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Proud to be a woman!

Please sit down before you read any further.

See the curvy girl above? She was in the May issue of Harper's Bazaar. Her full size 12 (gasp!) figure on page after page for all to see. (Her name is Crystal Renn, by the way)

Isn't she sexy? I can easily just refer you through to Harper's website, but I like the pics so much, I'll post them here too!

Wouldn't it be great if we saw girls like her more often in our fashion magazines?

Seeing how great she looks makes me feel beautiful and proud to be a woman!

Kudoz to Harper's Bazaar Australia!


Much ado about what women want - online.

There's much ado about marketing to women online at the moment.
Articles on what women do (and don't do) online, what's lacking and who's being left out. It seems there is still quite a way to go before we agree we have it figured out.

The article "Men are from Facebook, women are from Twitter", published on talks about the different ways in which men and women use the internet. Reading it left me disappointed - some very stereotypical general top-level findings that boil down to "a little bit of this, a little bit of that and a lot of nothing".

Then there was this article about Women over 50 using the internet as primary news source (yup, my mom included!)

The article that raises the most interesting point is this one, by Wall Street Journal columnist Christina Binkley. In it Binkley asks:
"Are online marketers so youth-conscious -- because it feels right -- that they're ignoring lucrative markets just when they're most needed? The Internet is neither new nor young. The fastest-growing segment of Facebook users is women over 55, according to the Tracking Facebook blog. And the underlying assumption that young people are still the Web's most fertile market doesn't hold up to scrutiny."

Food for thought this week!


Forbidden images

A friend just posted a movie called "Forbidden Images" on Facebook. Not quite knowing what to expect, I clicked "play" and watched closely as the seconds unfolded flickeringly across my screen. Over the next 4 minutes I saw image upon image celebrating women, their exuberant playfulness, their femininity and their sensuality. The images are so hauntingly beautiful it is hard to believe they were once banned...

(This short film was made for the 72-hour Film Festival in Frederick, Maryland (2007). All of the clips used in this film came from a reel of 35mm nitrate, found in an old theater somewhere in Pennsylvania.)


Sex sells chocolate, right?

This launch campaign for "Fling" the new chocolate bar from Mars is raising quite a storm in cyberspace right now.

Everything about this product and it's launch is about sex. And sex sells, right?
The products name: "Fling" (as in "I feel like having a fling with a chocolate bar")
The description of the product: "chocolate fingers"
A tagline that invites you to "Pleasure yourself"
...And then there's the fact that the product's website seems to lead to....a porn site according to this article

Says Lisa Johnson, co-author of Don't Think Pink: "The language of it has so much sexual innuendo, you could pack it into a trashy novel." Johnson says marketers are taking the connection that women often make between chocolate and sensuality too literally. "There are other things you can do that can hit this note without banging on it."

As those of you who know me can attest to, I'm no prude, but all this talk of fingers and pleasuring in relation to a stupid chocolate bar does feel a bit weird. Not only does it shout "trying too hard", it also feels pushy and forced. There's certainly nothing about the product's name, packaging or positioning that makes me remotely want chocolate. And as a blogger commented "that packaging looks to me like a feminine hygiene product. Whoa, pink overload!"

Now that you mention it....


Marketing to women: getting it wrong.

It is still amazing to see how many brands get it wrong in their effort to attract female consumers. I've blogged about Philip's USB-stick necklace before, and now Dell is creating a storm with the launch of their site aimed at women, called "Della".

I'm not sure which consultancy helped Dell develop the strategy for this project (not to mention the look & feel or content of the site), but marketing-to-women wasn't one of their strengths. One of the comments on the "Tech tips" page says it all:

"Does anyone else find that these so called "tech tips" are incredibly simplistic? ... This is a load of fluff that only serves to provide insight into how Dell perceives my demographic. Essentially, we women will buy anything if it comes in pink and fits in our purse. Come on Dell! Treat us like intelligent consumers and not like trained monkeys."

Here are my suggestions to Dell in order to reach their female consumer effectively:

1. Marketing to women doesn't mean marketing to all women.
Before you start, make sure you understand who the women are that buy your product. Who are they? What are their purchase motivators? How does your product integrate in their lives?

2. Gender exclusivity doesn't work.
Women don't demand a separate, overtly female-focused website (that speaks to them in a condescending manner!). Like any consumer, they want ease-of-use, relevant information and respect.

3. Don't stereotype.
And certainly don't 'dumb-down' your message because you think women won't understand. "5 Ways to use a laptop" is an insulting way to speak to any customer, let alone the over-simplified tips that are offered in this section. There's more to women than planning a vacation or going shopping.

My advice? Take the site offline and start all over again. There's no saving this sinking ship.

And as Lydia Sung says: Now if you'll excuse me, I need to give my Asus Eee PC a well-deserved hug.


Automotive marketing to women

Here's an interesting statistic: it takes men an average of 13 weeks to buy a new car. It takes women on average 18,5 weeks. This longer decision-making cycle highlights the fact that women have a more complex decision-making process that has her gather more information and incorporates many more selection criteria than men do. USA research shows that women today influence more than 85% of all auto, tire and service buying purchases, and yet 74% of those surveyed feel misunderstood by automotive and tire marketers. One wonders why most automotive brands still don't make a bigger effort to understand and woo their female customers.

Show me her car and I will tell you who she is.
In a recent article on Tire Review, Insight Farms shared some interesting research about how women use and feel about their cars. "Women ‘wear’ their cars. The exterior is the face we show others. The interior is our ‘authentic self.’ The front seat is our workspace. The back seat is the kids area and garbage bag. The trunk is ‘where things go to die.’"

Other sound bites on marketing to women:
• Women are looking for substance – you have to stand for something. Seventy-eight percent of women say leading companies are driven by values.

• "Edgy," "excess," "too much fun" and "living life large" are being replaced by "giving back." Women want to know what you stand for.

• Instead of asking "do I want it?" she's asking "do I need it?" In the current climate, women are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Women right now are looking for value, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are looking for cheap.

• A woman's buying process is longer. Good enough isn't good enough – she's looking for the perfect answer.

• She is more expensive to acquire, but cheaper to keep. Because she's already invested more time in her decision, she's more confident in that decision. There's a higher psychological cost if she walks away.

• If she complains and you handle the complaint and satisfy her, she's even MORE likely to recommend you than if she had a good experience. Make it easy for her to complain. She is trying to communicate with you and solve the problem with you.

Good to know: women share a negative experience with a brand or product with an average of 23 people. A positive experience is shared with an average of 9 people (vs only 3 for men!).


Cards of Change

I came across the initiative "Cards of Change" via Clo's blog. I simply LOVE the idea behind the Cards of Change concept ( Its mission is to collect as many business cards and stories of positive change of people who have recently been laid off and connect them with new opportunities from potential employers, business partners and people who make the effort to look on the bright side of life).

I liked it so much that I decided to upload my own business card too. Not because I've been laid off but because I wanted to show everyone who is being laid off that it is possible to make it out there on your own. And because I want to be a part of a positive, empowering initiative and to give a positive message during a difficult time.

No, it's not easy out there at the moment - for no-one. But there is a HUGE difference between difficult and impossible. And that's the message I wanted to share: it's not impossible!

This is just such a creative, empowering initiative (with great viral possibilities!). No doubt it won't be the last we will hear of it!

The Girl Effect

A friend of mine, who knows that I'm taking part in a rally through northern Africa to raise money for an organization that helps women to start their own businesses, sent me this video last night. It's by the Nike Foundation and is called "The Girl Effect".

Nike has made a lot of mistakes and done a lot of wrong (like most companies)...What's important is that they are doing something about it. They're making amends. Their leading by example. They're investing time, energy, resources and money. Every little bit helps, so let's give them credit for that.


In Brands We Trust (And the winners are....)

I couldn't help smiling at the results of the Readers Digest "Trusted Brand 2009" results for Belgium when I saw them today.

Have a look who's the leading in the "Banking/Building Society" category. Fortis. Admittedly, the field work for this survey was done in August 2008, so things have changed a tad since then.

When it comes to marketing-to-women it is interesting to note that Nivea (and not Dove!) is the big winner throughout Europe and the most trusted cosmetic brand amongst Belgian consumers. Nivea has been very actively working on promoting the brand and engaging with its prospective consumers - both male and female over the past few months. (they clearly understand that if you can first convince the woman, it is then much easier to get the men along too!). You can see some of the activities they've done in Belgium recently on my friend Caroline's social media blog here.

Although there is no overall winner there are a few brands that rise above the rest across multiple countries.

The most nominated brands across the common categories are:

􏰀 NOKIA - For the 9th consecutive year Nokia is the most “Trusted Brand” of mobile phone handset in every country – no
change since the study was first published in 2001.

􏰀 NIVEA - continues to be the brand of skin care that most people trust (winner in 16 out of 16 countries).

􏰀 VISA - Similarly there is no change to the line up of trusted brands in the category of credit card. In 14 out of 16 countries Visa retained the pole position.

􏰀 CANON - remains the trusted brand of camera in 13 countries.

􏰀 KELLOGG'S - is the trusted brand of breakfast cereal in 10 Western European countries and Nestlé predominates in 4/5 of the CEER countries + Portuga.

About the Trusted Brands Survey:
The "Trusted Brands" is an annual consumer survey, involving over 23,000 people in 16 European countries. The survey’s primary objective is to find out which brands Europeans trust the most in a range of consumer product categories.

The reports per country can be found here.


Co-creation: now that's a great idea!

Co-creation - the process during which a company involves an external group of people in (a part of) the innovation process of a product or service - gets its first public event!

Held on June 24th in The Netherlands, the first ever Co-creation event is under the auspice of RedesignMe - "the first platform where communities and companies collaborate on (new) products and services".

As marketeers, we all too often stay in our 'gilded corporate cages', instead of actively involving our clients, prospective clients or other relevant stakeholders in the development of products or services. While I worked at Barco Media & Entertainment as marketing manager, we did so on a few occasions (in 2004! imagine!) so I got to see the benefits of involving users of your product first-hand during the R&D process. Seeing the proactive participation of users, the free exchange of ideas, the 'free' advice and ultimately the results of these collaborations, I am a firm believer in the theory that a product developed with direct input from its consumer is a better one than the product developed in the vacuum of our labs.


Sins and Virtues at BGGD

I attended another great edition of Brussels Geek Girl Dinner last night!
Taking time out of our busy daily lives to meet up with friends & likeminded souls to talk, discuss and be inspired, BGGD should be a compulsary 'destress' moment for all modern girls!

The theme of this edition was "Sin" (and therefore by association also "Virtues") - topics close to my heart as they often come to play in the way we as women view ourselves.

Murielle Scherre of La Fille D'O spoke freely with the 100 attending ladies about sin, virtue and everything in between. As always, she pointed out that as women we should decide for ourselves whether the so-called sins really are sins, and the virtues really virtues before feeling guilty about too many things we think or do. She also pointed out that women should not put themselves in either of the two camps of "sinner" or "saint". Instead they should be comfortable with both facets - and more - within themselves. I couldn't agree more!

The theme of sin continued throughout the night with sponsorship by MariaBingo - an online gaming site, as well as more virtuous sins in the form of low-fat Belvita cookies (yummy-yummy).

With many of my female friends actively thinking about or making a living from things related to 'sin', I will blog more on the topic soon.....