Red Soles And Pink Slips

Manolos or Louboutins? We should only be so lucky as to have that choice.

The New York Times Style Section debated the issue this Sunday–the iconic Manolos brought to attention by Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw are suddenly back on top of the stiletto pyramid. On the heels of her appearance in recent documentary God Save My Shoes, our very own CEO and Founder Mary Lou Quinlan weighed in on Manolo Blahnik’s ascent to power over his counterpart Christian Louboutin:

“Luxury is strong,” said Mary Lou Quinlan, the chief executive of Just Ask a Woman, a marketing company with clients like Clairol and GlaxoSmithKline. “There’s an element among women who are still doing well in their jobs of, ‘I deserve it, I need it, I’ve got to have my fix.’ ”

Or, as Ms. Quinlan said, “It’s tacky to strut around in your red-soled shoes when other people are trying not to get a pink slip.”

To read more about the shoe struggle, check out the entire article HERE.

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Mary Lou Quinlan Discusses Chick Beer On The CBS Early Show

When it comes to a product marketed towards “chicks,” who better to ask than Just Ask a Woman CEO and Founder Mary Lou Quinlan? The CBS Early Show had the same thought when discussing the merits and drawbacks of Chick Beer, the latest in the line of overtly feminized beverages (learn about another one HERE).

Check out what Mary Lou had to say:

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Jen Talks Cake Pops with People StyleWatch

Plastic straws in cocktails are out! Who knew? Pick up the September issue of People StyleWatch to see Jen’s input on what’s trending this fall.

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Pharrell Releases Qream Liqueur For Women, Thinks Men Will Drink It

Entertainer Pharrell has released a new “vodka-based cream liqueur” which is low-calorie, nearly lactose-free, and has about the same alcohol content as wine. Taking into account this characteristic reduction, it’s no surprise that it’s specifically for the ladies. Or, as Pharrell puts it in his interview with Rap-Up, it’s a drink “that everybody could enjoy, but women [know it is] for them.” And one more thing: It’s called Qream.

While flavored liqueur is in itself a touch feminine, the girliest thing about Qream (pronounced “cream”) is that the two flavors, strawberry and peach, come in pale bottles reminiscent of the fake perfume in our childhood Pretty Pretty Princess game. With packaging like that, we would like to ask Pharrell the following question: If this wasn’t your creation, would you drink it in public?

Following the success of Bethenny Frankel’s Skinny Girl, it’s no surprise that a beverage targeting women would take the less-is-more approach. But it strikes us as more of a beverage that everybody could enjoy rather than one that everyone will.  Seeing as ordering the liqueur would require yelling “Qream, please,” across both a bar and a thumping bass while indicating what looks like Princess Jasmine’s favorite scent, Pharrell’s best move might be to incorporate it into signature drinks—preferably those easy to pronounce and without the scurrilous name associations.

Not to hate on either Pharrell or his newest product, but if we’re going to try a new adult beverage, we’re going with Copenhagen over Qream.

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Lean Cuisines, Convenient from Bag to Bowl

Often our days become so jam-packed that cooking a healthy meal falls to the last thing on our to-do list.  Lean Cuisine has marketed their line of revamped microwavable dinners to women who are looking for a convenient and easy meal, without having to give up value and good quality.  Their long list of frozen meals recently expanded to add their steamable bag versions, and after trying my first one this week, I’m hooked.

Besides the fact that my taste buds go crazy for the Asiago Cheese Tortelloni they offer, the steamable bags offer some other benefits for Lean Cuisine fans. Firstly, the steaming process helps to make the vegetables crisp and the pasta al dente, providing the same textures one receives from a home-cooked meal. But the steam bags do even more than that: They force me to put my 5-minute-made meal into a civilized bowl for eating. Instantly my microwaved meal that I was feeling slightly guilty about has disguised itself as a home-cooked meal!

I would like to personally thank you, Lean Cuisine, for taking the guilt out of what is otherwise considered an old-fashioned TV dinner… and for helping me fit into my skinny jeans.

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Carlsberg Copenhagen: This Beer Matches My Outfit

With the light color palette and clean lines of their newest beer, Copenhagen, Carlsberg looks to entice the quarter of all beer drinkers who are female. While the idea is a good one (why let a quarter of your market fall by the wayside?), this is an actual quote from the company’s innovation director:

“There may be situations where they are standing in a bar and want their drinks to match their style. In this case, they may well reject a beer if the design does not appeal to them.”

Yes, it must be that common “this alcohol doesn’t match my outfit” dilemma that turns many women away from beer. Not the ads portraying them as keg-providing robots. To give Carlsberg credit, though (and Fast Company makes the good point that the company is based in Denmark, one of the world’s most gender-equal countries), the packaging is beautiful—and not pink!

The “androgynous” drink, according to Adweek, won’t make an appearance Stateside—and let’s just point out that beer, not having a sex, gender, or any human biology really, would have a hard time looking androgynous—so it won’t be the new must-have accessory for American women.

Being unable to test it ourselves, we’ll have to address our European counterparts for the answer to the deciding question: How does it taste?

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Go Green(er): Odwalla And Dasani Make Plastic Eco-Friendly With PlantBottle

We talk a lot about living “green-ish,” and the balance it strikes between modern convenience and assuaging our overactive ecological consciences. Therefore, we love products that make it even easier for us to live the “ish” life. The latest? PlantBottles.

Unfortunately neither leaf-shaped nor growing in your backyard, PlantBottles are the first 100% recyclable bottles. Both Dasani and Odwalla are now using versions of the leafy container—PET plastic for Dasani, HDPE for Odwalla. Let’s not get too technical though—the bottles are created using a large proportion of plant materials and consequently may now hold court with the insipidly virtuous Sigg.

While PlantBottles have been around since 2009, the heavy marketing we expect to see from Coca-Cola for its high-profile products this April will certainly up their public profile. Reportedly, PlantBottles are already estimated to have eliminated the massive carbon dioxide output from three million gallons of gasoline usually used in bottle production, with only more reductions to come.

They’re eco-friendly, convenient, and absurdly green-ish. But one question remains: After purchasing your bottle of water, toting it to your meetings, and spilling half of it into your purse, will you actually recycle it?

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5 Things Women Want from Grocery Stores

1. The need for speed. Recently Phil Lempert (a fave of ours) released a study called Retailers Most Annoying Habits. In it, he outlined all of the things consumers (and we will assume that they are mostly women) found irritating “not enough cashiers (44%), items on top shelves too high to reach (35%), promotional displays impede aisle traffic (28%), the store keeps moving items around (27%), aisles too narrow (25%), and not enough baggers (20%).” All of these have to do with how fast can women get in and get out. I have one word – staffing! My personal pet peeve is Express Lanes for items under 20. Why are people who aren’t buying a lot getting the speedy lane when I am spending the big bucks and I’m stuck behind 4 other full carts?

2. New Product availability Because women are so media savvy they want to see new products hit their local shelves quickly. They see something in a magazine, watch it on Top Chef or read about in on a blog and then they want to get it. If it isn’t on the shelf in one, maybe two, visits to the store you can bet that women will forget to look for it going forward and you’ve missed your opportunity.

3. Private Label products that don’t feel like a consolation prizes. The private label category has really risen to the occassion of a sluggish economy. Target in particular has done an amazing job with Archer Farms – unique items with cool packaging that don’t make you feel like you are being punished for buying the store brand.

Women we’ve interviewed tell us that they supplement their grocery list with these items only in categories that don’t “count” so they can afford their family’s non-negotiable items like Oreos or Kraft Mac n Cheese (or risk mutiny in the kitchen). My father used to buy Pathmark’s Scrunchy Cola (did I date myself?) and one morning I found him pouring the soda into a Coke bottle so we wouldn’t know. Nearly broke my 10 year old heart but now I can imagine doing the exact same thing.

4. Hours that understand her job is 24 hours long Women need to shop at stores that understand her need to shop when it fits into her schedule (after school drop off, during lunch or late at night). Stores need to check that they are open early enough in the morning to accomodate women who want to squeeze in a shopping trip before they get to work and late enough for the night owls who get a second wind at 9pm. And make sure that the store operates on full tilt during these hours – deli open, more than one cashier available – so that they don’t walk away without the things they really need.

5. Bulk that isn’t too bulky. Millenials are less likely to stock up when there is a sale or buy big bulk sizes. It’s just not their style We did Selfnography research last year with women in their 20s where they captured their lives on Flip cameras so we could see how they ate at home and entertained with their friends. What struck me was the way they felt about having an empty fridge (usually had some condiments and a bottle of vodka stashed in the ice cube bin). These women weren’t embarassed by their lack of food but rather seemed proud that their social lives were robust enough that they didn’t have to eat at home. These women aren’t likely to buy Costco sized bulk but are open to 3 or 4 day supplies of their favorites because it will save them time at the end of the day.

(Interestingly, when we interview Gen X moms and they show us their kitchens there is usually an overflowing pantry and stuffed freezers and fridges. If they had an empty fridge they would probably feel embarassed to show it off because it would make them look like they weren’t nurturing caregivers to their families.)

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McDonald’s Oatmeal – Off The Health Track Or Tapping Into Women’s Whole Truths?

I’m sure you’ve seen the commercial. McDonald’s Fruit and Maple Oatmeal. Doesn’t that just sound like you should be eating it?

Every time I see it I think, mmm, I should stop at McDonald’s on the way to work, that “scrumptious” bowl of warm oats and fresh (ok, mostly dried) fruits hits an emotional feel good nerve.

McDonald’s has tried hard over the last few years to win the hearts of women by offering healthier options (remember the Weight Watchers partnership?) and salads served in clear plastic bags to connote healthy freshness. This was intended to make women feel better about walking into a MickeyD’s with the kids…we know that it is also a good cover for women to still get the bag of french fries to go with that salad.

Mark Bittman, in his New York Times piece, How to Make Oatmeal . . . Wrong, sheds light on just how “healthy” this oatmeal offering really is. He asks why McDonald’s would turn a venerable ingredient like oatmeal into an expensive junk food…the reason, women have good intentions and like the idea of being healthier but the WHOLE TRUTH is that they aren’t willing to sacrifice taste in the process. And as Mark points out, you may go in with oatmeal on the brain but often will walk out with the sausage biscuit…and knowing that the oatmeal has more sugar than a Snickers, may help women feel less guilty about the biscuit!

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Is Dr. Pepper Sexist Or Brilliant?

At a recent barbeque thrown by a friend and her now-ex boyfriend, said boyfriend was in charge of getting drinks for a mixed crowd. He did his job, and soon enough the table was creaking under the weight of assorted sodas—full calorie sodas. And I couldn’t help but think: What are the girls going to drink?

Dr. Pepper Ten is trying to feed both sexes from the same bottle. It’s Dr. Pepper’s ten-calorie answer to Coke Zero, which has by now been co-opted as a “girly drink.” Dr. Pepper hopes that through masculine (read: capital letters on a muted grey label) packaging and a testosterone-fueled ad campaign including the creation of “man caves” across the country and heavy-handed tag line “It’s Not For Women.”

Soda, Sexism, and Hypersensitivity.

It would be only too easy to operate from the default setting of “offended,” but there two issues with that: First, it’s funny. One of the commercials (below) includes the line “So you can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks.” And let’s not lie—it’s funny. On the heels of the similarly laugh-out-loud line “Catchphrase,” it’s oddly reminiscent of a toweled Isaiah Mustafa (the Old Spice guy!), who deliberately appealed to women to sell a men’s product.

The other issue is that from a marketing standpoint, targeting men will reach a larger audience than explicitly targeting women. Women are more likely to buy products made for men. Think about a man wearing pink, and a woman wearing blue. For that matter, think about a woman wearing pants, and a man wearing a skirt. Who is judged more harshly? We always say that the best way to reach women as customers is to create a product or service that is useful to everyone. And despite the brand’s comic exclusion of women, chances are that future Dr. Pepper Ten cans will hit the recycling bin bearing lipstick marks.

But Diet Dr. Pepper was always good enough for me—and distinctly secondary to Diet Coke. What do you foresee for the drink that’s “not for women?”

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June 14, 2024
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK


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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
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