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December Newsletter Out Today!

We've put together our best newsletter yet - a compilation of the best and the worst (and the funniest) in the world of marketing to women. Chock full of videos, insight and inspiration, we hope you enjoy this review of 2008.

As always, we would love to hear your feedback. Agree? Disagree? Have a different campaign to suggest?

Don't forget - to sign up, email us at! Enjoy.


Friday Fun: gender stereotyping

Here's a fun ad for a friday afternoon! It's called "Beware of the doghouse" and forms part of J.C. Penny's end of year print & viral campaign (agency: Saatchi & Saatchi).

We here at Muse really like the ad: it deals with gender stereotypes (and some very realistic situations we can all relate to) in a light-hearted, non-offensive way that still respects both sexes. And as we're 3 weeks away from the festive season, it also highlights the gift-buying anxiety many of us feel at this time of year.

...And if the number of presents pawned on ebay on January 1st is anything to go by, this ad reminds us: make sure you get it right, or you end up 'in the doghouse' (and your gift on ebay)!



The end of wrap-rage as we know it.

This phrase almost made me snort* my coffee all over my keyboard this morning: "Frustration-Free™ Packaging"

When I mentioned the remote possibility of frustration-free packaging here in the office, everyone became very curious, because, lets face it: who hasn't cursed trying to open the hard-plastic packaging of a new toothbrush or waded through reams of wire-tie, styrofoam and bubble-wrap to get to that brand-new remote control toy car. Wrap prevalent, it's right up there with road rage!

I've always said and I'll say it again: great marketing (also to women) starts with a great product. And packaging is of course part of the product...Actually: it's a consumer's first experience with the product!

As consumer, I can no longer count the number of times I have cursed trying to open a a shrink-wrapped package (with my teeth), or the number of times I have felt totally guilty for buying a 50ml jar of facecream inside a box large enough to ship an elephant.

So: kudoz to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for starting the "Amazon Frustration-Free™ Packaging" initiative. With it, the company joins forces with a list of companies including Mattel, Fisher-Price and Microsoft to deliver products in smaller, easier-to-open packaging.

On behalf of at least a few million consumers, I would like to thank you for taking the first step, Jeff...this can only lead to less frustration and less guilt on the consumer's side! (Not to mention the money you guys will save by using smaller/lighter and less packaging!)

*Courtney's recommended word this morning. No animals or humans were injured during the unfortunate coffee incident. The keyboard survived too (it's a Mac...of course.)


Ah, Women!

There's a great article on Time Magazine's website called "Women in Luxury" that showcases interviews with some of the most powerful women behind some of the world's most powerful brands.

I read a few of the interviews, and what struck me is this: the women interviewed give such a wonderfully individual, quirky insight into the beautiful complexity of women as individuals...and perfectly illustrate why categorizing women by demographics alone just doesn't make sense any more!

Odile Roujol, President of Lancôme, is the perfect idiosyncratic example of this.
Roujol perfectly represents Lancôme understated sense of style with her white cotton blouse and trim black slacks...and then she pairs it with 5-in. Prada platform sandals. In purple. Her lifestyle is anything but "40-to-54" either. If she's not traveling for work on weekends, Roujol could be in-line skating with her sons by day or visiting the opera at night.

Or take Stella McCartney, "Since launching her label in 1995, McCartney has made a mission of designing collections that are environmentally awake. Her clothes and accessories, including shoes and handbags, don't contain a stitch of leather." Strong, outspoken and surrounded by stars, glitz and glam most of the time, the 37-year old lists her mom as her biggest inspiration...

Or take Lorna Kelly Kelly, luxury auctioneer at Sotheby's who, at 63, is also an avid student of Buddhism and often sports a dramatic pink streak in her hair.

What a wonderful illustration of individuality these women are!

(And I dare anyone to tell kelly or my mom (both in their early sixties) that they are now in the demographic 'senior citizens'!)


Money Matters

Most people don’t pay attention to how much money has been spent on a brand before purchasing something. One might notice the changing ad campaigns at bus stops or billboards or comment on which companies choose to spend millions in a Superbowl football ad. At least, until recently.

In today’s financial climate, we’re all more aware of how much a company spends – on anything from golden parachutes to advertising budgets. So when I read about Pepsi’s new brand campaign and its 1.2 billion dollar budget, I consciously thought - I want a Coke. I mean, how could any company knowingly choose to invest that much money in changing what is already a well-known brand? That sort of money seems wasteful in today’s economy. While they’re a world-wide brand and this is a three year budget, it still reeks of big corporate money and not real inventiveness or creativity – something the brand desperately needs.

And its not just a one-off, single example of being aware of a company’s budget decisions. People want to know about a company’s fiscal responsibility – in all areas.

This ad focuses on the striking disparity between really caring about one’s customers by focusing on solving problems or only caring about the customer’s dollar, as ‘PC’ seems to here. In today’s fiscal atmosphere, there is a need to focus on financials and how companies are choosing to spend their money. One has to be transparent in business and not just in the products and services but also, surprisingly, in promotional efforts.

Money matters, along with everything else.


Tales of passion

I recently discovered the TED conference: an annual event that brings together some of the world's greatest thinkers and doers, and challenges them to "give the talk of their lives" — in only 18 minutes.

I also discovered Isabel Allende, novelist and memoirist and author of the enormously successful "The House of Spirits". Allende gives a wonderfully funny, moving and very inspiring talk that all women should hear.



Marketing during the recession.

I think we can call it official: the economy is a stumbling, faltering mess.

The growing rumbling of the recessional snowball can be heard loud and clear on both sides of the Atlantic now, and there are no signs that it’s going to miraculously disappear any time soon. In fact, this may be one of the most fundamental marco-economical shifts in many decades, and I can’t help but think that the magnitude of the possible changes makes us all freeze like rabbits in a car’s headlights. We’re not quite sure where it’s going and we have no idea how it will end.

“Recession” is a word that also causes marketeers sleepless nights. Suddenly, nothing across any of the four “Ps” is the way it was yesterday. Consumers have a different mindset about spending. Price elasticity curves change. Managing the company balance sheet takes priority above all else (especially marketing), and as marketeers we’re expected to do much more with much, much less.

Of course a recession affects different market sectors in different ways and to different levels, so a one-approach-fits-all for recessional marketing doesn’t exist. However, here are some key truths that hold true for all brands during a recession:

Economical uncertainty leads to uncertainty on a personal level. Consumers worry about their jobs, their household budgets, their savings. They tend to cut back on discretionary spending, postpone larger purchases, trade down or buy less. As a recent Harvard Business School article said: “Yesterday’s must-have features become today’s can-live-withouts”.

Seth Godin said: “When times are good, buying things is a sport. It's a reward. The story we tell ourselves is that we deserve it, that we want it and why not? When the mass psychology changes and times are seen as not so good, the story we tell ourselves changes as well.”
The answer? Address the consumer’s changing priorities and needs in your communication. Try to strengthen the relationship with your customer by offering great price/quality, stellar customer service and keep your brand top-of-mind with the right messages and communication efforts.

Gimmicks are out. Quality is in. Focus on your product’s reliability and performance. Reassure your consumers that you will continue to focus on quality. Products that address the new realities of the consumer – both on a product level and a communication level can do well in these uncertain times.

It goes without saying that most consumers become more price conscious during a recession. I’m not saying change your pricing strategy completely, but in the current economic climate, price elasticity will decrease in most sectors and consumers are more likely to shop around for the best deals. Offer consumers temporary price promotions, bulk buying discounts or bundled product packages to appeal to a value & budget conscious mind-set.

Don’t forget that your channels suffer too during hard times. It may prove impossible to retain your channel breadth & depth, but it would be wise to evaluate partnerships and support your strongest partners. Training them on your products and providing them with the support to promote your products will lead to a stronger relationship and will see you take market-share at a time when everyone else is cutting back!

“Successful companies do not abandon their marketing strategies in a recession; they adapt them” says Harvard Business School.

One of the most forgotten advantages of a recession is the fact that marketers have more bargaining power with media outlets. With marketing spend drastically cut, spots open up for the taking at reduced prices – paradise for astute negotiators!

Although marketing is about creating a long-term sustainable advantage, promotion during economically difficult times can focus on increasing short-term sales too. Instead of campaigns focusing on corporate image, now’s the time to invest in cross selling and up selling tactics, point-of-sale actions, direct marketing activities or channel promotions to increase revenue.

As I wrap up this article, the news has just come in that Tokyo’s NIKKEI index fell to its lowest point in 21 years. These uncertain times are the stuff nightmares are made of, for consumers and marketers alike.

The best advice I’ve had to date? Don’t panic. Stay focused. Spend frugally. Be ready to adapt swiftly.


My Financial Planner Should Be Famous

A number of years ago, I turned to a financial planner when I was a waitress. With so much cash on hand, I knew I should do something with my money but was unsure what. With a degree in English and a passion for words, not numbers, I knew that I would never be able to understand or research a topic as thoroughly as my money deserved. I turned to someone who would be able to answer my questions and speak to me openly and honestly – a financial planner with Edward Jones.

My actions are in line with The National Center for Women and Retirement Research (NCWRR) statement that women spend more time researching their investment choices than men do. This prevents women from chasing "hot" tips and trading on whims—behavior that tends to weaken men's portfolios.

In truth, if you go by numbers alone, women are better investors. In a University of California Davis 1997 study, they found that women's portfolios gained 1.4 percent more than men's portfolios. And men trade 45 percent more often than women do because men tend to be overconfident. By trading more often (and without enough research), men reduce their net returns. By trading less often, women get better returns and also save on transaction costs and capital gains tax.

The financial market is no different than any other sector in that women still like lots of information. Women seek out financial data and information online, and are more apt to seek financial advice from an advisor. With today’s current state of affairs and the headlines reporting dire financial news, it should come as no surprise that I again turn to my financial advisor. My accounts are a few zeros short of being important to anyone other than myself, but I can’t help but wonder what to do? Is there action for me to take?

My financial advisor’s reaction to my uncertainty and fear is so good, I have to quote him, “I can appreciate your concerns. While we are in a downturn in the economy and there are many issues with the credit markets, the future is much brighter than the media leads us to believe. I will be happy to discuss with you at your convenience. The best thing to do right now is sit tight, remain diversified, be patient and invest monthly when possible. I sincerely appreciate your business and continued trust in me.”

And when I didn’t respond in two days, he followed up with, “I never heard back from you so I wanted to follow up. Do you want to chat this week? I will do my best to accommodate your free time.” This is a perfect example of 'how to respond to an email' or 'how to have excellent customer service.' Or simply, how to do a job so well, you have customers raving about you like I am doing now.

With this level of customer service, attention, and honesty, combined with the recognition of my fears and current situation, as well as a suggestion for what to do, it is quite understandable why women turn to financial advisors. This is a recipe for continued success no matter how the markets change. I can only hope your financial advisor is as attentive and kind as mine (not to mention, good with money!). You can find Jonathan Stearns here.

No Sex Please, We're Women.

I was recently asked by De Morgen's weekend supplement WAX, to write an opinion piece on the use of gender stereotypes and nudity in advertising. I called the article "No sex please, we're women".

No Sex please, we’re women.

I’m a woman and I don’t like sex. I want everything around me to be nice, perfect and clean and I want it to be completely politically correct. And above all: no sex, please.

That at least, is the way I understood women to want things after reading a press statement by the European Parliament’s women’s rights commission stating that all stereotypes in advertising should be outlawed and a few days later being confronted with a recent study by KU Leuven about the effects of nudity in advertising.

It’s interesting to see how our lawmakers and ad-makers alike still grabble with what it is that women want.

European lawmakers, under the watchful eye of Ms Svensson, on the one hand, call for a ban of all gender stereotypes in advertising. A woman cleaning the kitchen, a man polishing his car. Svensson wants us to realize that these images play up (or down) to stereotypes about the role of men and women - and in doing so undermine equality between the sexes. I agree with Svensson when she says that "gender stereotyping in advertising straitjackets women, men, girls and boys by restricting them to predetermined and artificial roles that are often degrading, humiliating and dumbed down for both sexes".

Boys should be allowed to play dress-up with their dolls without Dad having a heart attack. Girls should be allowed to come home with a blue eye after a scrap in the schoolyard without Mom becoming hysterical about the reputation of her little girl. Women should be able to admit to enjoying one-night stands, and men should be allowed to cry during Sex in the City.

While I agree with Svensson that stereotypes can help confine people to boxes they don’t fit into, I don’t support her solution to the issue. The recommendation that governments police the advertising industry by creating regulatory bodies to monitor ads and introduce a “zero-tolerance” policy against stereotyping and degrading imagery fills me with a faint sense of George Orwellian dread. I wonder how the concepts ‘stereotypes’ and ‘degrading’ will be defined for me, and by whom.

What if the government doesn’t like the ad for Opium perfume featuring a stunningly naked size 42 Sophie Dahl in a pose suggesting masturbation? Provocative? Yes. Degrading? No. And will they disapprove of the legendary Diet Coke commercial featuring a bare-chested male construction worker? This ad too plays perfectly to a gender stereotype – but it worked oh so tantalizingly well...

Having grown up in South Africa during the apartheid infested eighties, it may be my fear of an overbearing authority speaking, but the question of who will decide what is acceptable or not, and whether these definitions will change with the government of the day, keep me awake. Government-sponsored media control not only affects freedom of speech, it also strips us of our personal responsibility as individuals to help effect change. That is much worse for society than stereotyping a woman fawning ecstatically over her whiter-than-white washing.

The problem with the acceptability of stereotypes lies in this: many stereotypes are in part based on reality. Is a stay-at-home mom a stereotype or a reality? Is a young, muscular construction worker a reality or a perpetuated reality? Distinguishing between reality and what is perpetuated as reality is a very grey area I would rather not have policed by the government du jour.

Which brings me to that other famous grey area in advertising: nudity. A recent study researched the impact of nudity on economic behavior and found that – surprise, surprise: nudity works. Well, at least it does for men. When it came to the way it affects women’s behavior, answers became a lot more vague. From “…een belangrijke groep vrouwen is ook gevoelig voor beelden van schaars geklede mannen” to “…[vrouwen] zijn even goed opwindbaar, en zullen wellicht ook veranderingen in hun economisch gedrag vertonen, maar dat zal eerder gebeuren in situaties waar de seksuele prikkel via de tastzin wordt geleverd in plaasts van via het oog.”

I’m still trying to understand these findings. Which women exactly fit into this “belangrijke groep vrouwen”? And if, as the study says, women are sensitive to images of scantily clad men, then what about me liking the Opium ad featuring a squirming Ms Dahl?

…And God forbid we consider the implications of women being more affected by a sexual impulse delivered through touch. I’m just not ready for a sensual fondle by the sales assistant at the local Zara!

But seriously: does nudity in advertising affect women? Yes, it does. I know the stereotype says that women don’t like sex or that women are not affected by nudity, but the reality is: we do and we are! We like our Diet Coke Man as much as we like our naked Sophie Dahl. But for us, nudity for nudity’s sake doesn’t work. It must add value to the message. If it sells us an empowering emotion, if it makes us giggle, if it holds up an inspiring, sensual mirror, if it conveys unabandoned freedom or playful eroticism, then yes, we are affected.

So instead of heading down the slippery slope of government-sponsored media censorship or silently allowing misperceptions about women to persist, here’s my recommendation: let’s support Ms Svensson’s suggestion that the advertising industry instead give prizes to companies who do the most to break down what it sees as gender 'straitjackets'. But let’s also take up our own responsibility as individuals and speak up about what we will and won’t accept, what we like or don’t like.

Do I like degrading images of women? No, I don’t. But I like the fact that some government could be deciding for me what is acceptable and what not much less.
Shouldn’t we as women and consumers be wielding our own conscience and using our wallets to show the advertising industry and big business what we do and don’t like, what we will and will not tolerate? For although it is a government’s task to draw global boundaries, it remains our individual responsibility to stand up and count in shaping positive and constructive images that accurately reflect our society.


Fantastic Lingerie Marketing

Have you seen the new Playtex campaign? What a wonderful example of marketing lingerie to women in an appropriate, fun way! Every woman can relate to this!

Humor in Advertising to Women isn't Funny

Humor in advertising to women isn't funny because it doesn't seem to exist. Where are all the funny ads that appeal to women? Using humor to appeal to women is great idea but often falls flat upon execution. Here is a car ad that is trying to be funny, trying to appeal to women by spoofing on the overt sexual nature of these men washing the car.

The ad plays on the idea that there are a lot of cliché ads with sexy women soaping up cars. It turns that idea on its head by having large, overweight, half naked sumo wrestlers. I appreciate that this ad plays to both my good humor and assumed intelligence to appreciate the satire. However, it doesn’t sell the car. There are no details, no information, no real truth in this ad, ONLY humor. I am left with a smirk and no recollection of the product itself. Funny, yes. Strong ad, no.

Using humor is difficult but this next ad pulls the idea off perfectly. A sign of its success is that I saw this ad not on TV, but because my father sent me this, laughing so hard, he had to share it. I don’t think he considered what made the commercial so funny is that this humor was based on a truth, a reality we all know. Most men love their gadgets and technology. They love one-upping each other, and this ad does a brilliant job of combining those two elements into one ad. Just as the car ad commented on the truth of females in ads are often portrayed as sexy and half-naked, this phone ad speaks to the competitive nature in men and their propensity towards gizmos and gadgets.

This phone ad is a much stronger success story because not only is it funny, what is funny is related to the actual product. The humor is in the technology, the benefits of having so many great perks to one’s phone. The humor reinforces the product and the branding message.

However, this funny ad is definitely directed towards men. It appeals to everyone in the joke, but likely to be effective in purchasing with the just men. This ad cannot be applied to women. So where is a funny ad for women?

That is the challenge! I can’t find that many! There is one that we referenced before about a man buying his girlfriend tampons. But there must be more! In writing this post, I have watched no less than 30 commercials tagged as hilarious or funny. And by what I have seen, you would think that either women don’t have a sense of humor due to the complete lack of funny ads that appeal to women OR that the only thing that can be funny is about sex. I’m not being closed-minded – this is a call out. I know there must be some funny ads that will result in a woman being more likely to purchase a product or service. Where are they? Please share your fave funny commercials here! I'd like to see examples of what works, what appeals and what is funny to you.

Yet another reason why marketing to women exists – women can enjoy a good joke as much as the next guy but have been left out of the comedy club. We're ready to laugh.


I'm off!

I'm away for the week and looking forward to a break from this ubiquitous grey weather. I hope to bring some sunshine back with me.

Do You Believe in the Power of One?

I like to think one person CAN make a difference – in the real world, the virtual world – even the corporate world. One of my favorite books is The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. It’s a tale of inner strength, making strong personal connections and being as real and authentic as possible.

These same core beliefs; inner strength, real friendship and authenticity, don’t merely belong in fiction but also apply to the world we live in, including the virtual one. The concept of living meaningfully resonates with a wide, varied online audience. Find non-profit jobs and volunteer opportunities on, read tips on simplifying life at, learn how to live greener with or watch inspiring videos at

The Internet allows beauty and idealism to prosper in a variety of forms, most notably with the strength of the people using the Internet. Just like the book Groundswell by Li and Bernoff states, the power of the people has never been more evident than online. A great organization to harness this power and altruistic enthusiasm is the inventive Carrotmob. I saw a ten-minute video a few months back of their work in CA. Here’s the shorter four minute clip

The Concept: Carrotmob approached a number of convenience stores in one town to find the shop willing to donate the highest percentage of income from the sales of one day to a charity. The motivation for the stores to participate was the promise of extra customers courtesy of Carrotmob promotions.

End result? HUNDREDS of customer flooded the chosen store on the set date, exceeding all expectations of the shop owner, giving them a boon of profit PLUS a big chunk of money was donated towards making the store more energy efficient!

Reason it works? It’s being able to do good by doing what you were planning on doing anyway, without any extra effort. We all have to buy things. Given the choice of buying batteries and a carton of juice at a regular shop or at a shop that offers the same thing, for the same price but gives a portion of your money to a good cause? No contest! It’s going with green with no effort. It’s being better with out having to break a sweat.

It’s the power of one by simply being you! What a brilliant concept.

I see the Carrotmob idea – motivating corporations to do well – easily catching on. It empowers the individual. It gives control back to the person making the purchase. And it potentially increases the profit of the company. Everybody wins!

What do you think - can this idea work across the world? In the corporate jungle or in globalized commerce initiatives? Would you make a conscious effort to make your purchases with companies donating towards a worthy cause?


Happy Birthday to the Queen of Pop

Today's post comes to you compliments of guest blogger and fellow modern feminist, Jesse, over at FashionLimbo.

I confess: I have been a Madonna fan since the age of five. I have all the albums, singles, calendars, posters and books. I troubled my parents and made my conservative aunts blush covering my walls with her Erotica pictures when I was only 10. I learnt about love, sex and life from her, and she remains my role model.

Madonna began with nothing. She is an icon of the 80s, the 90s, and she is still an idol today. She has sold millions of records, topped the charts more times than Elvis, received dozens of awards. She created her own record and production company, and has written books and a directed a film. Her latest album is a global hit, and her upcoming world tour is selling out as I write.
She is the ultimate businesswoman, has defended femininity and girl power worldwide, telling women to take control of their lives, live their dreams and ignore male-imposed principles. Yet, all the headlines are saying right now is that she is 50, young no more, and really: isn’t it time she stopped? And who does she think she is walking around in skimpy underwear for her latest video? And what about all the surgery she has had done?

Relationships and motherhood proved to be two more battle grounds of principles for our Queen of Pop. Madonna has not only been portrayed as a sperm shopper, but also recently as baby snatcher for falling in love with a Malawian boy at an orphanage. She is portrayed as an unfaithful wife because she keeps working, travelling abroad, networking and leaving her husband to do his own thing. Her latest offence? Turning 50 and releasing a raunchy album, daring to dance alongside young Justin Timberlake. The media is covering the milestone over and over again: just Google “Madonna turns 50” and you will see what I mean. It is everywhere.

My question is this: when Brad Pitt turns 50 (he is 45), will we all make the fuss we do today? Will we be debating whether he should start toning it down and covering up, will we question his ability to do his job?

Why is it that women have an expiry date to their career, their femininity or motherhood? Why is it that beauty products still use teenagers to sell anti-wrinkle products, and apart from Dove (and Jane Fonda), older female models have yet to enter the media and marketing landscape. We still live in a world that teaches us every day: “if you are a woman and wrinkled, cover up, because nobody wants to see it”.

The purpose of this post? To congratulate my idol on her beautifully successful existence. To tell women out there that we owe her a lot, that we still need her to remind this world of the need for change, and to publicly proclaim that she is the sexiest woman on this planet at 50, 55 or 65. This post is for all those women who are turning 50, or who are 60 and older and still feel sexy and refuse to slow down.

And last but not least: this one is for Madonna…For contributing to who I am, for opening the worlds’ eyes to erotica, female sexuality without guilt, music and artistic integrity, in the 80s, 90s, noughties and beyond.

Happy birthday Madonna.


News, views and a breath-taking video

The summer vacation is almost at an end and it's been a busy period for us, preparing for the months ahead.

There's much happening that I want to share with you in the coming weeks, not least of all our upcoming talk "Why women own 19 pairs of shoes (and other secrets revealed)" at the Brussels Geek Girl Dinner on August 20th.

I would also like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Courtney Davis, one of the newest members of Muse Communication, who'll be blogging here with me from now on.

I met Courtney in March this year, in my search for a person to strengthen our management team. I knew Courtney was the person I was looking for when I arranged to meet her in Ghent, and we both arrived wearing all black with red accessories and both ordered a glass dry white wine, which we finished while talking non-stop about life, universe and everything else over the next two hours. It's difficult for me to describe Courtney in a few words, suffice it to say that she is a very competent, switched-on woman and marketeer who brings invaluable knowledge and insight to the company. I leave it up to Courtney to explain the garlic, the barefoot hippy and the other parts here.

To wrap up for today there is this video, which won the short film award at Cannes and shows the power of getting the message just right. It will take your breath away...

Wanted: second-hand woman for sheer driving pleasure

Every time I look at this ad for BMW's selection of "Premium Used Cars", I just can't believe my eyes. (hat tip to Copyranter, where I found the ad)

HELLO? Is there anyone home at BMW Marketing...?

The questions that keep popping up (please do excuse the pun in this case) in my mind are:

a) Is this guy really in marketing?
b) How many of his brain cells were actively participating in helping him make the decision on this one?

Do they really pay him at BBDO Greece? And was there no-one more strategic to review this concept?

In my opinion this ad is the perfect example of "how stupid ads are made". The answer? One long chain of unbelievably short-sighted decisions made by people who really shouldn't be paid to be in marketing or advertising.

The last person to leave the BMW marketing team, please: switch off the lights.


What Rock Chicks can teach us

I'm back from two days at Rock Werchter, one of Europe's biggest summer festivals. I came back with more than a sore back, blistered feet and the feeling that a russian second world war tank has just driven over my body. I also came back with two of the most valuable lessons about why women buy into brands.

Lesson number one "BE REAL" came in the form of The Gossip - a US band lead by front singer Beth Ditto.
Beth, unapologetic, in-your-face and rauncheously female, played a rocking set to a crowd of thousands of women who clearly loved every single voluptuous inch of her. There were no diva allures about Beth. She jumped down to talk to the crowd in the middle of the set; climbed (rather ungraciously) back onto the podium, sang from the bottom of her heart, played on a fan's trumpet, gave it back to him and thanked him!
What did Beth give her fans that we as marketeers can learn from?
- What you see is what you get. No bullsh*t, no false promises, no promises she doesn't deliver on. Au contraire...she exceeded our expectations by delivering what we expected and more, and being respectful to her audience.

Lesson number two "SURPRISE US AND SHOW US YOU CARE" was delivered by Dutch Diva Anouk.
Anouk took a crowd of almost eighty thousand people by complete surprise when, in the middle of one of her biggest hits, her little 4 year old boy (wearing ear-mufflers and sporting a red plastic guitar) appeared shyly on the side of the stage. And what did she do? She stopped singing, and told her band to stop playing. She then walked over to her son, bent over and asked him if he wanted to play a song with her. Holding the mike to his guitar, she accompanied him, in the smallest, most fragile mother's voice, as he strummed halting, incoherent notes on his plastic red guitar. After almost 3 minutes of this (and a crowd going absolutely wild) she resumed her song. I don't think there was one single person in that whole crowd who minded that interruption one single bit. And it didn't end there. Throughout her performance, her three sons kept running across the stage, huddled in ear-muffs and warm fleece jackers. Every now and again, she stooped to pick up one of them, planted a quick kiss and resumed her set.
What a woman...Clearly she wanted her children with her while she was away from home. What she gave us though, without realizing, were 3 reasons to like her even more.

To Beth, and Anouk I dedicate this post. And thank them: for being real, for being so likably human, for wanting to connect, when they could have settled for giving a just another performance.

And in this lies the lesson all marketeers should heed: marketing is long past the point of being a song-and-a-dance performance. Heed your consumer...they want more. Actually, they want all of you. And that is where the future of successful marketing lies: forming real connections, respecting your consumer, being real and giving back. That is what consumers really buy in to.


On motherhood (again)

Although I'm not a Mom, I really appreciate this site "True Mom Confessions"

It's a fantastic community building site for moms to visit, especially in frustrating moments, of which, no doubt there are many.

Moms (and Moms-to-be) can anonymously share their worries, stresses and silly moments with like-minded women.

From a marketing-to-women perspective, I really like it because:
- I love the homepage visual (shown above). It shows a woman as more than just a mom
- I love the unspoken message of the site "You don't have to be a perfect Mom"
- The site puts moms in touch with each other by allowing them to share their stories. Support during difficult times, who wouldn't grab it?
- And they have a competition in which they offer the kind of gift any young mother would jump at: a relaxing spa treatment!

A great effort overall! Which makes me wonder: why has no major brand targeting moms spotted this site as a great initiative with loads of potential to link their customers to their brand...?


Sometimes it takes a man... show us one of the greatest examples of connecting with women I have seen to date.

Words wouldn't do Dave's concept any justice. Just watch.

Click here and once you're on the site click "reflect/respect" at bottom right.

My Monday Memo (on a tuesday)

There's so much happening in the M2W arena at the moment, a quick between work update on some must-reads:

The second edition of the Muse Newsletter is due out this thursday. Subscribe now if you want to receive it!

Lady Geek - Discovered this a few weeks ago...a wonderful blog about women and technology! Short, quick, funny reads...Bookmark it!

Less is More
Talking of women and technology, check out this interesting report by Jitterbug.

Some topline findings:

Feature Overload is “Out”
o 73% of respondents prefer to pay only for what they believe they will actually use,
compared to only 27% who want all the bells and whistles
o 32% of cell phone users say their current cell phone service has more features than
they know what to do with
Personalized Services are “In”
o 71% said they would be interested in 24-hour access to a personal telephone
assistant who could give them tailored service
o 34% would prefer to have someone else set up their phone features and services for

Soon to be released book worth checking out: "Satisfied customers tell three friends, angry customers tell 3,000". More here
(Double or triple those figures - on both positive & negative sides - for women!)

And last but not least, an article on Essensis, the new "wonder" yoghurt by Danone (in Flemish). The product's claim: "feeds your skin from the inside" came across as unbelievable to me when I first heard it. Apparently I'm not the only one.
Time waits for no (wo)man. Gravity is taking hold. No way one yoghurt is gonna solve that. You can read the full article here.


Yummy Mummies RULE!

For the record: I don't have kids (yet) and I'm not pregnant.
But I simply must do a plug for HOTmilk - the lingerie brand from way, way down under in New Zealand that has come up with the most stunning line of maternity and nursing lingerie.

Classy, sexy, it empowers women and doesn't take itself too seriously! I love it! Kudoz to you ladies!

YES! To giving pregnant women and nursing mums a choice of flattering, sexy underwear!

YES! To the sexy, sultry, powerful promo photos!

YES! To reminding women that they can be beautiful and sexy while pregnant!

YES! To the "Men Only" section on the website and it's informal way of helping men understand how to buy lingerie for women.

YES! To standing up for what you believe in and having the guts to live your dream!

HOTmilk is available in Belgium in Ghent at Lingeriet. All other outlets world-wide can be found on the HOTmilk website.


You are beautiful - just the way you are.

I was gonna blog about women and technology today. BUT: Sex In The City goes into premiere in Belgium this week (oh God, I can't wait!!!), so the topic today will be the much asked question in the media lately (sigh...): "Can a woman be a Sex In the City fan AND a feminist?"

Speaking to women around me and judging by the sighs it induces, this question must rate as one of the silliest questions asked of many modern women - regardless of their age - today.

Why? Because it implies the following:

1. You can't be a feminist and love fashion or shoes.
2. You can't be a feminist and be attractive or dress sexy.
3. You can't be a feminist and have a Brazilian wax.
4. You can't be a feminist and be a single, flirty, vivacious woman.
5. You can't be a feminist and be a career girl.
5. And you certainly can't be a feminist and be a highly-sexed, bi-sexual woman like Samantha!

The problem with this question is that by its sheer composition, it is based on the definition of feminism as we know it from the sixties: grow all bodily hair, burn your bra, debase men and write lots of angry poetry.

But the feminism of today is no longer the feminism of the sixties.

Today's feminist can be a stay-at-home mother of 28, or the career girl of 47 without partner or kids. But she can just as well be an aid-worker in Burkina Faso or the editor of Vogue.

Today's feminist can even be a bi-sexual student, or a grand-mother of 88. And today's feminist can also be the career woman with a husband and 3 kids who wants it all.

Feminism today is all about standing tall, proudly looking the world in the eye and stating:

"I am who I am, and I won't make excuses for it."

Being a feminist today is about the freedom to choose.

It's about living, and letting live.

It's about the beauty of human diversity.

It's about being a woman, and being beautiful...Whoever you are, and just the way you are.


Don't pile on the puppies

We've been talking about the whole 'fuzzy-warm' issue in marketing to women a lot at the office lately.

There seems to be a widespread perception out there that if a brand wants to connect with female consumers, it's all and ONLY about being able to form an emotional bond with her. We call this the 'fuzzy-warm' syndrome and it makes our hair stand on end.

What frustrates us (and no doubt many, many other women out there) is the concept that a woman is ALL about emotions. (It's a little degrading, you know). Show us a puppy and we'll ohhhh and ahhhhhh over it and of course buy your product. Put the song "Unchained Melody" in your ad and you've got us - for the remainder of our consuming days. Show us a woman having fun, laughing with her girlfriends and we're right there, ready to pull out our over-flowing wallets! Do the warm and fuzzy on us and nothing else matters anymore.


The current hype surrounding the 'power' of the female consumer means there is great interest, albeit often misguided, in understanding women as consumers. We've all heard it - numerous times: connecting with female consumers emotionally is what it's all about.

I think this needs a little clarification.

Yes, an emotional connection with a brand is important to us. Yes, what Seth Godin said "women don't buy a brand, they join it" can be true.


We can only be great brand ambassadors IF many other criteria (and herein lies the crux of the matter!) are fulfilled too.

IF your product delivers what it promises

IF it helps solve the problem I want solved

IF price / quality makes sense to me

IF your service is outstanding - time and time again

IF you give us the information we want: where we want it, when we want it and in all the detail we want it

IF we sense you're being honest and care about more than just us and our money.

And yes, IF your marketing is inspiring and empowering, then we'll connect with your brand.
But don't underestimate us: this is no irrational relationship in which (to use a soppy song) "Love lifts us up where we belong", and one bad experience can still ruin the relationship forever.

Marketeers should remember that women's purchasing behavior is complex, and never based solely on an emotional connection.

As I've always said: Be Brave. Be Real. Show Value.


BE your audience.

Yesterday, a journalist who will be interviewing me next week on the topic of marketing to women sent me some questions, one of which really got me thinking.

This was it: "Do you think there need to be more female marketers?"

My answer to this question (Yes!) is the easy part. The difficult part may be the "why?"... but let me explain:

As women think, behave and consume differently than men do, so do female marketers approach marketing a little differently than their male counterparts.

Men, both in life and in business, tend to think in linear, hierarchical terms: "give me the facts / what are the numbers / show me the stats". Same goes for male marketeers.

Overlay this very linear approach to marketing with the female consumers' complex, non-linear, web-based thinking (and consuming) patterns, and things don't quite match up, do they?

Now, I am in no way saying that products for women can only be marketed to by women. I am saying that a product for women marketed ONLY by men is inherently lacking. Exclusion of either gender is never a good idea. To market a product well to either gender, women need to be included in the process (it seems like very common sense, not?). Men and women have many similarities but also differences. To honor the variety in gender, a marketing campaign that includes every perspective will strengthen the outcome.

Female marketers, by the sheer fact that they are, well...female, will approach marketing a little differently - the way they approach life: as a holistically, interconnected, "we notice the itsy-bitsy stuff you're not even mentioning too" kind of way. And to dispell the "warm-fuzzy feeling" this sentence may have wrongly instilled in some readers, remember that women also LOVE details and information. Yes, as female marketers we like the statistics and facts and numbers as much as the guys do, but for us these are not all defining in our marketing approach. We will often follow a gut-feeling or react on something we sense but which is not confirmed in the statistics, because we just know - the way women do - that it holds an important element of truth.

So yes, yes, absolutely: we need more women marketers. Women think differently than men do, so they must be marketed to differently than men. Who better to understand the audience, to relate to the market than someone who is part of it? While I am sure that most of the men who came up the sometimes brilliant, mostly creative campaigns for a variety of tampons (see my earlier post on the topic), I think women were able to more accurately relay which ones worked and which ones were cringe inducing. Sometimes its only a gut reaction, an undefined feeling, a hint, a nuance... but sometimes that is all it takes at the point of purchase for a women to decide to buy or to keep on walking.

Cardinal rule- know your audience. And when you can, when its possible, BE your audience.


A smart product is a battle half won

Smart marketing to women is not just about smart marketing. It's also about smart products.

Rexona has just come up with a very simple yet effective product that illustrates this point. It is a solution to a problem we've all encountered, yet never demanded to be solved: the dry roll-on ball in our roll-on stick.

Let me explain:

Those of us who use a roll-on stick know this scenario:
1. Walk to bathroom cupboard,
2. take out roll-on stick,
3. shake vigorously to lubricate the ball,
4. shake vigorously again with frustrated frown on forehead
5. turn ball of roll-on with finger to expose lubricated area
6. roll onto armpit vigorously for 30 seconds causing chafing before lotion dislodges onto skin

Infuriating, isn't it, that we have to do the whole shake-shake-shake, scrape-across-skin, roll thing before we can get any anti-perspirant lotion onto our skin?

Well ladies, in 2008 our problem is no more.

Rexona has developed a roll-on stick - wait for it - that stands on it's head, so to speak.

No more shaking, no more dislodging the ball before lathering on the anti-perspirant. Just a simple roll-on stick that is made to stand on its head and of which the roll-on ball is lubricated at all times.

Wow! How simple is that?!

Makes you wonder how it took us until 2008 to come up with it, doesn't it?

Now that's 'smart marketing' to women in terms of product development.
And the TV commercial isn't half bad either.)

What can we learn from the Rexona example?
1. The answer to developing an effective, successful product is often much more obvious than we (marketers) think.
2. Use your product the way your consumer does, you'll learn a lot
3. ASK. Ask your consumers what they think of your product: how they use it, what they like, what frustrates them, what they would change if they could. Surely someone must have mentioned their frustration with dry roll-on sticks?

Smart marketing to women indeed isn't just about smart markting. It's also about smart products that answer real needs!

Want to bet this one's going to sell like hot cakes?


Spring is HERE!!!

Apologies for the short absence: work has been enormously busy and in the little free time I had the past two weeks was dedicated to being OUTSIDE in the sun.(Belgians will understand. After a loooong, dreary winter, there's no stopping us). Priorities are priorities, people.

Having said that: there's a lot happening in the exciting world of M2W!

The first issue of the Muse newsletter is due out later this week. If you haven't yet subscribed and you'd like to receive it, drop us a line (link at top of blog)!

First up: A GREAT new site on all matters/blogs related to women (and I'm not talking lipstick and hairspray here!) Have a look here
I much prefer this site to Yahoo's new "female portal", Shine.

Secondly: Clo, here's one for you! US-based TechGirlz is doing a survey on women in technology. How about we give them some European stats too? Take the survey here Let's spread the word!

A great book just out: "What men don't tell women about business" and M2W colleague Andrea Learned's review of the book here.

And last but certainly not least for today: Michelle & Holly, authors of 'The Soccer Mom Myth' and two M2W pioneers, put out a weekly newsletter with tips on how to think about marketing differently. Subscribe here!


The Dove Onslaught begins...

I've blogged about Dove before...About how I think they're just paying lip-service to the idea of smart marketing to women...About the fact that they test on animals and that they should be aware of the fact that at some point in time, people will start noticing that their Campaign For Real Beauty is just that: a campaign.'s begun. Have a look at this Greenpeace ad: a spoof of the original Dove ad that highlights things Dove doesn't want us to know.

Phase 2 of the onslaught not to be minimized: online conversations around the brand. Have a look at this post on The Independent, one of the UK's leading newspapers.

Here's my bet: within 6 months we'll find an animal right organization making a similar spoof showing Unilever (Dove's parent company) testing its products on animals.

To be continued...


Communicating about "that"

"Female hygiene products" have never been an easy topic to communicate about. Some ads are a bit too 'visually creative', others are plain infuriating (have a look at the ad called "Something to cheer about" on InventorSpot). Love it or hate it?
Can you guess my reaction?

I do love this one about the man's perspective though. Women will understand.


Monday Morning Memo

Ok, it's no longer monday morning, I know. But it's still monday, so it's still memo time! Here's a quick round-up of what's happening out there that caught my attention over the past few days:

About social Media, gender and a storm in a cyber teacup:
There's loads being said on the value (or lack of it) of social media out there right now, this post on Lipsticking being just one of them. What else is interesting on social media & gender? This McCann study is worth a read, as is this study on the effects of age and gender on blogging.
Definitively read the post on social media on my good friend Caroline's blog!

Boomer women online
For those interested in how the boomer generation uses technology, the internet and social media, read this post over on Lipsticking and bookmark 'The Boomer Blog'! It has loads of interesting information!
Interesting fact: 80% of boomers use computers, one third of them go on-line every day! (US statistics)

How are buying decisions made?
An interesting post well worth a read (check out this chart that documents the basic characteristics of life development stages!) Helpful reading in understanding what drives us as humans (and consumers) during various life-stages.


How to Shower: Women vs. Men

...because laughing at ourselves once in a while is healthy!


Flipping the funnel: turning customers into sales people

Seth Godin always gets it right: and he does it again in his new free e-book called "Flipping the Funnel", which you can download here.

In his related post "understanding the funnel" Seth makes the following controversial statement, which I am convinced makes most salespeople/CEOs' blood run cold:

"At this point, your job is not to make a sale. Selling is just one option in a range of things you can do to further drive him down the funnel. You can engage in a dialogue (by phone or email) that takes place over time and avoids the all-or-nothing cliff of "buy now or go away forever". You can further inform or entertain, all in the service of your goal of increasing the interest, education and value of this prospect."

I would like to point out one very important concept in this paragraph: The cliff of "buy now or forever go away".
Godin puts into words the key malady of many of today's publically listed, value-for-our-shareholders, result-driven companies out there: the BUY or DIE attitude.

Don't get me wrong: in the end it is about selling a product or a service. But it is not only about the sale - it comes back to the concept I have been touting all along: how about some respect for the customer? How about some appreciation, some interest, simple but real human-to-human interaction?

Ok, we're all marketeers, but all of us are consumers too. We have all experienced the frustration of bad service and we've all felt the blood-boiling anger of "Damn it, I'M the customer here!". To be a good marketeer one has to think like a customer - always. And I'm not talking the cliched "let's put ourselves in our customers shoes for a while" marketing spiel here...I'm talking about using your personal gut feeling, your instinct as a consumer OUTSIDE work and use that to help shape your marketing programs. Food for thought...


About brands, soulmates and online trends

As the week picks up speed on this busy monday morning, I'm picking up on many interesting developments via my Google feed reader. Much is happening in the world-wide marketing (and marketing-to-women) realm that is worth sharing:

I know I keep blogging about social media, but that's because I cannot emphasise the importance of social media enough as part of smart marketing to women campaigns.
An interesting podcast I found on PodTech that details the impact of social media on corporate marketing and PR functions and the latest trends in social media strategy and implementation.

Dating through brands? Now here's a very interesting concept from a marketeers' point of view:
BRAND-MATES is a site where people select as many or as little of the brands that are near and dear to their heart and then they can have some fun searching and connecting to other "like-branded people" to date, find a soul-mate, or maybe just find a friend.
Imagine the data and insights one can collect with this site!

Here's a title that made me stop in my tracks this morning:
"By 2012 women will outnumber men online by more than 8 million!"
Again, these are US statistics, but I think it is safe to assume the same trend will make itself felt here in Europe over the coming years too. Interesting in the excerpt below is the fact that 'women's community' was the most visited and fastest growing internet category! Marketeers, take note!

Author Kaira Sturdivant Rouda on why women are taking over the internet, so to speak:
"The important thing to realize is that women are natural networkers. We’ve been the community builders in the real world since the beginning of time. Think of the most important charities in your community. Most likely they were created by, and continue to be championed by, women. Now, there’s the web. “Women’s community” was the most visited and fastest growing internet category according to ComScore Media Metrix. Women are building community online as never before. And, they are using it for business. Social networking makes business more personal and intuitive. The formally defined lines in society are falling away - and finally, work and family can become more blended."


Weekly marketing-to-women wrap-up

Pyjamas and painkillers are good for something (don't ask..two words: wisdom teeth) -they allow you to get down and read through all the sites and blogs that one only manages to skim across during a normal working week.

This week's wrap-up of the most interesting articles on marketing, marketing-to-women and all matters related. Well worth a read!

"How Customers Think" - Neuromarketing article

Hypnosis brings groups into focus - want to know what people really think about your brand? Bring in the hypnotist! Interesting article in Brandweek

"Who do you trust?" Men and Women answer that differently.
A study found that men tended to trust people who were part of a group with them. Women, on the other hand, were more likely to trust strangers who shared some personal connection, such as a friend of a friend.
Not a new article but still very interesting - on ScienceDaily

Research report: Dove's "Beyond stereotypes - rebuilding the foundation of beauty beliefs"

"Men, you're outnumbered online" eMarketer article


La fille d'O celebrates 5th birthday!

Mark your diaries, ladies and gentlemen! This is going to be a wickedly wild party!

Date: April 12th
Venue: Handelsbeurs, Gent
More info: or

Naughty but NICE! Lingerie - A brand new collection of SHOES - Bikinis and more!

No respectable girl would miss this!



Spilling the facts (cause marketing - part 2)

As most of my friends / peers / clients know, I'm a big fan of cause marketing.

Because all the 'push' communication we put our there - the ads, the press releases, the direct mailings, the tv spots, you name it, are perceived by the public (and that's us too, folks!) as just that: pushy.

Now don't get me wrong: at Muse Communication we of course also help create all those communication tools for clients, so I'm not trying to be 'holier than thou' here. But over the past few weeks my mind has been brewing on the question: "what does the future of effective communication look like?" I'm not gonna answer that question just yet. My thoughts are taking shape and when it all makes sense, I'll be sure to let you know right here.

But back to cause marketing and why I think it is such an important business tool.
Cone Inc recently announced the findings of its 'Cause Evolution Survey'
Although the survey was conducted in the US, I think we can safely transport its main findings to consumers in Europe too.

Here are some key findings:
- More than 65% of Americans say they consider a company’s business practices when deciding what to buy.
- 85% of Americans say they would switch to another company's products or services if a problem with business practices was uncovered.
- 92% acknowledge they have a more positive image of a company that supports a cause they care about.
- 87% are likely to switch from one brand to another (price and quality being about equal) if the other brand is associated with a good cause! (now if that doesn't illustrate how cause marketing can help convert prospects into customers!)

Today’s informed consumers are now asking, 'Is this a good company?' and 'What does it stand for?'"

I think cause marketing is an often underrated, under-utilized yet potentially pivotal part of a brand's communication. To put it in plain business terms: the ROI of a carefully chosen cause marketing program will prove positive beyond a doubt in many ways: both in terms of new customers and proud employees, to name just two.

Oh, there is one very important prerequisite though: your cause marketing effort must be a part of the brand ethos and not just it's marketing plan. For if your customer (and prospective customer) even gets so much as a whiff that the cause you are supporting is no more than a clever PR stint, you're doomed to loose all credibility. Food for thought not only for marketing managers...

$100 Million for 10,000 Women (cause marketing - part 1)

Now there's a title that grabs your attention!

On Mar. 5, Goldman Sachs (GS), the world's largest investment bank, announced in Business Week that it would be pumping $100 million into educational projects to help thousands of women entrepreneurs in developing countries start (and succesfully manage) their own businesses over the next five years. Many female entrepreneurs in developing countries have already received financial help from local microfinance banks and nonprofits that issued them small loans and financial support. Most of the women however, have little, if any, formal education and lack the management skills and financial savvy to take their business to the next level.

Goldman Sachs is hoping to create a new model of management education designed to help these women learn everything from how to write a business plan to market their own business. The company will be teaming up with some of the world's top business schools, including Wharton, Columbia, Harvard, and Cambridge University's Judge Business School, to develop management education certificate programs at universities in countries such as Nigeria, Rwanda, and Afghanistan. The programs will be flexible and of short duration, ranging from several weeks to several months.

Now that's a project that, as a 'marketeer to women', really warms my heart. What a wonderful, long overdue initiative! Not to mention that it's a great PR-able project that suddenly puts what we perceive to be a cold, distant financial behemoth such as Goldman Sachs in a completely new light!

Further reading: Here's a great article on how cause marketing can help improve marketing's bottom line.


Monday memo: gutsy women and great blogs

A short post on a busy busy busy monday morning:

1. this weekend I discovered 'Diablo Cody'....(It's a name, by the way). I didn't mean much to me either when I first read it. Cody is the Oscar-winning writer of this season's big indy movie hit 'Juno'. Interesting thing is, Cody is 29 years old and as so often mentioned in press surrounding her: an ex-stripper. What's very intestesing is that this very outspoken girl (I won't mention her own description of her "occupation" here, for fear of offending more sensitive souls), but have a look at her blog on myspace to see the amount of support she gets from her mostly female fans! Young women are very obviously totally supportive of this girl...and so am I! Kudoz to Cody for living her life by her own rules!

2. Belgian blog awards - women's blogs win the top prizes!
These are the winners:
First place:
Second place:
Third place:

Happy reading!


Branding in whispers

Earlier this week, I was exchanging mails with Diana van Hoeve (a fellow marketeer) about marketing to women and, amongst others Dove's "Campaign for real beauty". We were discussing my post "Dove - a not so ethical brand" and how I thought that Dove was just paying lip service to the idea of smart marketing to women. I also told Diana that I truely believed in honest marketing, which at first sight may be a contradiction in terms, but which is in my opinion really the future of marketing.

Well, I am very proud to report that THE one and only Faith Popcorn - trendwatcher and marketing-to-women pioneer, also referred to Dove's somewhat 'superficial' efforts in marketing to women. Faith did an interview with AdWeek, in which she speaks about the fact that brands that trumpet their benefits are hopelessly out of tune with consumers who are sick and tired of marketing's noise. In this interview, Faith explains why she advises brands such as Target, GE, McDonald's, Tylenol and Nabisco to build their strategies around whispers and honesty rather than hype and shouts.

Faith goes on to say "Consumers also think companies lie about the ingredients in their products, and they are sick of brands yelling at us. They are tired of being hyped all the time. While the phenomenon hits all ages, it is stronger in women, affecting 65 percent of them compared to 56 percent of men, according to our research."

Here is an excerpt from the interview that explains 'branding in whispers':

Please explain what you mean by branding in whispers?
It is not boasting how great your products are, but showing how your brand can help people. It could be through services your company offers, or doing things for your community or the manner in which you sell your products. During the holidays when there were all these long lines and crowds, Apple's message basically was: "Here are these things and they really work." That's a whisper. When a store delivers something to your house or a bank gives you a ride to the local branch, those are whispers. When Mini gives people all these ways to buy their cars, the company is whispering to its audience.

Which big brands could whisper better?
Procter & Gamble's Tide could whisper by supporting the women who use it; it could put something back into the female community by helping battered women or doing things for families. People would respect the P&G brand more. Nike's marketing involves lots of talk but not [much] substance. What does Nike do to help people? For instance, they could own and improve the paths that people run on. Dove also needs to put something back. They have made the point about the beauty world treating women like they are fat and making them feel like shit, but let's get beyond the feel-good talk by supporting people and being a part of their lives. Tylenol wanted to reach young people; so a few years back we helped them design a program that addressed the pain in sports, such as skateboarding. The brand went to events at skateboard parks and had a Web site called that celebrated the pain in young peoples' favorite sports. But Tylenol didn't talk about it in their TV ads and they didn't put skateboarders in their commercials. It was a whisper.

What advice do you give strategists and marketing leaders facing this change?
If you are sitting at your desk for more than 10 hours a week, you are really screwing up. Get up from your desk and the Internet and go out in the world, see what is out there and learn what people are feeling. Then you will be able to grasp these changes faster. Otherwise, you will miss the signals. We ask companies, "Don't you see the train coming? Don't you see the training coming?"

It's always nice to have your personal thoughts or opinions confirmed by recognized industry authorities. So Dove: until you get REAL, your fancy campaign is just that: a campaign. Stop testing on animals. Give something back to society. Live your brand ethos. Then maybe I'll like you again.

You can read the full article here.


Marketing to women by Philips: You win some, you loose some

Philips Electronics recently announced that it is launching a campaign to appeal more to women by making their electronics more fashionable and elegant.

Now there's good news and bad news.

The good news is the 'Design Collection' - a series of home entertainment products such as TVs and audio systems that "will make a statement about personal style". Looking at the few pics I could find, we're talking ultra-slim, sleek products that indeed will appeal to the style-conscious - whether you're a man or a woman.

Now for the bad news:
If its up to Philips, we (women) will soon be wearing (wait for it...) heart-shaped Swarovski pendants that hold USB drives. According to Philips, the "Active Crystal range combines high fashion design with the best in technology, creating a fusion of fashion and function". Sure. I'm totally up for wearing my USB stick around my neck all day.

A woman's verdict? The journalist who wrote this piece, asked is wife if she would like one for Valentine's Day. Her hillarious response says it all: "I'll stab you".

Heart-shaped Swarovski crystal USB drive case closed.


JUMP - the forum for professional women

Don't forget to mark your diaries: 25 & 26 April

JUMP forum

Jump is the place to meet, discuss, brainstorm and participate in conferences and training sessions. A wide range of tools to reinforce women's empowerment and position in the economy will be offered.


PR as we know it is dead.

It's not a nice title, I know, it makes many people veeeeeeeery uncomfortable. But it had to be said.

I've kept it inside for so long, I just had to get it out: traditional PR is dead.
Actually, it's been dead for quite a while, it's just that we don't really want to face it. Many of us are still in denial, and for those I suggest reading this post called "Sorry PR people, you're blocked" by the editor of Wired magazine. (Do note the major PR firms black listed here...)

PR = press relations.
...And it's with that definition, which is still held as THE correct definition by many agencies and clients alike, that the problems start.

PR is NOT just about press relations (and it never has been).
PR is (and I beg your forgiveness for going back to PR 101 here, but it is necessary) about "the profession of promoting goodwill between an organization or an individual and it's publics, its employees and its customers".

As far as I'm concerned, 'the press' is just one channel we can utilize to help build relationships with our various audiences/publics.

I've never liked doing 'traditional' PR, even though many people - employers and clients alike - have tried to push me in that role. Mass email blasts of a press release which contains really nothing news worthy insults not only my intelligence to write it, but the client's intelligence and most of all, the journalist's intelligence when we dare sell it to them as news worthy. No wonder we're being blocked (even when we send it to the right journalist/editor)!

I firmly believe PR is about informing people, facilitating conversations between a company and it's publics, helping audiences understand what the company stands for, convincing consumers that it's products/services help solve a real, concrete need in their lives. I'm sorry: but are we really still expecting the humble press release to achieve all these goals?

I am often challenged by more 'traditional' PR firms about the recommendations I make to my clients. "You're suggesting a 'Motivate Me' section on their website? A team blog? A pro-active social media plan??? That's not PR!"

Wake up guys! The traditional media (women's mags / daily newspapers / prime time television) are no longer the "endorsers/influencers" the consumer turns to for believable advice. They're listening to recommendations by friends on FaceBook or reading reviews from fellow travellers on TripAdvisor. They're reading the CEO's blog or visiting user forums. They don't have time or attention or energy to waste and the little they have they are dividing very consciously between the topics, activities and people that really interest them. So you still think a press release is going to do the trick?

In the 'new' PR (and I still shudder to use the term 'PR') it's about 3 key things:
- Show them you are real (don't be scared to show you're not perfect!)
- Show them you care (tell them you'll fix what's wrong - and then do!)
- Show them your company is about more than just making money, getting them to 'buy'.

Don't underestimate the intelligence of your consumer - it's the biggest mistake you can make (also see my post '2008 - the year of banishing bullshit).

PR as we knew it is dead. And it's for the best.

PS Incase you're still doubting the view above, also read 'The new PR'
and 'What PR people should know about social media' - a wealth of information on both sites!


Time To Talk Straight

It's here! Holly Buchanan and Michelle Miller - two pioneers of great marketing to women - have written a new book called 'The Soccer Mom Myth'.

I love the blogs of both these ladies: down to earth, funny, no fancy blah-blah and always hitting the nail right on the head. I can't wait to read the book! Have a look at the website - you can download some chapters for free.

My order's been placed - I'll let you know my thoughts once I've read it!


2008 - the year of banishing Bullsh*t

"Naiveté is rare today. Your customer is equipped with a bullshit detector that is highly sensitive and amazingly accurate. And the younger the customer, the more accurate their bullshit detector.

When selling, remember: If you don’t admit the downside, they won’t believe the upside." - Roy H. Willaims.

Can I emphasise this fact enough to my clients? NO.

I advise you to read it again, because it's very, very true...and if you don't believe it, or think you can smooze your way around it with fancy PR or advertising, you're taking a very dangerous Jérôme Kerviel-like gamble with your company's future.

There's a reason why the blog belonging to the man who spoke these simple but very true words is read by many, many people across the world, and the reason is this: without any marketing blah-blah or trendy industry slang, he gets it so very's worth giving up 15 minutes to read his The Monday Morning Memo.

In his post '2008 - The Year of Transition' he highlights what he thinks will be the big consumer trends for the coming years. It's an interesting post, which I think anyone interested in consumer behaviour or marketing...hell, anyone in the business of selling something to someone (that makes all of us) should read it!

Below is an excerpt of the main points. The full post you can find here

Here’s what to remember when selling in 2008:

1. Efficiency is the new Service.
Your customer is saying, “Quality and price and quick, please. I’ve got things to do. Thanks.” Service and selection still matter, but not nearly so much as they once did. Inefficient organizations built on high-touch “relationship” selling will decline. Today’s customer is magnetically drawn to efficiency. This attraction will increase over the next few years.

2. Authenticity is essential.
Listen to the street. “Being cool” has become “Keepin’ it real.”

Naiveté is rare today. Your customer is equipped with a bullshit detector that is highly sensitive and amazingly accurate. And the younger the customer, the more accurate their bullshit detector.

When selling, remember: If you don’t admit the downside, they won’t believe the upside.

3. A Horizontal Connectedness is replacing yesterday’s vertical, social hierarchy. Labels like “white collar” and “blue collar” sound almost racist today. The new American dream isn’t about pulling ahead and leaving the others behind. It’s about becoming a productive member of the team.

“Winning” has become less important than “belonging.”

Listen to the streets. “I’m number one,” gets the response, “You ain’t all that, dog. You ain’t all that.”

4. Word-of-Mouth is the new Mass Media. Video games and cable TV stripped our kids of their innocence at an early age, but the Technology that robbed them of idyllic childhood also empowered them with cell phones, blogs and blackberries.

Viral marketing wasn’t created by the advertising community. It’s simply the result of a horizontally-connected generation (1.) sharing their happy discoveries with each other and (2.) trying to protect one another from mistakes.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO BUSINESS: It’s no longer enough just to have great advertising. When your customers carry cell phones and can email all their friends with a single click, you need to be exceptionally good at what you do.

5. Boasting is a waste of time.
Your customer is saying, “Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words.
Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me.”

IN YOUR ADS, do you include “proofs of claim” your reader, listener or viewer can experience for themselves?

6. Everyone is broken a little.
And the most broken are those who pretend they are not.

It’s time to take the advice of Bill Bernbach, “I’ve got a great gimmick. Let’s tell the truth.”

7. Keep in mind that during the next 12 months, as we complete the transition from the Idealist outlook to the Civic perspective, these trends will be accelerated by the facts that:
(1.) Access to information is going up and
(2.) Access to money is going down.