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.

Funny (but true) Friday video: When a brand loves a woman….this won’t happen

I was delivering a keynote in Dubai a couple of years ago and one of the other presenters at the marketing conference used this video in her presentation. I thought it was a brilliant, succinct and funny summary of  most marketer’s myopia when it comes to connecting with women.   Once you’ve had a good laugh, go back and consider some of the points it makes. My particular favorite is the roll of humor. Women would actually welcome much more humor in advertising and marketing. It’s just that the little boy gags ad agencies produce rarely reach, much less tickle, our funny bone.

What brand do you need to break up with today? They just wanted to get into your purse.

Pass the tissue & hand over the $500k: Marketing in real time.

Two nights ago I joined 500 other women from Impact Austin at the Dell Community Center to listen as 10 local non-profits presented their plans for using the money we were about to donate. The catch? Only 5 of the organizations would “win” a $100,000 donation. The other 5 would go home wiser but empty handed.  The winners would be chosen that night, just moments after making their presentations.

Reality TV has nothing on this event.

It’s hard to send 5 worthy causes home without money and the number of teary eyes and tissues in the audience proved it. It also proved that the company with the most focused and compelling pitch wins. This was marketing in real time.

It’s my first year as a member of Impact Austin. There’s probably a group like this where you live. Look for one if you’re not already member. This kind of giving is really fulfilling. The concept is to find 500 women who each donate $1k, thus pooling their money to create $500k. The group then takes applications from non-profits and begins a very thorough vetting process to narrow down the nominees to 10 (2 in each category.) Finally those 10 present live, the members cast ballots, and the votes are counted right then and there. The  5 winners are announced within 30 minutes. The whole process works like a well-oiled machine, albeit one led with real heart by founder Rebecca Powers.  The donation size  is enough to make a real impact, and each non-profit who “wins”  has to report their results. I’ve never felt so good about giving in my life.

I’ve also never felt more certain about the necessity of a really good brand story.

All the members had received a very thorough report about the finalists from the nomination committee, and believe me, every finalist was extremely worthy.  Many of the members had already decided who they were going to vote for before siting down to watch the presentations. But guess what? Those votes often changed based on the 5 minute pitch each non-profit made on stage. And the ultimate winners in each category had presentations that had three things in common:

1. A concise and compelling goal

2. A very human story that illustrated how the group had impacted lives

3. A passionate, often charismatic leader making the presentation

Sounds easy, huh? Certainly the stringent vetting process was enough to make every group edit and focus their goal. But telling a compelling story and having a leader who could make the audience FEEL that their donation would go even farther on the wings of their vision and passion, well, that’s another thing entirely.

For those of you lucky enough to live in Austin, the winners will be presented with their checks tomorrow (Friday, June 12th.) Presentations will be made on site rather than at the Capital so that all the volunteers from each organization can be part of the ceremony. Try to make it to at least one. I’ll be at the GENaustin event at the Ann Richards School For Young Women Leaders at 2:15pm. The other event times and locations (and links) are below.

9:00 a.m.
People’s Community Clinic
2909 N. IH 35
Austin, TX 78722

10:15 a.m.
Capital IDEA
504 Lavaca Street Suite 1008
Austin, TX  78701

11:30 a.m.
Urban Roots farm at Hands of the Earth farm
7651 Delwau
Austin, TX 78725

1:00 p.m.
Ballet East Dance Company
Eastside Memorial High School
1012 Arthur Stiles
Austin, TX  78721

2:15 p.m.
Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders
2206 Prather Lane
Austin, TX 7870

Brother, can you spare a thought?

When speaking at TED, Kevin Kelly threw out a belief that most of us accept as fact these days: Attention is currency. Certainly everyone is clamoring for it. There’s not a consensus, even from Yankelovich, as to how many marketers clamor for us to take notice of their messages each day, but estimates range from 3,000 to 5,000 as you probably know.

However, the number is not the point.

The point is that we feel inundated, bombarded, ambushed (ever noticed how many battle descriptions are used with this statistic?) and occasionally overwhelmed by it all. The point is that all these messages are fighting for ever-diminishing head space and that this head space is precious property that we keep promising to give to truly important stuff like the loves of our lives and the meaning of life and our ultimate contribution to the world. If only we could find the time. But we can’t because, at least in my case, first we have to figure out whether it’s our day to run carpool and, if so, whether we’re supposed to be at the soccer field or the football field.

The point is, that calling our attention “currency” completely devalues it.

We are ultimately what we give the most of our attention to. My attention, your attention, is one of the most precious pieces of ourselves we can give away.

So why do marketers keep thinking it’s OK to steal it?

If you’re trying to get my ATTENTION as a precursor for creating INTENTION to buy, tricking me into watching an ad or making noise just to get noticed is not the way to go my friend. It just pisses me off.

The latest attempted purse snatching was done by Australian agency Naked on behalf of a men’s jacket maker called, appropriately enough, Witchery. It was covered well by Marketing Profs and others and there’s been a lot of talk about whether it’s ethical for advertisers to use the sort of trickery that Witchery did so well and, as someone who has been in advertising for 20 years, listening to ad folks talk ethics is always amusing.

But ethics is not the point.

The point is that it’s misguided, ineffective advertising. Unless ALL you want is attention. In which case, that and three bucks will get you a coffee. And my undying aversion to your brand.

The average guy or gal on the street is not spending a lot of time worrying about whether the most recent fake viral video was moral. They’re momentarily irritated and then off to the next thing on their never-ending ‘to-do’ list. (A stop to pick up that jacket won’t be one of them.)

If you want access to my headspace, the cost of entry is that you give me something worth putting there and remembering. And no, it’s not enough just to be entertaining. For a look at how to do a viral video that’s worth watching, honest and successful, see JC Penny’s, Dog House. Want to know why?

Hold that thought……

Ode to Apple

I think that I shall never see,

ijustine-apple-tattoo1A brand as lovely as Apple can be.

OK, so what I lack in lyricism, I make up for in loyalty. Apple gets my vote as the brand to deliver perfect Gender 2.0 service and marketing and overall gestalt.  First, a disclaimer: I’ve been on a Mac since the first day Macs were on a desk, so I am biased.  

But I’ll also be the first to admit that they have certainly had some missteps (the original ipod battery debacle was a crappy way to treat early adopters.)

Recently, however, Apple is simply blowing me away with brilliance and immaculate follow-through.

1st, let’s take the whole “I’m a Mac” campaign. They took what could be a dry, product points-based, geeky messaging platform and personified it in a way that’s immediately understandable, relevant and lovable. They achieved what I would tell any brand to do if they wanted to win over women. They humanized themselves. In fact, they humanized the whole Mac vs. PC debate. In fact, they humanized this entire technology. It’s worth noting that, as far as I can see, they did it without alienating young men.

But what I really adore is the follow-through in the stores. It does not matter one iota that I am a middle-aged woman when I walk into their store. I am greeted immediately and warmly and when my appointment comes up at the Genius Bar, I am talked to as an intelligent person who really matters.  Perhaps you have to be a middle-aged woman to understand how rare and wonderful this is in a tech environment, but I don’t seem to be the only one who appreciates the service. On a recent Sunday, I was in the store and took a cursory inventory of customers. The ratio of men to women was roughly equal. Notably, so was the ratio of young to….well, lets just say, more experienced.  There were twenty-year olds and seventy year-olds playing with products. I watched a 60-year old woman learning how to put pictures from iphoto on to her website and blog in the One to One training area.

 But here’s what really wowed me. This past Saturday evening, I opened  my MacBook Pro and discovered that the screen had died. It had just gone black.  I immediately went online to make an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar for 10:45am the next morning. At 10:48 Sunday morning I handed my computer (my life) over to Aaron at the Genius Bar and braced myself for the worst. Aaron was cool and calm. He backed up my data to my external hard drive while I grabbed a coffee next door and then he packed up my laptop and told me it was covered on my Apple Care plan and that they’d have it back in 5-7 days. That was Sunday. It arrived today — 4 business days later – and they’d fixed what ailed it and then some. No charge.

Genius, thy name is Apple.



Close your wallet. Raise your voice.

A few nights ago, I spoke at the National Charity League. This is a group of women who are used to making a difference through volunteering and giving with their daughters.  My goal was to show them a way to impact bullhorn_how women (and our girls) are portrayed in media by closing their wallets and raising their voices. No large donations or hours in a soup kitchen required.

The Super Bowl was still fresh enough on everyone’s minds to use as  a talking point , so I asked which ads had stuck out as particularly insulting to women. And of course the winner was GoDaddy.  So should we just roll our eyes and shrug it off?

No. Essentially, when you see advertising and marketing that is detrimental to us as women, don’t give that brand your money. Do send them a message and get all of your friends to as well. Start a discussion about it on a blog or website.

Word gets around. People talk. Look what happened to Motrin. If only the same would happen to GoDaddy. 

I spend a lot of time trying to get big companies to treat women more respectfully in their advertising. We’ll see how it works to get women to start demanding that respect.

Marketer Heal Thyself

Over my career, I’ve often been in the heady position of giving advice and direction to some very smart people at very large, well-known brands. And often, like an overworked physician dispensing guidelines for healthy living,  or a parent screeching, “Do I say, not as I do!” I was giving very good advice that I failed to follow myself.  

So, after years of telling clients to start on-line conversations and increase their digital footprint, I’ve finally decided to follow my own wise counsel and start a blog. I hope it will be a great outlet for my numerous (and passionate) opinions about brand disasters and successes.  I know I’ll learn a lot  from simply being an active participant in the conversation. And like any smart woman, I’m always ready to soak up new material.

But I must also admit that I hope to have an impact on changing the way this whole marketing to women dialogue is moving. I’d like to help companies and brands simply start being more HUMAN.  I’d like them to start treating every consumer with the respect and honesty they deserve regardless of chromosomes. Whether the main target is a millennial male or a boomer female. A Gender 2.0 approach, if you will.  Yes, it’s true that women are much more responsive to “touchy feely” stuff like exceptional service, but I bet Best Buy and Zappos would both tell you that friendly and attentive service helps build the entire customer base in the long run. 

Marketing to women does not mean excluding men. Marketing to men should not have to mean demeaning or excluding women. Yet that is often the result. That’s what I’d like to change. Everybody will benefit from this.  After all, women aren’t just buying bleach and lipstick anymore. They’re major spenders in almost every category. There’s a way to develop smart and effective advertising that appeals to both genders. Just ask Apple. Or just ask me. I’ll be right here. Because this, my soon-to-be friends, is where I blog.

Whew. I feel better already.stethoscope-for-web