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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!