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Will women at the top lead to better marketing campaigns? Maybe.

Smart marketing to women isn't just about the way in which we relate brands to their female consumers, it's also about the corporate cultures in which the marketing decisions that affect female consumers are taken.

Traditionally corporations were driven largely by men and male qualities, which no doubt accounts for many a failed marketing-to-women campaign. A lack of awareness and recognition of gender differences in communication begins at home, inside the corporation behind the brand. So unless corporations change on the inside, they cannot hope to change - authentically - in the interaction with their consumers.

Fellow gender expert Michele Mees recently wrote the post
"Should we expect women to change corporate culture?"

Now that the pendulum is in full swing and more and more women are assuming positions of power, the question is: will they demonstrate balanced leadership styles with the necessary respect for feminine qualities and values, or will many simple become clones of the male bullies they so despised during their own careers?

I agree with Michele: we cannot put the responsibility for changing corporate cultures solely on women's shoulders, but we can expect our female leaders to set an example that will help change those cultures.

All too often, women who assume power - whether in large corporations or in their own companies - begin to emulate the domineering, destructive leadership styles they were forced to navigate to craft their own careers.

So yes, female leaders should be held accountable to "walk the talk" and demonstrate balanced leadership styles based on the respect, power-sharing and empowerment they fought so hard for. And so they will help affect a shift in corporate culture - and ultimately in the way in which we approach female consumers.


Wise words by wise women at the global Women's Forum

Great shoes. That’s what surprised me most at the Global Women’s Forum in Deauville, France last week: so many great shoes. Stilettos, pumps, and ballerinas in all colours of the rainbow. Walking between the 1300 prestigious participants I realised that I had never seen such an eclectic group of beautiful, feminine businesswomen together.  The security guards, the waiters and the bellboys all had that same telling smile on their face; one that says ‘hey, this job ain’t so bad’. Clearly, the days when female business leaders emulated their male counterparts to climb the corporate ladder are long gone. These were some of the world’s most powerful business women, politicians and academics and they all had one thing in common: they were proud of their femininity and not afraid to show it.

During two days jam-packed with plenary sessions, workshops and brainstorm sessions, I listened to some of the world’s most visionary thinkers on topics ranging from gender diversity and its impact on business performance to ‘frugal innovation’ and sustainable, socially responsible business models. It struck me listening to these women that the popularly held caricature of Cruella Deville as female executive (think Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada), was an outdated myth. These women were visionary, level-headed leaders committed to making a difference. Women whom in their speeches, whatever their area of expertise, were all looking to find an answer to the same question: how can we make this world a better place for all?

And with these visionary women also came men. A trickling at first – Sodexho, Barcleys, Ernst and Young - the vanguard thinkers. Men who understood that in the postindustrial economy, which is causing a monumental power shift from men towards women, we all need to evolve in order to survive. Moira Forbes of ForbesWoman put it plainly during the opening debate: “Innovation isn’t optional in today’s economy. Stagnant leaders and organizations will fall by the wayside.”

Throughout the conference, I heard some pretty amazing statements, some of which I want to share with you here as food for thought.

It’s not the rules of the game that are being redefined, but the game itself”Peninah Thomson, Director, FTSE 100 cross-company mentoring programme.

Wendy Luhabe on the accountability of female CEOs toward other women: “When you build a society and people want to be in leadership positions, they must be held accountable. If you assume a CEO position we expect to see women in all levels of your organization and we expect to see women on your boards. How can we expect men to be the champion of gender equality when women who are given the opportunity are not prepared to be?”

“Innovation is not a process, it’s a spirit within a company. I can’t arrive at the office on a Monday morning and decide ‘ok, let’s be creative today’.” - Zhang Xin, CEO, Soho China

Peninah Thomson on the low number of women in executive positions and on boards: “It’s always been a supply-side issue. We’ve always said ‘Let’s fix women’. Now we’re looking at it differently. It’s a demand issue. It has nothing to do with supply. Let’s look at how we shape demand.”

“The new economy requires a new leadership skill set: adaptability, flexibility but also a tolerance for failure.” – Moira Forbes, ForbesWoman.

Barbara Bylenga of Outlaw Consulting on Generation-Y as drivers of change: “Generation-Y has separated money from the concept ‘success’. They no longer link the two.”

Viviane Reding, Vice-President European Commission on having it all: “I have done it all and I have raised three boys. I think women should have it all. Do men oppose being fathers and being professionals? No.”


Women finally "ready for a change".

Good news, ladies! When it comes to vaginal health, our periods and 'all things down there', we are finally ready to face the truth! At least according to Kimberley Clarke, the company behind the "U by Kotex" campaign.

Don't get me wrong: making vaginal health a discussable topic (or "taking the shame out of being a woman" as the Kotex brand guy puts it) is a great initiative and the campaign has some very creative, funny commercials that poke fun at the way advertisers used to talk about all-things-period. 

Indeed, we shouldn't be embarrassed about having our period: we should dispel myths and teach our daughters that it's nothing to be ashamed of. And it's great that Kotex wants to "become a champion for women and a torch-bearer for a momentous cultural shift", but to say that it's because "women are ready for a change", as Andrew Meurer of Kotex says here, is taking things a tad too far. As if Kotex has always been ready to lead us to enlightenment, but we weren't quite ready yet.

Great initiative Kotex - really love the ads! - but go easy on the "torch bearing, trail-blazing category champion" leading women to a new reality bit, please.


Targeting the Chief Health Officer.

Health. That deceptively short word occupies a very significant amount of a woman's mind.  Whether they're thinking of loosing five kilos, buying a face-cream with sufficient sunblock or contemplating which yogurt contains less sugar and more active bifidus and is therefor healthier for the kids, not a day goes by in a woman's life without her considering someone's health - either her own or someone close to her.

I could therefor only applaud when Isabella Lenarduzzi of JUMP recently launched the 'Women's Health Academy' - a series of workshops centering on women and their health that she plans to build up over the coming months. Why? Because women are actively looking for information on how to improve their health - be it to slow down the aging process, loose weight, osteoporosis or breast cancer - and all too often brands do not make it for them to find the info. Clever are those, such as Isabella, that facilitate this knowledge transfer by bundling information on topics and invite experts in to discuss and answer questions as she does in these workshops.

Traditional loyalty strategies such as incentives and coupons are no longer enough to help you effectively reach your female consumers. If you are in the healthcare marketing business, here are some vital tips to reach your female consumers:

1. Talk with your female consumer. Women are often called "co-creators". Use this willingness to get involved and share their opinions, experiences and insights to your advantage. Ask them what they want, how they want to see your product / service evolve in informal 'feedback groups'. Not only will you get a wealth of valuable information, your consumers will also feel more connected to your brand.

2. Educate her. Women are constantly looking for information on topics related to their health. They  will research and seek information in much more depth than men do. Why not facilitate this need for information by hosting a series of workshops or building a central knowledge platform on your product or service? Women value a personal and interactive experience that shows that you care.

3. Make it practical. Make sure your information offers a good combination of solid fact and real-life experience. A professor or doctor to provide the theoretical facts, ex-patients or "experience experts" to give a view on the actual experience.  

4. Engage rather than sell. Remember that men and women buy differently. Men are driven by the deal. Women, on the other hand, first need to form a relationship of trust. Listening, coaching, engaging and offering her the opportunity to co-create are all ways to ensure you establish a long-term relationship with her.

5. Cut the cr*p! There's nothing worse than knowing that you're not being told half the message because people think you won't understand. Don't dumb down your message. Yes, take her level of subject knowledge into account (she's not a doctor or a scientist), but never speak down to her. Instead, provide detailed, truthful answers to concrete questions. 

As Kelly Connors of Real Women On Health says: "marketers who shift their marketing paradigm from a "sickness" model focused on the treatment, to a "wellness" model focused on the individual woman will succeed."

And then there's the age old "be real" that we at Muse always harp on: "There's nothing more personal than healthcare and women detect inauthenticity quickly", concludes Connors.


Flirting at work - the last taboo?

I didn't start it, I promise. It all came about after the article "Flirting your way to the corner office" in Forbes Woman. When Isabella Lenarduzzi of JUMP - an organization that focuses on empowering women in the workplace - asked me to write a guest column on the topic for her newsletter, of course I said yes! We're both strong believers in the joys of flirting and we wanted to put the taboo topic on the table to clarify a few misconceptions for once and for all. Little did we know that it would open a true pandora's box! Newspapers, radio stations, even television programs suddenly want our views on the topic.

Flirting at work: done or not done? My original article below. You decide!

Let’s flirt!

I know that what I am about to say will probably get me tarred, feathered and hung out to dry by the majority of women, but I’m going to say it anyway: I think we all need to flirt more often, also at work. But before you start making that voodoo doll of ‘a certain writer’, please allow me to explain.

Flirting has always received a bad rap. Just utter the word and most people colour green with jealousy and shudder at the imagined implications: sexual attraction, the beginning of an affair and of course ultimately divorce.

I think it all goes wrong with the definition of the word “flirt”. The Oxford Dictionaries define it as “to behave as though sexually attracted to someone, but playfully rather than with serious intentions.” Being the subjective creatures that we are, we immediately focus on the words “sexually attracted” and completely ignore the bits about “as though” and “without serious intentions”, which are pretty crucial in the definition. For the purpose of clarity, I suggest that we tweak the definition a little to read “to behave as though attracted to someone, but playfully rather than with serious intent”.

Suddenly “flirting” seems a lot less threatening, doesn’t it?

Now the definition reflects the reality of flirting as most decent, well-balanced adults practice it: playfully teasing someone – with no serious intent.

I think flirting is healthy. I flirt often and in all kinds of situations. I flirt with men and women; I flirt with friends and their boyfriends. I flirt with the mechanics at the garage and strange men behind me in the checkout queue. My best friend (a happily married mother of two) and I build evenings of laughter on endless flirtatious quips with each other. Hell, I even flirt with my granny. I do this because I like the person in question, because I hope to illicit a playful response and maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll generate a buzz of upbeat, playful energy that will leave us both sporting the silly grins only spirited play can bring.

But when it comes to talking about flirting – no matter how innocently - in a professional environment, most of us still squirm uneasily in our ergonomically correct office chairs. It seems so politically incorrect to even ponder the thought, doesn’t it? Because what woman would admit  – quelle horreur – to flirting her way to the corner office?

Following the recent publication of two books on the topic, Forbes Woman ( dragged the hairy topic into the spotlight for some serious discussion. Does flirting advance or sabotage your career? Does it undermine your professional standing or is it – if done with finesse and careful nuance, just a good networking skill? Nicole Williams, author of Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success views professional flirting as part of good networking skills. Many of the same rules apply: Maintain eye contact, smile, show interest by asking questions, listen. Flirting then goes a step further, adding a dash of flirtatious nuance: a compliment or a quirky remark, friendly body language or a gentle touch.

Many women will be quick to point out that this type of light-hearted behaviour can easily backfire. That being labelled the office flirt is the last thing any woman wants; and that men are notoriously known to misconstrue a woman’s friendliness for romantic interest - both of which are of course valid concerns.

But it is also in these two pitfalls that we find the secrets to enjoyable and successful flirting – whether in business or social situations. Flirting should be subtle and refined, never brash. It should be playful and light, never heavy. Most of all it should be gentle and kind and never be born of malicious intent or dubious ulterior motives.  And as in any social interaction, you have to be able to read the situation correctly. Is there room to be playful?  Is the person in the right frame of mind? After all, flirtatious behaviour should be enjoyable to both parties and never make someone feel uncomfortable.

I think flirting has misguidedly received a bad rap for long enough. Let’s cast off it’s doomsday coat of projected insecurities and dark fears to see it for what it should be: a playful exchange of energy between two people.

I say we should all flirt much more often – also at work. Life is serious enough and as most of us spend the largest part of our day – and by extension our adult life - at work, we should also have some fun while we’re at it.  For wouldn’t it just be the saddest life if we spent all that time as emotional flat-liners just because we’re afraid of what others may think of our playful side?


Beer's untapped potential with women.

There are numerous product categories in which the opportunity to target women is a playing field that lies wide open: automotive, wine and banking are but a few. Another category that presents enormous opportunities for marketeers: the beer market.

Women have always had a love-hate relationship with beer. Even though women's beer consumption is impacted greatly by local customs and culture and thus varies greatly from country to country, there are a few universal prejudices and myths that severely impact women's consumption of beer, regardless of the country they live in.

Women's top arguments against beer drinking, according to a study by brewer Molson Coors:
1. Women still view beer as a "manly" drink.
2. 42% of women believe advertising has to change to make beer more appealing.
3. 25% said they think they wouldn't like the taste.
4. Almost 50% believe they will put on weight if they drink beer.

These findings are not surprising if one keeps in mind that the beer industry is one which has traditionally focused on men's needs and wants when it comes to developing and marketing products. And the few beer brands that have dipped toes into the waters of marketing their products to women do so by "pink washing" their products: same product, same positioning, pink label.

Even in Belgium, arguably one of the world's leading beer-drinking countries, women still feel left out in the cold when it comes to main-stream beers. (Here, they've developed - specially for us girls - beers made from cherries or raspberries). The danger of this approach however, is twofold: women feel patronized and men feel alienated. No-one wins. And when it comes to mainstream 'blond' beers - everyday, easy-to-drink beers, they're still marketed to appeal to men. Slogans for the biggest selling brands are a case in point: "Jupiler - men know why" or "Men, mates, Maes" will alienate female beer drinkers.

Kirsty McCready, who is assisting brewer Molson Coors in reaching female consumers hits the nail on the head: "We're not going to reshape the industry by simply launching beer products aimed at women," says McCready. "We need to look at the bigger picture and encompass the whole beer-drinking experience."

McCready highlights 3 key strategies to increase women's beer consumption:
1. Create innovations to change the taste of beer. (Think wheat beer spiced with coriander and orange peel served with a slice of orange).
2. Create "new ways (and new moments!) to drink beer" (think beer cocktails).
3. Launch myth-busting campaigns that speak to women in an appealing way about their prejudices surrounding beer.

Another great tactic brewer Purity Brewing Co employs to appeal to women? Use a beer-loving female celebrity to front the brand! Some creative thinking can extrapolate the idea into some great activities!

Women are ready to call themselves 'beer drinkers' as much as they identify themselves as enjoyers of wine. The question is: are beer brewers ready to acknowledge this opportunity and make the necessary decisions and investments to go after this opportunity successfully?

Read full article here.


A worthy example to all women!

What a great, empowering video!


The underwear ad Belgium decided to ban.

Western Europe isn't exactly known for its prudish attitudes toward sex, drugs and rock-'n-roll, and yet...

Recently, Belgium's Jury for Ethical Practices decided to ban the Tour De France inspired billboard campaign of underwear manufacturer Sloggi. During the weeks of Tour De France hype, many billboards featured the 'Tour panties' as they quickly became known. "To capitalize on cycling-minded Belgium", according to Rob Brand of Sloggi Benelux.

This is it, ladies and gentlemen: the offensive campaign:

Which is a follow-on to this campaign (not considered offensive):

Now I must add that Sloggi is renowned for its sexy ads showing female butts. The brand even hosts its own 'most beautiful behind' campaign each year, so sexy butts are part of their visual identity.

Having said that, the question is: does the 'cycling campaign' offend me any more (or any less) than the 'scooter campaign? No.

Has the campaign enticed me to run to the store to buy one of the famous Tour panties? No. (But even if I wanted to I could buy one, I couldn't - because they don't exist! "We only made those for the campaign, not as real products" a salesman assured his customers recently).

Obviously this is a brand awareness raising campaign tagged onto a current-affairs event to maximize its relevance. So if the question is, has the campaign fulfilled that objective, the answer is yes.

If we speak of effective marketing - marketing that supports sales - the questions I'd love to get an answer to from Sloggi are:
Did it appeal to your customers and prospective customers?
Did you notice an increase in sales?
Has it affected/increased your market-share?
Or are you happy to call it 'successful' because it raised your Share-of-Voice for a few days?


A few good women.

The automotive industry is one of the traditional male bastions in business. All men and (almost) no women. But the industry is changing...slowly. Here's a team of female engineers at Ford, making a case for why the industry needs a female touch.

(...and what great PR for Ford, don't you think!)


Denim diapers and the storms they can create.

Here's a perfect example of a great idea for a product and a bad execution on the communication: denim diapers from Huggies.

The new Huggies campaign touts a denim-look diaper design available for a limited time this summer. The online version of the spot has a fashion-conscious toddler strolling pants-full in his jean diaper, with a voice over declaring, "I poo - in blue".

Have a look at the ad here:

I don't particularly like the ad, for two reasons:
- The verbal innuendo is superficial, simplistic and not funny at all. (ok, but that's my personal opinion).
- The baby is portrayed as a grown man strutting his stuff down the street, whilst women and men look on jealously. Sexualization of children, however mild or "cutely" packaged, simple feels wrong. It leads to cognitive dissonance, which of course, negates exactly what the ad is trying to do: sell the product.

I don't find the ad disturbing per se, it's simply a bad ad that markets the product to its target audience (mothers) in an inappropriate way, which I am willing to bet does not appeal to them. Top that off with an irritating VO about "Pooing in Blue" (how creative) and I bet the wear-out factor of his ad is about 1 view.

What's interesting is to look at the creative team at JWT, who designed the ad.
Chief Creative Officer: a man
Executive Creative Director: a man
Creative Director: a man
Art Director: a man
Copy writers (2): both men
Director: a man

This illustrates why mixed gender creative teams are so important - whether you're marketing diapers or tires! The balance of insight, perception and concept and message affiliation brought by both genders would have avoided a costly, horribly ad for what is, no doubt a really cool summer product.

Speaking of inappropriate communication, have a look at this ad: the "Baby version of David Beckham's Armani underwear ad"


The future of marketing: give, get given.

The future of effectively connecting with your consumers lies herein:
if you want their attention, you have to give something first.

No, we don't mean give free product samples, coupons or host competitions to win stuff.
We mean give. Really give. Jump in boots and all. Take part. Put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. Talk the talk, walk the walk. SHOW US YOU CARE. REALLY.

Think Enron. Think Nestle (KitKat) Think BP. They didn't care, and if there is one truth that will increasingly manifest itself in consumers' behavior the coming years it is this: they don't care, unless they know you care. It's the reason why ethical investment funds - the "profits with principle" approach - are booming.

Here's one company who has put the "I care" principle to great use.

Orange Rockcorps is a pro-social production company. It uses the power of music to inspire people to volunteer and give to their community. Over 45,000 volunteers have attended more than 20 live events by artists including Lady GaGa, Snoop Dogg, Buster Rhymes and Nelly. You can’t buy a ticket. You can’t win a ticket. You have to earn a ticket.

Rockcorps was launched in the US in 2005 by 7 friends. In less than 3 years, an audience of millions has heard their message: Give, Get Given.

The concept is simple: give 4 hours for your community with Orange RockCorps; Get Given 1 ticket to an amazing gig in return.

Thousands have already given their time and the organizations goes from strength to strength as it continues to outgrow its 'baby shoes'.

Astute marketers will take note: this project represents huge opportunities! (BlackBerry, Orange, SonyEricsson and UK's Channel 4 have already partnered with Orange Rockcorps).
But before you dive in, a few key prerequisites for success:

1. Be brave. Don't think traditional marketing. If you're going in to "campaign" and not to converse, to take part, to collaborate you can just as well stay in your traditional ivory tower.

2. Don't sell your brand, sell your values. Actually, don't just sell your values: show your consumer that you live them too.

3. Belong. Become a part of your consumer's world. Know what drives them, what they care about, what they are willing to fight for. Now help them.

4. Think partnership marketing. Your consumers don't listen to you as much as they do to each other. Get involved. Foster relationships. Help make their world a better place.

I forgot to mention the word "women". That's because these truths are applicable to all consumers - including women.


Killing your campaign in 3 words.

LONG-TERM, ORGANIC, PARNTERSHIP. These are the three words that explain why your campaign(s) are not delivering the results - over time - that you had hoped for.

Reading the MobileYouth blog this morning, these wise words by Graham Brown really went straight to the heart of the problem:

"Marketing’s biggest weakness is its own soil – it’s inorganic. Marketing seeks short term results and as every caffeine fuelled overworked agency exec knows, short term is the client’s push-button.

TV doesn’t work like its used to but we’re still prepared to pour resources into the channel because it’s what we know, we have the relationships and we’re never going to get fired for committing the bulk of our budget to youth programming.

The future lies in a more organic process – one that requires nurturing the soil, one that requires innovation beyond the ability to wield buying power, one that requires marketers to think up why youth should consider your product the choice of their generation."

And even though Graham is specifically talking about youth marketing in his post, I believe the argument is as applicable to other consumer segments too - whether they be young career women or the 'Second Lifer' women of 55+.

Attention is a brands biggest cost. Demand far outstrips supply. Across all consumer segments.

The answer? Desire Paths.
Desire paths are uniquely individual, organic ways in which we navigate the interests and passions in our lives. Like a woman's 'web thinking', desire paths connect the dots in our lives.

We need to rethink traditional marketing models. We need to show some vision, some courage to break away from a model we all know is dying but which we cling to because it keeps the client happy (today) and delivers results (this quarter).

Food for thought...


A soft approach to a harsh topic.

There's been quite some talk about the video below. It deals with a harsh topic, in a very 'soft' manner.

Right or wrong?

Should it have been more provocative and shocking? Or does it drive home the message just as effectively exactly because it is in such sharp contrast to the gentle 'packaging' of the message?

You decide...


Marketing to women: how to get it wrong twice - by HP.

Seems there is still a lot of misunderstanding out there about women's behavior as consumers and how we come to make the purchase decision we do. A computer, for instance, can be an impulse buy, according to HP. Or a handbag, for that matter. (read our review of the HP that thinks its a handbag here 

This article, titled "HP thinks it needs sell computers to women as if they were stilletos" shows how a company can get its female consumers completely wrong - twice in a row.

As so many companies will surely do in the coming months, HP is also trying to jump on the Sex and the City (2) bandwagon, hoping no doubt, that it will get them a little closer to there female customers. And they're doing it in a big way. In the coming months, HP will open a series of stores - pardon, boutiques - across the globe that will feature notebooks and mini-computers alongside handbags, shoes and jewelry to launch what the company calls its "spring collection", because as HP's marketing director (rightly) points out "traditional computer-electronics stores are not female friendly" and (wrongly) concludes " many ways computers are accessories. They could be impulse purchases". 

Yes, computer stores are often not female friendly - because the staff is not trained to understand what drives women's purchases in this segment, not because they don't feature handbags and Manolo Blahniks on the same shelf. 

No, we don't see our laptop as a handbag or an accessory that needs to match our shoes or our outfit.

No, a 700 Euro purchase will never fall into the "impulse buy" category unless you're Paris Hilton.

Yes, we actually quite a lot of research - online and by asking people we trust - about the computer we want to buy.

And no, I don't feel more comfortable shopping for that computer just because its surrounded by shoes and handbags.

Rule number one of smart marketing to women: don't dumb it down, which is exactly what you're doing by implying women want to shop for computers - on impulse - while they are surrounded by fashion.

Rule number two of smart marketing to women: understand your consumer. There are people out there who can help you. Do some simple online research, have a look at what the ladies over at Lady Geek have to say. It will give you a good start.

And with that, I hope its the last time we'll see you here in the Bad Marketing to Women Hall of Fame.


Why YOU should attend the JUMP Forum on April 29th in Brussels!

JUMP Forum 2010: The Extraordinary Impact of Women in the Economy!
Join the fourth edition of the JUMP Forum that inspires hundreds of professional Women and Men across Europe, featuring the most successful Women and the most brilliant experts in gender diversity!
For Women: why YOU should attend!
The JUMP Forum is the biggest single day event dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of women. Each year, it offers professional women the opportunity to attend workshops by top business leaders, network with other professional women and to think about and develop their careers.
For Companies
Gender balance is above all a business issue. In a constructive and optimistic way, JUMP helps companies unlock the market and talent potential. It is simply a strategic and economic priority.
The JUMP Forum offers Women practical tools to realise their professional and personal aspirations, and supports organisations to implement a successful gender balance initiative.
Business leaders and gender balance experts will share their views, strategies and advice.
Topics include:
- To quota or not to quota? Europe's best practices on policies, quotas and targets.
- How to profit from a gender balanced business.
- Powerful strategies for your career success.
- How to find your true vocation.
- Using social networks to benefit your career.
This is your chance to learn strategies for success by leaders including:
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox (Canada-France), CEO of 20-first, Consultant, Coach and Author of Why Women Mean Business and the forthcoming How Women Mean Business 
Mirella Visser (Netherlands), Author of De Zijderoute naar de top and Founder-CEO of the Centre for Inclusive Leadership
Rohini Anand (USA), Senior Vice President and Global Chief Diversity Officer, Sodexo
Marleen Temmerman, Professor, Member of the Managing Committee of UZ Gent and Member of the Senate
Lieve Verplancke, Managing Director at Bristol-Myers Squibb Belgium 
Dominique Leroy, CEO of Unilever
You can view the day's program hereRegister here


The Netherlands: not as liberal and emancipated as we think.

Many countries look to the Netherlands as the example of liberated thinking. A country where "live and let live", tolerance and a willingness to discuss (and embrace) everything from recreational Cannabis use to televised pornography is part of the fibre of the nation's national identity. Everything, it seems, but opening the corporate Old Boys Club to include women. That, until today, seems to prove a bridge too far.

A study just out spotlights the dismal situation:

60% of the top 10 companies in the Netherlands do not have a single woman in their Executive Committee.
Giants such as Shell, ING, Philips, Akzo Nobel and Heikeken don't have a single woman on their boards.

Even worse?
Of the 4 women who do actually sit on Executive Committees, 3 are in line/operational roles, 1 in a staff function. The harsh truth of this reality? One women alone on a board will never have enough weight in the group to affect change. There is a rule that says you need 3 people in a group of 10 to affect change.
3 in 10. Not 1 in 10. So those 4 women are in effect, "invisible" committee members: present but unable to make a fundamental difference.

This situation needs to change. Urgently.
Today, more than 50% of all college graduates are women.
Research has proven that gender-balanced companies perform better than those who's boards consist only of men and that the current economic crisis probably wouldn't have been as fundamental had more women held executive positions, participated in more key decision-making.

Women need to be encouraged to participate at strategic level. Our future - not just women's future - depends on it.


What she's not telling you.

I've written before about the questionable validity of results obtained from focus groups (you know, those demographically aligned groups of strangers we put behind one-way mirrors to fiddle with and discuss our products or ideas). Then along comes the book "What she's not telling you" and confirms what we have always dreaded: our focus group research is worth Nada. Zero. Nil.
Because the participants (women, in this case) weren't telling the truth (but that could go for men too).

Recommended reading BEFORE you finalize and test that one winning 'big idea' on yet another focus group:

"What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It."


Man Should Be Brave.

I couldn't resist posting this ad from the French Connection campaign.

I posted it on my Facebook account and immediately got tons of positive responses - from women. They love this ad!

Why? Because it adheres to two the core values of smart marketing to women: be real and be brave.
We all agreed: "Brave men" are men who dare to be silly, funny, poke fun at themselves and who don't take their male egos too seriously.

We also liked the "realness" of the image. A guy with a beard, in a plain t-shirt proudly (not arrogantly) looking ahead. No airbrushing, no impossibly high cheekbones or six-pack stomach. No obvious marketing blah-blah or overtly irrealistic promises.

Just simple, tongue-in-cheek humor.

Great marketing-to-women, kudoz FC!

Getting it wrong for Valentine: Back into the doghouse!

Valentine's Day - the American way.
Remember the JC Penny "In the Doghouse" campaign of last year? (We wrote about it here).

The retailer has continued the successful campaign with an ad for Valentine's day called "Return to the Doghouse". Reading the adwomen blog this morning, I found out that the creative team behind the new ad, made by Saatchi and Saatchi NYC, contained no women. (The creative director of the first ad, Aimy Valentine, was not involved in the making of this ad).

The ladies over at the adwomen blog are right to pose the question: do we think it's noticeable that there was no women on the creative team for this ad? I'll let you decide that for yourself...

Valentine's Day - the British way.
And then there's this campaign, called "HardChorus" by Puma. As you know, this year Valentine's day fell on a Sunday, which in the UK means football. Puma found a very creative, tongue-in-cheek way to defuse the age-old field of tension between women and football. Enjoy!


To our moms we'll always be kids.

I just discovered this new ad by P&G that ties in with the winter Olympics taking place right now.
It's a great example of a very simple yet very effective ad that targets women - be they mothers or not.

As you'll see in the video below, the ad centers on the concept of Olympic athletes always remaining kids to their moms.

The ad works beautifully for a few reasons:

1. We can all relate to always being a kid in the eyes of our parents.

2. The Olympic athlete that is also just someone's kid: it's a disarmingly gentle concept that stands in stark contrast to the cut-throat competitive nature of the Olympics.

3. Many different types of women will be able to relate to it, for even if they are not moms, they are still someone's daughter.

4. It's human, it's honest, it's simple, it's real. And those are just about all the qualities most of us (women as well as men) are attracted to after years of global capitalism and consumerism-at-all-cost.


Sexist Super Bowl ads.

Oops they did it again!

The ladies over at give us a look at this year's misplaced Super Bowl ads.
It's interesting to note that Dove - for years at the vanguard of gender equality and a beacon of light in the banishment of stereotypes - is on the list too!

Dove recently launched Dove Men+Care a range of personal care products for men. With it, Dove again uses positioning based on gender peer identification to attract men to the brand. I understand why the ladies at don't particularly like the Dove Super Bowl ad (nor do the guys over at, by the way). It's not original nor creative, and it does go through the whole list of stereotypes - for both genders - in less than a minute. But it does have a positive, empowering take-away, so we'll give them credit for that.

Come on Dove, we're still looking to you to go beyond the standard cut-and-paste approach, to inspire us and to break new ground! Don't loose us now!


Let's talk about sex baby

A new meta-study conducted throughout 87 countries puts it to rest for once and for all: when it comes to sex, men and women aren't as different as we think.

The study, conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, reports that "men and women are more similar than different in terms of sexuality". They start having sex at almost the same age, they overlap in the number of partners, the frequency of intercourse, extramarital sex and condom use.

But there was one notable difference: reported masturbation and pornography use.
Not so strange, you may think: men simply prefer these "autoerotic activities" to women.

Maybe not. Women are taught from a very early age that "autoeroticism" is bad, socially unacceptable and certainly not discussed. Actually: it simply doesn't exist. So the difference does not lie in the fact that men prefer auto erotic sexual activities more than women do, it just means it is more socially acceptable for men to talk about it than it is for women to do so.

The report also supports some of the more popularly held theories of evolutionary psychology.

Newsweek article discusses the theories through believers and non-believers.

You can read Tom Jacob's review of the report here.

Please meet the Real Mom.

Advertising Age just published a very interesting white paper called "The New Female Consumer: the rise of the Real Mom". It's a great spotlight on the way society - and the roles of women in it - has changed over the past three generations.

You can download the entire report here. Well worth a read!


To Facebook or Not To Facebook, that is the question.

57 percent of Facebook users are women. For brands that market their products to women, social media is the proverbial goose that lay the golden egg of modern communication. Everybody wants a piece of the action.
I am often encouraged by clients to "include social media, especially Facebook, in our communication strategy". Without much thought as to whether this is actually the right decision, whether it would be an efficient channel in their case (for each case should be judged on its own merit). The question that is most often left unasked is: What do you expect your presence on Facebook to achieve?

This post, titled "10 musts for marketing to women on Facebook" is also a must-read for all brands considering it as a communication channel.