Woman, heal thyself: Second opinions are good for your health.

Lately, like many women my age, I’ve been dealing with my in-laws’ heath issues as well as a few of my own. Navigating an illness is never easy, but if you’re a woman of a certain age, the way you were socialized and taught to converse with physicians could be the biggest obstacle to receiving great care.

Here’s a video I created for company that was trying to encourage women to seek second options before agreeing to surgery. See if it rings true for you, your mom or friends.

Now, getting a second opinion before a surgery sounds like a no-brainer, I know, but for women of my mother-in-laws’ generation (and even my own) a doctor’s advice is often taken as gospel. And to question it, no matter how politely, is tantamount to heresy. Pshaw, y’all.
It turns out that a second opinion can change the diagnosis or the treatment 30% of the time, yet almost half of all Americans don’t get second opinions according to a 2005 Gallup poll.
If you’re ever feeling a bit hesitant about questioning a doctor’s advice, remember that when it comes to your health, you shouldn’t worry about hurting your doctor’s feelings. The first person you have to be good to is YOU. This means taking the time to see another physician in person and taking your test results or any other information with you. And, no, checking around online doesn’t count as a second opinion.
As Chief Wellness Officer of the household, women tend to take care of everyone in the family first and treat their own health issues “when there’s time.” That’s a topic for another post, for now just remember what your pilot always says prior to take off: “Always put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others.”

closeup GSD&M Addy Award Program ad

If I don’t laugh, does that make me a prude?

Call me an optimist, but thanks to The 3% Conference and The Representation Project,  I thought agencies and brands were finally  getting the message that you should (at a minimum) try not to insult or ignore women in your ads or your workplace.  And then I saw this ad. Let’s take another look at it. (Don’t worry if you don’t understand it, a lot of women didn’t and I’ll explain in a second .)

closeup GSD&M Addy Award Program ad

In case you are not currently an adolescent boy, the visuals in the coupon ad are shorthand for male masturbation.

This is an ad by GSD&M that ran in the local ADDY Awards show and is meant to make fun of how self-involved ad people are. Which is fine. We love laughing at ourselves. But this joke only includes men.

This little ad speaks volumes about the male-dominated culture that still reigns within creative departments practically everywhere. It assumes boy humor is the only humor that matters. And that women in the creative department will laugh unless 1) they’re prudes or 2)  they don’t have a sense of humor or  3)  they’re too sensitive or 4) they’re just bad creatives.

It rarely occurs to a male CD or ECD to wonder if the puerile joke he thinks is so funny will be at all entertaining to women. And when he does wonder, he simply asks his wife.

GSD&M does some fantastic work. They have been a sponsor of The 3% Conference and this past October, they even sent an executive from their Diversity team to the conference in SF. On their homepage they describe themselves as really nice people who work with “companies who stand for something and companies that want to transcend their categories and be a positive force in people’s lives.”

It’s time for GSD&M to walk their talk. And that means raising their standards of what a good, funny ad is. That means judging creative beyond the male default setting (which can be tough since the agency only has ONE female Creative Director). That means asking, “Is it as good for you as it is for me?” Even when, or especially when, that ad is intended solely for the ad industry itself. It means rising above the crowd when they’re playing in the tired, overused gutter of stereotypes and locker room humor and showing lesser agencies how it’s done.

It means recognizing that there are women in your creative department and they’d like to be in on the joke, too. (Many women were more bored than offended by the ad. )

Speaking of, I asked some women what they thought of the ad. These were my questions:

Is this a clever ad?
Does it speak to both men and women in the industry?
Does it imply that only men will be winning the ADDY Awards?
Is it offensive to you? Is it offensive to most women?
Is this creative work something an agency should be proud to submit as an example of their prowess?
If you were a young woman considering a career in advertising, would this ad suggest that this industry will value you?

Here’s a smattering of the responses that are indicative of the whole, but I’d like to know what you think.

Q: Does this ad imply that only men will be winning the ADDY Awards?
 A: I guess it does – unless the women up for ADDY awards are hermaphrodites.
Q: Is it offensive to you? Is it offensive to most women?  
A: Offensive to me as a woman? No.  Humor is highly personal so I can’t speak for most women.  Plus I have a mouth like a sailor.  As a creative woman, I would’ve been offended that the vulgar joke EXCLUDED me.

A: I have a good sense of humor and a little of inuendo is funny, but I think this crosses a lot of lines, professionally and gender-ly. I’ve long thought the Addys were getting out of control in this way and just quit even paying attention to them. Never went back to Ad Fed either. Think I voiced my opinion on this the year they had an S&M theme for the ceremony. Shaking my head…

A: Yes, this is offensive to me..It’s offensive to women because it:
1. Leaves us out of the joke
2. Marginalizes
3. Makes it “uncool” to be offended by masturbation
4. Trivializes the power of advertising.
Q: Is this creative work something an agency should be proud to submit as an example of their prowess?
A: No.  It’s weak creative, frankly.
A: I’d fire whoever approved this.
A: This is clever if you have an IQ of 85!
It really spoke to my 18 year old son and to a 56 year old fireman. They both said that only idiots use tissue.
A: Okay, this ad makes ZERO sense to me. I don’t get it at all
A: I didn’t get it….  In fact, I found it so perplexing, I asked my husband to look at it. Oddly enough, he got it right away….!
Q: If you were a young woman considering a career in advertising, would this ad suggest that this industry will value you?
A: How can you say you value something you routinely exclude or ignore?  Unless you need to market tampons….
A: It would tell me that despite this being 2014, despite the fact that more women enter college than men, despite the fact that women are now starting more businesses than men, despite the fact that well over 85% of purchasing decisions are made by women, that if you want to be part of this industry, you have to join the fraternity of dunces, pretend to be a pubescent, frustrated adolescent boy who’s highest priority is not to leave the world a better place, but to instead focus on his pee pee.

The ad above is an idea any male creative could have over one beer. Probably the first thing they scribbled down. I don’t begrudge them working fast. I’m challenging them to think beyond boy humor, include women and strive for something that’s more universal and intelligent.  Think beyond your own narrow ideas of taste.

And for all you female CDs (all one or two of you) please have the courage to send guys back to the drawing board. You’re our best hope for keeping ads like these in the circular file where they belong.

GSD&M Addy Awards Program Ad

Humor is a girl’s best friend

One of my favorite illustrations of a very under utilized emotion in marketing to women: Humor.

Once you get off the youtube channel and into more mainstream advertising, and particularly when you enter the realm of marketing to women, humor is woefully overlooked in most brand’s tool boxes. Sad really, since women really crave it. (Poll 10 women at random and ask them what they look for in the perfect man. I guarantee you humor will make the top 3.)

Did you know a different part of the the female brain lights up when she laughs? Actually, up to nine different parts activate according to MRI studies cited in THE FEMALE BRAIN. Compare that to only one or two sections that engage when a man has the same emotion. Why should you care about this as a marketer? All those connections increase your chance of being remembered. And since women store memories as emotions, why not be associated with a smile?  We could all use some more of that.

If you really loved me: Why women may not be buying what you’re selling

In my last post I talked about a local automotive shop that had created a workshop on car care just for women.  Recognizing that women control purchase decisions even in typically male areas like cars, business travel and finances is the first step to increasing customer loyalty in these areas.  I applaud any business who is making a valiant effort to better serve the world’s toughest customer.

But be aware that one effort or campaign push will rarely be enough . The reason for this? Women aren’t quite as easy and gullible as most marketers estimate us to be. We’ve been “targeted” a lot and are often let down. The result is a fairly cynical group of consumers.  As an example, let me take you through an online conversation that occurred after a local women’s group received the invite to the Car Care workshop we talked about. (And by the way, it’s the same sort of conversation that goes on many times a day.)

Woman 1: A Car Care workshop for women?  That’s interesting.

Woman 2: Why just for women?

Woman 3: I don’t trust them. I think that’s just a marketing ploy.

Woman 2: I agree, I haven’t ever felt comfortable with their service. I don’t think it’s women friendly at all.

Woman 4: Me neither. It’s just marketing.

Woman 5: Hey wait you guys, the location in my neighborhood is great! I wouldn’t trust anyone else with my car.

Woman 3: Really? Where are you? Maybe it’s worth driving to that location.

A quick note: any retailer or franchise knows that consistency across all stores takes constant vigilance. And that’s certainly one lesson here. But let’s  talk about ways that automotive players (and those in other industries with historically poor service for women such as financial services , electronics and health care) can make the most out of every marketing effort.

(I’m re-inserting our video on women and hair here in case you don’t remember how women tend to handle dissatisfaction with service)

For starters, as I’ve said before, women don’t really want to be targeted as much as they just want to be included and treated with respect,. So sometimes “women only” events can backfire. It’s a fine line, but I’m here to help you walk it. Let’s start with the basics:

Don’t talk it before you can walk it

Learn how to provide the right kind of service and sales to women and work the program until you’re confident that everyone in your organization is on board. Women-friendly service needs to become part of the soul of your brand. One reason Dell’s Della launch failed is that being human and women friendly isn’t really part of their DNA.

There are entire courses on how to sell to women so I can’t cover it all here, but the point is to nail this before you start bumping up your advertising to women. Marketing is the last step in the process.

Details matter.

Women are going to notice things in your store that men might overlook. And to her, these details matter. You don’t have to spend a lot, but you do need to buy some white gloves and look sharp. Is the bathroom immaculate? Extra points if there is hand cream and a plant in there. If you have a lounge area, put some women’s magazines on the rack. Most dealerships only have Golf  Digest and Field and Stream.  Extra points if there’s something to entertain small children. Little things like this communicate, “We value your business and we’re glad you’re here.”

Remember that you’re improving your service to everyone.

Many brands get frustrated when they begin to realize how hard it is to win over the female consumer. “Why should I go to all this trouble? Women are too difficult.”

Well, they are 50% of the population and they control 85% of consumer spending. But the real reason to pay attention to them is that if you can meet a woman’s expectations you will probably exceed those of your other customers.  Best Buy is the last big box retailer standing largely because they improved their service to women. And in the process, they improved sales with everyone.  Apple is a fabulous example of having women friendly service.  It doesn’t seem to be hurting their sales with the other half. Don’t think of this as catering to women. Think of it as raising your service level to the highest bar and believe me, all your customers will see a difference.

Patience grasshopper

One email blast, coupon or  full page ad in a women’s magazine will not have women beating down your door. Nor do you need to create a separate ad campaign just for her. Refine your marketing and ad efforts with the same attention to detail that you gave your store. There are visual and verbal cues that speak volumes to women without ever saying the words “women friendly.”  Again, I’d point to Apple as a perfect example.

Finally, once you do earn a woman’s trust she will tell others about you. Women recommend brands and services far more frequently than men, so winning this customer may be tough, but it’s worth it.

Tires and roses: an automotive guy reaches out to his female customers

Women don’t just make 85% of consumer purchase decisions on stuff like lipstick and toilet bowl cleaner. They’re in the drivers seat (sorry couldn’t resist) on car purchases and car care, too.

The big players in the industry are slowly catching on to this important economic fact. But it’s really impressive when a forward -thinking regional player is willing to get smart about what his female customers need.

It’s with this in mind that I went to a women’s event last night at a locally-grown (I’m in Austin) tire and auto chain called Lamb’s. Ron Meredith, the current owner of the 15-store chain, was there in person to welcome all of us as we straggled in from work to learn the basics of good car care.

The most telling part of this event didn’t happen over the course of this evening. It happened in an online chat about it. But I’ll get to that later.

Over the course of the next hour and a half, four of Ron’s managers took us under the hood, under the car and around the tires. What I loved was the passion with which each guy spoke of his particular area of expertise.  My favorite was the tire man who described tires as, “The Rodney Dangerfield of the car. They don’t get no respect.” Turns out they should. Did you know that proper tire inflation has a bigger impact on gas mileage than anything else you can do? And don’t get me started on safety. I will never put off new tires again.

I could go on, but you’re here to learn about connecting with women.  So let me talk about what worked for me about this evening.  And one thing that didn’t.

1)   Hospitality.  I like when any store/ event acknowledges that we are guests in their home.  We were greeted warmly and offered fresh Tiff’s cookies (a beloved local treat) and drinks.

2)   Good information. Solid information is like crack to women when we have an interest in something.  No one talked down to us or glossed over technical stuff.

3)   Not too much self-promotion. The guys were good about saying, “No matter who you take your car to…..” It was never taken for granted that our loyalty would be a given after one free workshop.

4)   Surprise and delight. This is always a key piece and for this event it came at the end when we were all given a long stem rose with a great coupon attached to the stem. For me, this was the perfect gesture from Ron because he is at heart an old-fashioned guy. The kind who still pulls a chair out for women or holds a door open. As a southerner, I really liked this gesture and the juxtaposition of the smell of roses mingling with that new tire rubber smell.

Things that rubbed me the wrong way (and did the same to other women).

  1. Being corralled back into the lobby and more or less forced to take a survey. As a businessperson, I understand why surveys are valuable. But the assumption that we had an extra five minutes to give (even after a free workshop and a rose) was a small misstep. It’s the old dating equivalent of assuming you’re owed a kiss because you bought the dinner.

But at least they are TRYING. That goes a long way with women, and it should be applauded.

I mentioned that one of the most telling consequences of this evening actually happened in an online discussion. Here’s how it went. Lamb’s sent an  event invite to a local women’s organization. Within hours the invite had triggered a train of comments that, in my mind, completely mirror the mental machinations all women go through when they are marketed to.  More on that tomorrow.

Until then, keep your shiny side up. And try a rose on your dashboard.

When marketing to women, actions speak louder than words.

I recently wrote a tip for American Express’s Open Forum, an online hub for business owners and thought it would be worth sharing here as well. I also encourage you to visit the complete post submitted by Linsey Knerl titled: 31 Exceptional Strategies for Marketing to Today’s Woman.

Here’s the deal. I think most women today would like to say to marketers and brands, “Don’t tell me, show me. Don’t talk it, walk it.”

Women are some of the busiest people on the planet and they (like all of us) are bombarded with about 5,000 marketing messages a day. Breaking through that kind of clutter takes more than a strong message, it takes action. Here’s an example. If you have a product that can make her life easier (and by the way, “makes my life easier” was a top purchase intent motivator in a recent study my company did with women) then don’t just tell her, show her. Kraft did this recently with great success. While other companies were trying to connect with women and moms by pushing out messages to her mobile phone, Kraft took action.   Instead of pushing out a mobile message about how their products make meal time easier, Kraft created an iphone app called “iFood Assistant” that actually made meal time easier by putting 7,000 recipes at their fingertips. This app quickly gained the hearts of women and soon held the No.2 spot in the Apple App Store Lifestyle section. According to Kraft, more than 60% of the users are still engaged with the app six months after they downloaded it.

That’s the kind of one-on-one engagement with the brand that you could never get by simply talking at her.