which confirms how important safety is to women)!

Of course this is a North American survey, and some of the models would not end up in a European top-10 list. But still: the Audi A3, the Volvos, the Audi A6 and the Lexus would no doubt also score well here.

And the BMW Z4?
Well of course we like the fluid organic lines and the power, but it would take a lot of convincing before I believe this would top European women's luxury car list. Maybe we are just a little too realistic (about European weather, bumper-to-bumper traffic, our hair, the family, ...) to put this zippy little monster in the nr 1 spot.

But hey, the 'Thelma and Louise" in every girl will still wish she had one!

(For those of you who like things rational and quantified: "This list includes the top 10 luxury vehicles with the highest percentage of female primary drivers based on CNW Marketing Research survey data. The firm conducted more than 15,000 phone surveys during 2006 on a range of topics about car buying and ownership. The list does not account for yearly vehicle sales volumes. Rather, it measures which vehicles have the highest percentage of female drivers based on the number of respondents who said they were the primary driver of a particular model." - Forbes


New print ad for WE hits the spot

I saw an absolutely great piece of 'smart marketing to women' today!
It's the new print ad for the Belgian fashion label 'WE'. Now I know WE isn't the coolest brand around, but this ad really hits the spot. (grab a copy of this month's Feeling magazine to check it out).

The concept is based on a song called "I'm a bitch" by Alanis Morissette, so in itself not an original, attention-grabbing concept, but it's still so well executed that I didn't even judge the ad for a second for borrowing inspiration from Morissette.

I don't want to spoil the fun you will have discovering this one for yourself by blabbing on about it here, so all I can add is this: go buy Feeling magazine and tell me that's not a campaign very woman between the age of 14 and 84 can relate to!

Kudoz to the agency that came up with this concept and executed it so beautifully!

Mom, Dad and technology

Those of you who are, as I, generation-Xers (or generation-Y), will no doubt be able to relate to the following scenario:

It's 9:30pm on a cold monday night. You're snuggled up on the couch after a hard day at work, totally engrossed in the latest episode of Heroes, when suddenly, your mobile rings....

A little miffled to be disturbed just as the hero-guy is about to paint another future-predicting mindscape, you consider not picking up. But then you glance at the phone's display and see it's Mom you think that, Mom being almost 60, it must be urgent and decide to pick up.

Me: "Hey Mom" (one eye and ear focused on the TV)
Mom (with a stressed voice...bad sign nr 1): "Sabine, it's Mom"
Me: "Hi Mom......"
Mom: "Sabine, I have a problem." (no chit-chat to start...bad sign nr 2)
Me: "Hmmmm" (still watching the TV)
Mom: "I'm sitting infront of the computer..." (very bad sign...)
"and I can't send and receive mails. I've tried rebooting the pc, I've checked my connection to the internet....I've been to the hotmail website...I don't understand...I keep getting this message that says 'send and receive error'."
Me (very worried because I can sense this is going to mean the end of Heroes for me): "That's strange..."
Mom (in a very stressed voice now): "I urgently need to send an email (at 9:30pm????) and I don't know what to do. Can you please come over...I've tried everything and really can't solve this."

So much for Heroes tonight then.

I'm sure many of you will relate to this scenario. As our Boomer parents have discovered the wonderful, wonderful world of the world wide web, email and all things affiliated, we, their Gen-X and Y offspring, have become their personal IT departments. My mom and dad truely believe my brothers and I can answer all their internet/computer-related questions, fix all their problems (even at 10pm) and buy them the perfect computer. Without me knowing, my parents have promoted us to network specialists, hardware analysists/troubleshooters, not to mention software programmers or IT purchasers.

One thing's for sure: Boomers have discovered what technology can do for them in a big way and they are here to stay (and consume). According to Imago Creative's article
Boomers 2.0 "Baby Boomers currently account for one-third of the 195.3 million Web users in the U.S., making them the Web's largest constituency". I bet Europe's boomers aren't far behind...

According to the article "...despite their size, purchasing power, and experience with all things digital, Boomers remain one of the most underserved technology audiences when it comes to customized destinations, products and services."(I smell opportunities for many companies in many, many different sectors here...)

Suggestion from a gen-X daughter: 24-hour telephonic support hotlines.


Women don't ask - how to succeed at negotiating

It seems that we women have a problem negotiating...Apparently we're not as vocal or as demanding as men when it comes to asking...for a promotion, a raise, or even a 'golden handshake' (also read 'Get Fired like a Man').

According to a new book called 'Women don't ask - negotiating and the gender divide', women fall into one of three categories:

- "I don't knows" - women who unaware of opportunities and their rights
- "I don't asks" - women who think asking will jeopardize getting the job or promotion
- "I don't boasts" - women who feel it is impolite to spotlight their accomplishments

Most of us will recognize ourselves in one of these profiles. But that's not the point really. The question is: what are we going to do about it?

There are lessons to be learnt here:
- Know your market value before you negotiate a new job
- Ask while you still can. It is a well-known fact that you are in the strongest position to negotiate your pay-check, perks, etc BEFORE you sign on the dotted line. Once you're in, negotiation becomes even harder...
- Keep on knowing your market value...even after 2 or 3 or more years in a job. Experience and proven performance are worth money to companies. Know your evolved market value as well as your internal value!
- Sh*t happens. If you are retrenched, don't take it lying down. Don't take the first offer you are presented. Negotiate your severance package until you are happy with it too.

A well-known female executive puts it so well:
"We often take what we can get. We compromise instead of negotiating."

Compromise vs negotiating...that's a thought to ponder...

Surviving (and having fun) in the corporate jungle

Today I discovered an interesting blog that I can recommend to all professional women out there. It's called The Ladies Room and contains lots of funny and interesting information on the challenges we face as professional women today.

Also well worth a visit: 'Barrieremeter voor Vrouwen' - a simple 10 minute test that analyzes wether your work/life balance is still in the green...(yeah, right...sure!)


Children and advertising

I found some interesting statistics on advertising aimed at children and the influence it has, both on the child and on the economy.

As vehement McDonals opponent it is especially children's recognition of the company's logo that scares me...

Did you know?

  • The average American child may view as many as 40,000 television commercials every year (Strasburger, 2001).

  • Children as young as age three recognize brand logos (Fischer, 1991), with brand loyalty influence starting at age two (McNeal, 1992).

  • Young children are not able to distinguish between commercials and TV programs. They do not recognize that commercials are trying to sell something (Comstock, 1991).

  • In 2001, teenagers, ages twelve to nineteen spent $172 billion (an average of $104 per teen each week), up 11 percent from $155 billion in 2000 (Teen Research Unlimited, 2002).

  • In 2002, children ages four to twelve are expected to spend an estimated $40 billion (McNeal, 2002).

  • In 2000, children 12 years and under, directly and indirectly, influenced the household spending of over $600 billion (McNeal, 2001).

  • In 1997, $1.3 billion was spent on television advertisements directed at children. Counting all media, advertising and marketing budgets aimed at children approached $12 billion (McNeal, 1999).

  • Children who watch a lot of television, want more toys seen in advertisements and eat more advertised food than children who do not watch as much television (Strasburger, 2002).

  • The market sales of licensed products for infants increased 32% to a record 2.5 billion dollars in 1996 (Business Week, 6/30/97).

Marketeers don't understand women

Europe may be starting to catch on to the 'smart marketing to women' trend at last.

An interesting article on the topic appeared on, one of belgium's leading online sources of business information, recently.

Although the article doesn't reveal anything staggeringly new on the topic of marketing to women, it does dare to address one of the most crucial elements of addressing women in communication: political correctness.

A touchy subject, you may think...Not true, and that's just what the article, or more correctly Phillippa Roberts, the author of 'Inside her pretty little head' wants us to understand. (Also see my post 'unashamedly woman', January 2007)

What Ms Roberts wants marketeers to understand is that political correctness toward women doesn't work when you want to communicate with women. Don't get confused...bear with me for a moment...
Political correctness, expressed in statements such as 'women are the same as men' are very, very, very passe. Women don't want to be 'the same as men'. Women want to be women. They enjoy being women. They want to be addressed as true women - in all their fullness, their complexity and their own right.

So how does one translate this to marketing, or communication?


What do we want?
Let us enjoy being women. We like the fact that we have 32 pairs of shoes. We can laugh at sexy jokes just as much as guys can. We admit to crying over silly love-scenes in films. We know we really shouldn't have that third glass of wine, but oh what the hell! Oh, and we giggle with our girlfriends about men and sex too.

What don't we want?
We don't want to take ourselves too seriously all the time and we don't want to be portrayed as 'women trying to be men'. We don't want to be boxed into neat little categories like 'mother' or 'career woman' or 'housewife' or 'partner of'. We are all those things and more.

I couldn't agree more with Ms Roberts! Let's hope marketeers take us seriously. I'm certainly ready for a dose of realistic, good-humoured communication I can relate to!

...I feel a 'Women in the 21st century for dummies' list coming on...Watch this space...coming soon!


Word-of-mouth: David versus Goliath

Yesterday, I experienced the arrogance some big companies display toward their customers first-hand. As a young start-up agency, I had to deal with a big, established agency - a self-professed 'market leader' - for one of my prospective clients. The experience again drives home the impact one single bad experience can have on the way female consumers will view a brand in the future.

Let's take a real-life example of what women do when they have a negative brand experience.
One of my clients - a female marketing manager at a multi-national - had a negative experience with a research agency whom she retained recently for a very high-profile project and who's performance was below-par to say the least. I was not involved in the project, and as such was not on a 'need to know' basis regarding the ins and outs nor the results of the project. My client however, fuming about the lack of service, attention to detail and quality of the supplier's work, did not miss a single opportunity to share her story with others. I heard it at least 3 times in meetings with different parties. Not only did she mention the brand by name, regailing the flaws of the agency in detail, she also explicity said "Let me give you some good advice: don't ever work with them!". Most of those present were women in managment positions. Women who have the decision-making power to choose suppliers and who went back to their respective companies with a very clear impression of the company in question in mind. No doubt this company was never going to be included in the short-list of possible suppliers for any of these women. What's more: when their companies in turn need to retain a research agency, these women are very likely to proactively warn their colleagues about the supplier.

Here are some important lessons brands can learn about women as customers:

1. Women bond with each other by exchanging stories and personal information. If your customer has had a bad experience with your brand, you can bet your bottom dollar on the fact that she will tell her family, friends and colleagues about it. Repeatedly.

2. Women remember the advice they are given or the stories they are told by others. (I've never considered buying an Alfa Romeo because two of my friends - both Alfa Romeos drivers - told me that they tend to have mechanical problems and advised me never to buy one).

3. Word-of-mouth between consumers has a credibility factor no advertising campaign can match. It is the most powerful influencer of your brand's image. As marketeers, we can tell our customers whatever we want about our brand. Ultimately, it is what consumers tell each other that carries the most weight. Word-of-mouth will determine whether a prospective consumer believes our communication or is willing to try our product.

Word-of-mouth: it's the 21st century battle of David versus Goliath.


Career tips - not for the faint-hearted

There are thousands of people and sites and blogs that will give you advice on how to survive in the corporate jungle. I've just discovered a posting on the re:invention blog that takes the 'blah-blah' (or yaddela-yaddela as Jerry Seinfeld would say) out of all those nice politically correct tips and hints.

"Nancy" an anonymous Marketing Exec cuts to the chase and dares to put down the tips we all know are true but most of us don't dare to admit to ourselves, let alone voice in public.

Without further ado - men and women alike - be prepared to hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

Warning: "Nancy's" 10 Tips are not for the faint of heart...

1. Getting a good education is totally not necessary, especially if "The Head Boss Man" is the guy you sit next to at the Moose Lodge/Rotary/Kiwanis, etc.

2. Work hard to win is a fallacy. A minimum level of work will suffice. Simply giving the impression of being busy will do.

3. Working extra hard (i.e. weekends and evenings) makes you look desperate.

4. Forget the old adage: "See what needs to be done and do it." If it's not getting done, there's a reason. No one cares! And neither should you.

5. Complain if you want results and you want someone to take action. Apply the squeaky wheel rule here. Or, put another way: You don't ask, you don't get.

6. For most of women, the mantra "ask for forgiveness, not for permission" is laughable and a sure sign of career death. Charging ahead will only yield a long diatribe from your boss about how you really don't have the authority to do whatever it is you were trying to do.

7. Don't worry about being on time. Again, no one cares.

8. The ROI on attending awards dinners, banquets, etc. is extremely low. Don't bother.

9. Innovation and change is bad. The status quo and standard operating procedures (SOPs) must be maintained.

10. Watch your back, because no one else is. Forget about being a team player.


The power of networks

Every day, I take my alloted 30 minutes to surf the web to see what's happening in the world of marketing, communication and of course, marketing to women. Every day, I am (pleasantly) surprised to see the number of women who are really going for what they believe in and the initiatives they take to help other women realize their dreams. Blogs, websites, forums and's all there, if you just look for it! But I often get a little frustrated too...Why are all these initiatives being made by women in America? It's a clear sign that there is much work to be done on this front in Europe.

Today I discovered "StartUpPrincess" - What a wonderful name for a blog that focuses on supporting women entrepreneurs!
And what a wonderful support network StartUpPrincess provides to female entrepreneurs! The blog also features something called(and here's another wonderful term..) 'fairy godmothers'. In the words of Kelly Anderson, founder of StartUpPrincess: "Fairy Godmothers are Women in Business and/or Start Up Princesses that have been successful and have reached a level of expertise in their field and want to share tips and insights to bless the lives of other women entrepreneurs."

Kelly's blog really drives home the fact that in Belgium, we should be making a greater effort to unite professional women - those with experience and those just starting out - to support each other. We should develop a community that helps us promote our businesses to each other and to the community at large. I know that I always try to bring my clients in touch with each other if I think they are complimentary in reaching their goals. Isn't this what creating a win-win situation is all about?

Kudoz to Kelly for her wonderful initiative! Here's hoping that next year this time we in Belgium will have similar networks and initiatives that will benefit women across the country!


Unashamedly Woman

When I tell people that I run an agency specialized in marketing to women, they often think I'm a feminist. And a feminist, I discovered throughout many conversations, is still defined by many people as a woman who 'wants to be equal to a man'.

I would like to correct this persistent misconception about what it means to be a 'feminist'.
It is not about being 'equal to men'. Nor is it about being 'more like a man'. Women are women, and they will always be different from men in many ways, with their own strengths and their own weaknesses.
And no, modern feministic girls don't burn their bras or hate men. That is soooo sixties, my dear!

But the best way to dispell any misconceptions there may be about what it means to be a strong, independent and if you want to add the label 'feministic' woman, is to introduce you to one.... Murielle Scherre, founder/owner of the lingerie label "La Fille D'O". Now this girl is unashamedly woman! No excuses, no nice girl demeanor, no safe and unconfrontational image. This girl is who she is: sexy, daring, outspoken, revolutionary.

Some may find her style just a little too confrontational, her imagery and language just a little too explicit, but I put my money on this: this girl is no doubt a role-model to many generation-X and Y women out there...Mark my words!


The Cluetrain Manifesto...Lest it be forgotten

What I'm about to tell you is nothing new, but if you haven't heard about it yet, it will change your world - guaranteed!

It's a document called 'The Cluetrain Manifesto'. Although it was first posted back in the dark ages (1999) it is still a document that any company executive, marketeer or sales person simply MUST read.

It starts like this:

"If you only have time for one clue this year, this is the one to get...

We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings - and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it."

If you haven't read it:

What makes The Cluetrain Manifesto so relevant - even seven years after it was first posted, is this:
a) It is written from the consumer's point of view - without any marketing lingo, statistics or self-absorbed analysis to block our view. It says what we as consumers (for we as marketeers are consumers too)think and feel about the way in which companies and brands communicate with us.
b) It is the strongest unspoken plea for the power of Word-of-Mouth marketing to date.

As marketeers, we can do, say or package things any way we want to, but if we don't connect with our consumers in a real and believable manner, if we don't make sure that we actually care about our consumers and the society our company operates in, then no matter how pretty our packaging or how slick our advertising, people will tell each other what they really think about the company, the brand, the product,...and it may not be pretty.

We must learn to recognize the unbelievable power of what people tell each other about our brand & product. We can try to 'harness', 'capture', 'influence' these conversations, but that will never really change what people say about us. What we need to do instead is contribute to these conversations - in an open, respectful and believable manner. Only then will people begin to really value our brand.

Food for thought...


A sign of the times...

If ever there was a sign of the way in which women's media consumption is evolving, then this announcement by women's magazine Elle (posted recently on says it all...

Damesbladen: online is beter
De Amerikaanse editie van het wereldbekende damesblad Elle stopt ermee. Althans op papier. De Amerikaanse lezeressen van “Elle Girl” zullen in de nabije toekomst hun blad alleen nog maar op het internet kunnen raadplegen. Uitgever Hachette Filipachi Media US is van mening dat er zoveel verandert in de wereld dat een statische inhoud van een papieren tijdschrift niet meer haalbaar is. Op internet kan de inhoud vlugger en regelmatiger worden aangepast.
Ondanks een goede oplage wordt nu gekozen om de publicatie in de toekomst alleen nog maar online verder te zetten.

Interesting to note is the 2004 research by Insites & The Interactive Advertising Bureau of Belgium (IAB), which noted that 75% of Belgian women "sometimes" used the internet to search for information pertaining to health & beauty products, while 25% did so "very often". In the US, research points out that "86 percent of women aged 18 to 29 were online, compared with 80 percent of men in the same age group"(source:

As 34 year old woman, I can vouch for the fact that, although I have my favourite women's magazines (which I buy sometimes but not on a regular basis), I do however, have my favourite women's websites, which I visit on an almost daily basis., which targets girls aged 14 to 25 gets what young women of today want. The younger female generation is internet-savvy but often still too cash-strapped to buy numerous premiere women's magazines, which makes an online edition of a prestigeous magazine such as Elle a worthwhile spot to visit to get all the latest in gossip, fashion and all the other things a girl's heart desire!

Take a look at


Car shopping: To Buy or Not To Buy

Shopping for anything related to cars fills most women with a sense of dread. Venturing into a territory wrapped in incomprehensible technical mumbo-jumbo, when all you really want is a good-looking, safe, reliable and not-too-expensive car, is daunting for most women.

Having spent the past four months (did you know it takes women on average 17 weeks to complete a car purchase?) looking around for a new car, I've had the opportunity to do my very own detailed field research on the topic. I've learned a lot, and it boils down to this: there is good news, and there is bad news.

Let's start with the good news:
I think most women will agree: things have been looking up lately, and marketing to women has also entered the car sales industry. Sexy little city-zipping mobiles, in-house life-style magazines touting everything from the latest wellness spa in Sweden to the scenic drives you can take in your new car (if you happen to take it with you on holiday to South Africa), even a car designed solely by women for women (Volvo) cars to women has become increasingly sophisticated and slick. I was impressed!

One dealership I visited - and from whom I didn't end up buying a car - upon hearing that I had purchased a car at another dealer in their network, even sent me a very nice letter thanking me for visiting them and reassuring me that I was welcome to bring my new car to them for service and after-sales support. A very nice touch, I thought, were it not for the fact that the salesperson (man) at this specific dealership, was also the person who completely destroyed his expensive german manufacturer's efforts in marketing its cars to women.

Which brings me to the bad news..
Now granted, as women we don't always know too much about all the technical stuff in cars, so the sales people have to explain it to us a few times before we either understand (mostly not) or we simply make as if we understand. The look in their eyes and their body language always tell me they know I don't understand, at which point (mistake nr 1) they turn to my partner to explain it all a little more, instead of re-explaining things to me by linking these technical features to real-life benefits.

But mistake nr 2 really takes the cake.
Glancing down at your customer's chest - repeatedly -while walking her around a car and explaining the latest braking system to her (partner) is just unforgivable, no matter how subtle you're trying to be. She will notice, believe me, and with it you will loose any trust she may have had or any inclination to want to buy from you - now or in the future.

Marketing to women is not something which companies can do only through expensive ad campaigns in all the right magazines, sexy in-house magazines, funky point-of-sales materials or great personalized direct marketing. It also extends to the way in which its sales force treats its female customers.

If companies fail to train their sales-force to understand the mind-set of female customers in relation to their product, fail to teach them about women's needs and concerns in relation to their product and fail again to train them to approach women in an appropriate manner, the most refined marketing to women concepts will continue to miss their mark.