This tale of two bags is about opportunities yet to be realized.
This tale of two bags is about opportunities yet to be realized.
This morning on the way into work I heard a radio ad for Whole Foods, the first I've ever heard, and the message wasn't around their to-die-for meat department, or organic wine selection, or artisan cheeses or chemical-free household cleansers. Instead it squarely took on the price issue, pointing out that Whole Foods, and their private label 365 brand in particular, is actually priced much lower than you'd expect, and cited a couple of examples: sparkling water: $1.29 or free-range eggs at $2.49. The brand clearly is reaching out to a wider audience and why not at least give Whole Foods a spin if the prices are comparable to conventional grocery stores, whose self checkout lines that NEVER work properly are enough to drive anyone over the edge. It may not be more for less, but more for the same sounds pretty darn appealing.
Brands in all sorts of categories are filling the service gap and creating opportunities to attract new customers and build loyalty. Consider the new program Marriott just launched for their Marriott Rewards members which allows them to bypass the new luggage charges American Airlines has instituted (and which others are sure to follow) by allowing members to use rewards points to have their luggage picked up from their home or office and shipped round-trip, free of charge, including skis and other awkward or heavy items. If Marriott is one of the hotels where you normally stay, isn't this a nice incentive to make it the main place you stay?
And, once again, I have to give kudos to Apple Store for delivering 100% on the increased service level promised in the Ad Age article I recently blogged about. Shopping for a new computer for my step-daughter this past weekend I was impressed by the amount of staff on the sales floor and friendly, knowledgeable service, including quickly completing the rebate form online so I didn't have to later. When a customer service survey arrived in my inbox the next day I took the time to fill it out while still high on all those good shopping vibes. If you haven't been to an Apple Store - go. These guys are setting the service standard and any type of retailer could benefit from this approach.
Nintendo, known for its hip marketing image and lightening-fast, testosterone laden games has decided to reach out to women with a new weight loss “game” - Wii Fit -in a manner completely out of touch with the heart of the brand. Targeted to "moms" and "women who want to lose weight," its a sort of balance board that hooks into the existing system (that you either already own or plan to buy) and allows you to do yoga, aerobics (yes, aerobics) and other fitness activities while measuring your progress on a big TV screen – whenever you can wrestle the Wii away from your kids. Go to the website and its like looking at a cheery family ad circa 1977 (the dad in the first screen shot is particularly hilarious) with music that I would never have imagined I would hear on a Nintendo site, or anywhere outside a supermarket. Contrast these wholesome, if outdated, images with the ad campaign featured in this Wall Street Journal article, which is centered around a hottie Lindsay Lohan look-alike. Um, excuse me, who exactly is the target audience here and what is the message? Even the Wii guys would have no idea what to do in this Brady-Bunch-Meets-TMZ-It-Girl world. When the brand struggles with its message, you can bet the consumer will too. The worst part is how unthought out and slapped together it appears. The copy on the website even says "name not final" in parenthesis after the balance board description. Maybe they'd accept "payment not final" from those women willing to give it a go...
At least that is what Google Adsense, or Nosense in this case, concluded. A hilarious posting on Women's Voices For Change highlights what happened when Google's Adsense service kicked in on their site and immediately started directing users to sites where they could conduct discreet affairs with other marrieds, meet a host of international beauties and more...
Come on people! Technology is great but don't imagine that computers will be replacing good old common sense anytime soon...now if we could only develop an algorithm for that...
Go to a public place - say a grocery store or a mall. Find a 25-year-old woman, maybe in the Food Court. Everyone's gotta eat. Then find a 54-year-old woman. If the Food Court runs dry there's always Nordstrom. Everyone ends up there eventually. Now, take said 25-year-old and 54-year-old, find a restaurant - casual but not overly nice - not the Food Court - and get a table toward the back, where its quieter and you can get to know each other. Resist the urge to stimulate conversation. Let the women take the lead and see how far the discussion gets without the phrases "my mother" or "my daughter" coming up.
Now, go to a race, perhaps a 10K or half-marathon. Review the age group list and find a 25-year-old and a 54-year-old (women, naturally). Head to the refreshments post-race and cop a squat on a patch of grass. Ask how they feel about running and try to get a word in edgewise.
Is this an exaggeration? Of Course. Slightly. The point - thinking about women in broad demographic terms, like 18-49 or 25-54, is just so, well, old media. We know so much more now - about life stages and psychographics and personas - and the Internet has allowed us to target those on such a fine level that it is surprising to see a company, especially one as savvy as Yahoo!, launch a new site targeting 25-54 year-old women, called Shine, as if they were developing a TV show or magazine and didn't have the power of the medium they helped define at their disposal.
One of the advantages to business blogging is the opportunity to check out new business books before they hit the market. Michele Miller and Holly Buchanan, fellow M2W experts, sent me an advance copy of their newly released book, "The Soccer Mom Myth," to review. As long-time readers know, we consider mothers the most stereotyped market in the world today and the concept of Soccer Moms was one of the first and worst violations.
After reading the book, I sent Holly and Michele a few questions to further illuminate their perspective.
aH: There have been several books published on marketing to women over the last several years - why write this now? What did you think had not been, or was not being, covered?
H:There are a couple of really good books on marketing to women out there. But what we focus on is - not only how women are similar, but how they are different. Not all women think alike. We wanted to show marketers how, even women that look exactly the same on paper, may have very different needs, questions, motivations and buying processes.
We also wanted to focus on marketing to women online. The internet is quickly becoming the single best place to market to women. We wanted to to show marketers how to tap into this powerful medium.
M:Our mission for this book was to give readers some "nuts-and-bolts" ideas of exactly what they can do to improve their business. Knowing it's important to market to women and reading about theory is one thing - actually applying that knowledge is another. It was our mission to have every reader walk away with an idea they can try.
aH: In the section on personas, you give an example of a cruise ship company with four different female personas to appeal to and go on to describe how each of them might see a different start page that matches their buying style - can you explain a bit further about how the company would do that?
H: Make sure that on your home page, or landing page (where the personas first land on your site) that you answer or link to the answer to each persona's biggest question. If one persona just wants to buy your product, have a big button that lets them go directly to a "buy now" product page. If another persona's biggest question is "why are you my best choice?" provide a link to a page that talks about your competitive advantages. If another persona cares most about who you are and what your company values are - provide a link to your About Us page, and if the final persona wants to know details about your product and how it works - you might provide a link to a product demonstration. The key is - you don't try to force them into a set pathway -you let them choose whichever link is answering their most important question.
M: If we're talking about brochure copy or a website, a business needs to make sure they're answering ALL of the questions their potential customers might have. Some women might want to know what kinds of special events are happening on ship; other women need to find out exactly what amenities come with each cabin. For some women, it's very important to know they'll have enough "alone" time on ship - are there designated "quiet zones?" Each woman has a different reason for traveling, so the company has to spend quality time thinking about everything they offer.
aH: What market segments do you think have the furthest to go in getting it right with women and why?
H:Some traditionally male dominated industries still have a ways to go, but I've been really pleased to see a lot of positive marketing to women efforts in the consumer electronics industry, home improvement, and auto dealerships, just to name a few. The single biggest problem is that all marketers need to get rid of stereotypes and do the extra work to really understand the changing needs of their audiences.
Even industries that have made great strides can blow it if they aren't consistent across all of their efforts. If the car dealership is targeting women, and does a great job with their ads, but the woman comes in and sees all male management, and the sales person asks if anyone else will be involved in the purchase, like her husband or boyfriend, all of your good work in marketing will go out the window. The entire culture needs to change, not just your advertising.
M:I, too, have been pleased to see strides in the consumer electronics industry; financial planners seem to be getting it, too. The sad thing is that in EVERY industry, there are only one or two shining examples of companies doing it right. We're still only at the beginning of the marketing-to-women era - it will take years before momentum is really gained.
aH:We're clearly in a challenging economic time when budgets are being scrutinized and ROI is more important than ever. If you had to advise brands on just one aspect of marketing to women to invest in, which would it be and why? In other words what's the one thing you think every brand MUST do to sell to women?
H:Well, I'm a little prejudiced, but I truly believe you must have an online presence. Whether that is a website, or a blog, or creating an email campaign, or posting a video on You Tube. There are now more women on the Internet than men. Women are turning to the Internet as a trusted source to get information on all sorts of products. Something like 70% of all purchases (onilne and offline) start online. So if you want to get on her radar screen, you better have an Internet presence.
You also mention ROI - the great thing about the Internet is - you can measure it! You can track and see exactly what customers are doing, where they are clicking, and how many or buying from you, or signing up for your newsletter, or downloading your white paper. There are so many opportunities for testing and optimization to get the most from your Internet marketing. It's really an exciting time for marketers.
M: I couldn't agree more! For women, the Internet is a godsend, and it doesn't have to be difficult to give her an extraordinary experience with you online. You also have an exponentially increased chance at maintaining her loyalty if your website really kicks some butt. :-)
To learn more of Michele and Holly's pearls of wisdom, you need to grab a copy for yourself. We found the persona development section and strategies for blog and website creation particularly user-friendly and actionable.
Today's New York Times reported the upcoming launch of Women on the Web - or Wowow.com - founded by a group of 5 "media live-wires' including entertainment columnist Liz Smith, 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl and former Simon & Schuster president, Joni Evans. Women's Voices For Change, also a project of Smith's, has been getting some positive attention for a lively presentation of issues relevant to women not of the Gen Y set (and not looking to impersonate them either). One of the reasons this group, who did not grow up sending text messages or creating MySpace profiles, started the initiative was due to the lack of content they found interesting or compelling online. Joan Juliet Buck, a contributing editor to Vogue and consulting editor to the new site, described long-standing women's community iVillage as "like Macy's or something." Apparently these women are looking for more. Regarding why the group came together in the first place the NY Times reported:
Ms. Evans was struck by what she considered a dearth of online content provocative enough to hook sharp, driven women like herself. Weary of shopping and travel sites, she reached out to a klatch of women friends who are as blond as Jayne Mansfield and better connected than the most determined Facebook users.
That phrase - better connected - stuck out. Think about it: while many Facebook and MySpace users have scores of "Friends" who they know virtually nothing about, these women are far more likely to keep their contacts to the tried and trusted, and therefore have far more credibility and influence if and when they choose to talk positively or negatively about a brand.
Time will tell if this community takes off or tanks but rest assured that there is a significant and growing number of smart, savvy women who are tired of being marketing after-thoughts and are willing - even if choosing and registering a domain name takes hours longer than their younger counterparts - to do for themselves.
If you visit the site pre-launch (this Saturday, 3/8) take the time to answer their question of the day: If you could choose any women in the world, living or dead, which four faces would you put on Mount Rushmore?
Sometimes you are traveling, going a zillion miles a minute, and thinking you've been neglecting your blog and wracking your brain for a good post topic when one just drops out of the sky, or into your email inbox as it were. This one is courtesy of Kimberly Palmer, author of the Alpha Consumer blog for US News & World Report. Kimberly recently wrote this post re: several companies who are soliciting stories from consumers as a way to connect and create marketing content, which is clearly directed toward women. She questioned how many women would really have the time or interest to post stories online. Below is part of an email I sent her, which seemed ideal to repurpose for this post:
I think storytelling, like consumers co-creating ad campaigns (Doritos) or products (a new Mountain Dew) is a idea that was grounded in something genuine and then got taken in a more contrived direction. What is fascinating to me is that companies are much more interested in soliciting stories for marketing content than they are in doing the things - providing extraordinary service, for example - that inspire people to want to share their stories - such as this excellent posting re: Zappos that has made its way all over the Internet.
Bottom line: If you want people to share great stories about you the first step is to give them something worth talking about. Believe me, they will.
Last week a headline in MediaPost’s Out to Launch column caught my attention – Do Women Own iPhones? editor Amy Corr asked. Beneath the header, she cited several new ads by agency TBWA/Chiat/Day, all without a woman in sight. As Apple is a brand we’ve always touted as a leader in transparent and inclusive marketing to both men and women I have to admit we were somewhat surprised. The move reminded us of HP’s The Computer Is Personal Again campaign, which featured great guess-who-I-am storytelling with male celebrities until finally the brand got wise and broke a spot with Vera Wang (Fiona of Shrek fame and Gwen Stefani soon followed).
Why wait so long to include the women? Features like music and video and email are not gender-specific. I can’t imagine that the 1.1mm they’ve sold thus far are all to men, or that the cross purchasing between products cited for their 67% profit jump in today's WSJ (sub. required) was not fueled in some part, likely in large part, by women (who at one time were outpacing men in iPod purchases).
Then last night I saw an iPhone ad with a ballerina and I got so excited I emailed Amy Corr, even though it was 10:30 at night. The response in my inbox this AM deflated that enthusiasm a bit. “The agency sent over the latest batch of ads last Thursday,” she wrote. “and of the three new ones, there was the lone ad with the woman ballet dancer. 5 out of 6 are men, but I'm hoping this will change soon.”
There is an old car salesman's trick I heard about once that was rumored to magically diffuse tense customer situations. As the customer's voice and blood pressure escalated, the salesman would calmly get out a legal notepad and begin writing down everything the customer said, in plain sight of him or her, so they could actually see that he was listening. Soon the customer would wind down and the transaction would proceed as usual. The salesman did not do anything to address any of the customer issues, but the act of being heard made the customer feel as though something had happened.
The high tech version of this can be seen in the social media sites developed by companies like Dell and Delta to allow customers to offer ideas and vent their grievances. (Read this AdAge article for more) Dell's IdeaStorm in particular has been touted as the standard for transparency and innovation and has been the incubator for popular ideas such as including Linux on new Dell laptops and PC's. These innovations are important, and giving voice to the customer is essential. However, somewhere in all the ooing and ahing over the Storm, the articles about Dell's (still) lackluster customer service have been quieted without any real changes having been made. Delta may offer a place for you to request bigger blankets at Change.Delta.Com but the customer experience has yet to improve at the airport or in the actual plane. Dell has promised to hire more tech support in North America and implement a language test to ensure clear communication between tech support and customers. Those are two important steps and ones their customers are likely to hold them to.
That's said we understand significant changes don't happen overnight. Like many of their customers and the media we'll be watching both of these companies closely and if they do deliver will be the first to give them props. Otherwise, it's just a high tech legal pad.