Junior High DejaVu

In today’s email I received video footage  from a recent conference sponsored by Girls Inc regarding young women’s stress issues.  A panel featuring author Jessica Weiner, designer Dana Buchman, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide chair Shelly Lazarus, Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive and health expert/radio host Dr. Jennifer Wider weighed in with answers to what stressed them out as young girls. Interestingly, nearly all harkened back to 7th grade where the compulsion to fit in was at its height.

“From a very young age, I wanted to be liked,” said Jessica Weiner, “to please, to have the perfect body, the perfect grades.” This desire to fit in is the hallmark of Approval Seeking, a behavior that sticks with women way past their youth. Funny enough, just an hour ago, I was interviewed by Kathleen Hays of The Hays Advantage on Bloomberg Radio and she said that our identified motivator of Approval Seeking reminded her of “junior high.” Exactly right, except that it sticks. But when consumers resort to it as a crutch for giving the ‘right answer’, and marketers succumb to believing it because it’s the answer that they want to hear, the result is a kind of double jeopardy.

Another interesting element of the piece related to the book, (Yes, “What She’s Not Telling You” our NEW BOOK which is out today…just click on the right and order now!) was their revelation of the origins of the Half Truth motivator: Ego Protection. Shelly Lazarus recalled that even though she was good at math, she underplayed it and went to after-school remedial classes to appear cool, as did Cindi Leive who purposely sabotaged a test to get a lower, ‘cooler’ score.

The reason that Half Truths are hard to break is that they are long held and deeply felt, often nurtured for good or bad, at an early age. Detecting them takes skills that can crack the code. (Yes, they’re in the book!)

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A Refund That Puts A Recall On Parents’ Downtime

The Walt Disney Company is now offering a full refund on all the Baby Einstein videos that didn’t increase infant intellect, as reported by Tamar Lewin in the New York Times (10/23/09).

We know that too much TV for little ones is not healthy; the American Academy of Pediatrics has told us so. Yet for years, Baby Einstein, with their highly successful and profitable DVDs, has been giving parents permission to use the television as a “developmental tool” rather than as an electronic babysitter.

Did parents believe these videos were going to help their child get into the right preschool? I doubt it. But the company did hit upon a real Whole Truth, that parents wanted to feel less guilty about using the television as a way to steal a few moments away where they didn’t have to be solely responsible for their child’s development.

Even when the Disney Company eliminated the words “educational” from their marketing materials in 2006, the implications were still apparent and embraced by parents. (Note that these videos are still listed as Top Picks at Babies R Us.)

So, does this admission via a full refund by Disney leave parents feeling gypped beyond the $15.99?

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New Blog for WorkingMother.com

Jen authors a guest blog as a Thought Leader for WorkingMother.com http://bit.ly/1TjqNg,  Read it.  Tweet. Pass it Along. Comment. 

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Bugaboo Strollers Go (RED)

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While I’m thrilled with my orange Baby Jogger City Mini stroller (the new stroller of choice it seems in Park Slope), I love the partnership between Bugaboo, the 10 year old Dutch mobility company whose strollers changed the industry, and The Global Fund to help eliminate AIDS in Africa. Starting October 1, 2009, Bugaboo is contributing 1% of all revenue to (RED).

Their new tagline, “Go and good things happen” celebrates the company’s philanthropy while encouraging parents to get out and go!  And the special (RED) collection strollers, ADO(RED) and TREASU(RED), are sure to be seen around the neighborhood!  Check out their new animated film:

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Diaper Genius

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Big changes this week at the Chapman house. I just returned from maternity leave and Hannah has moved on up to size 2 diapers. Before I gave birth no one told me just how diaper obsessed you become in the first few months of motherhood. I thought the biggest worry would be about diaper rash but these little suckers help you keep track of how well your child is thriving…too few diapers and your baby isn’t eating enough…a mom’s worst nightmare! 

So my lifesaver was that little wetness indicator on the front of the Pampers Swaddlers Sensitives. Diapers today are so good at wicking away moisture it can be hard to tell when they are actually wet. It’s no surprise that diaper manufacturers figured out they were selling less diapers and needed to give parents and caretakers a reason to change more frequently. So while I know that a blue line doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change it right away (even if they want you to), that wetness indicator gave me the reassurance that I was doing a good job as Hannah’s mom and that was worth paying extra for!  

Now with Hannah at almost 15 lbs, I’m no longer as obsessed with the wetness indicator and dare I say it, willing to extend the life of each diaper. As we move to the next size I am reminded how many of my mom friends swore by Pampers Sensitives for the early months (although they never said why) but suggested going to whatever brand is on sale in the later months. How brand loyal are Moms once the insecurity of early motherhood has worn off?  For now we’re sticking with Pampers but I have to say the Huggies at Costco are quietly calling my name.

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This Old Dog Learned a New Trick

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So this has nothing to do with marketing but I’m just so proud of myself I had to memorialize this moment with a blog. Drum-roll please … This weekend I finally learned how to ride a bicycle.  At 36 years old. 

Friends always asked me why I didn’t learn how to ride a bike when I was kid and my story was always that my dad wasn’t a very patient teacher or that I really liked to roller-skate and did that instead. The real truth was that I was scared. Really, really scared of getting hurt, of looking stupid, of not doing it well … These fears have haunted me my whole life and are the same reasons I don’t know how to dive, how to ski or how to play tennis.  Bottom line is that I have absolutely no natural athletic talent – I even got out of taking high school gym with an iron clad doctor’s note about my bad back  – and I’m uber self conscious to boot.

A few years ago my then boyfriend/now husband and I went on vacation where he attempted to teach me how to ride.  The bike was too big, I didn’t get the hang of it and the lesson ended up with me needing 6 weeks of physical therapy for a bum wing.  It took years for me to attempt it again, this time at the beach with a dirt bike that was more my size.  I made a little  progress and my husband  got to let go of the seat more often but I hated it and cut the lesson short.   At the end of last summer he was so supportive that he surprised me with my very own pink beach bike.  It was just like I always imagined but even the sight of it made me nervous.

Fast forward another summer and now I have nearly 3 year old twins who are fascinated with their tricycles.  One afternoon I watched them barrel around my driveway and I realized one day soon I would have to tell them that I didn’t know how to ride a bike.  I realized that the thought of telling them this and potentially passing on my fear of trying new things was exactly the motivation I needed to learn how to ride the damn thing.

So last weekend it all clicked and I really rode my bike.  We went on our first family bike ride (with them in a bike trailer behind my husband) and when we got back to the house my daughter was enthusiastically telling my parents how I had a pink bike and how I rode right next to her.

I’ve never been prouder of myself. 

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Sprinkles: Thoughtful or Overkill?

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I’ve recently heard about the concept of a baby Sprinkle (versus a shower, get it?) and I’m torn about what to make of it. Customarily women only get a shower for their first child and any children after that might get celebrated post-birth at a bris, naming, baptism or the new trend called the “Sip and See.”  The shower is usually pretty elaborate and the mom-to-be gets to stock up on necessities like car seats and high chairs and niceties like tiny, tiny outfits and personalized bibs.  The Sprinkle may be just as elaborate but the idea is that it will help mom-to-be either restock from the first child or prepare for a different gender arrival.    Part of me thinks this is a really thoughtful idea because I can imagine that if this pregnancy is 4+ years since the last, the gear you used to have may be gone (given as premature hand me downs) or out of date (old car seat technology,  BPA laden bottles).  Another part of me thinks it is just another way to torture your friends and rob them of a weekend afternoon.  The marketing part of me wonders what opportunities a Sprinkle could present to baby companies.  Could Evenflo offer an option to trade in gear for a discount on new models? Could Babies R Us offer a Sprinkle registry? Could formula companies like Similac or Nestle offer a gift box of newly introduced products?

So should the forecast be for showers or sprinkles?

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Just Ask a Woman Welcomes Hannah Lee Chapman

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Congratulations to Tracy and her husband Dave on the birth of their beautiful daughter.  They welcomed Hannah Lee Chapman into the world on June 13th.  Tracy was a rockstar and we are thrilled to add Hannah to our JAAW family.

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Guilty of Being a Woman

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I don’t know if marketers consider themselves to be judges. They listen to their consumers’ “case”, they analyze data, then they try to keep that holier-than-thou arm’s length and objectivity, but in the end, isn’t there a moment that investigation meets intuition and experience and they pass judgment on what they believe is true?

I thought of this today as I read that Judge Sonia Sotomayor is President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Already the fur is flying because of a comment she made about the influence of her gender and her Latin heritage on her decisions.

According to Charlie Savage’s piece in the New York Times, “Judge (Sonia) Sotomayor questioned the famous notion — often invoked by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her retired Supreme Court colleague, Sandra Day O’Connor — that a wise old man and a wise old woman would reach the same conclusion when deciding cases.”

She said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” The article continued, “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences,” she said, for jurists who are women and nonwhite, “our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.”

She added, “And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society.”

As women, we often worry whether there are too few female CEOS in corporations or whether too many creative directors at agencies are male, but do we look at where most of the decisions are made…the brand managers, the  moderators, the retailers and ask, do we ‘judge’ what’s true differently based on our personal experience? The politically correct answer is No, we are all just making smart decisions, equal, the same, humans, blah, blah, blah. True. But isn’t your insight different if you are working on a luxury brand and you grew up in a Gucci co-op versus a K-Mart mobile home? Or, if you’re writing ads for an acne product for girls and you were the one in the corner waiting for any young guy to ‘see’ you? Or if you are a mom of twins and you’re interviewing new moms who are overwhelmed?

Does your gender and ethnic background weigh in on the truth, as you see it? Is your insight clearer based on your experience? Are you a quicker take? Do you see nuances that someone who’s only ‘studied’ their way to your knowledge, can’t? We all want to think we don’t judge. We simply decipher or analyze or predict. But the Whole Truth is, the best marketers (and judges) are honest enough to listen to their hearts and instincts too. Our differences can make all the difference.

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Forgotten but not Gone

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Today’s WSJ has a great piece by Christina Binkley, whose columns are always a favorite destination. Her contention in “Forgotten Market Online: Older Women” is that although women over 35 are responsible for 65% of online fashion purchases, most apparel sites target 18-34 year olds and forget the woman with the bigger waistline and wallet. She points to examples of ensembles that are so young, and online tactics, so teenager-y, that a mature woman would sooner go naked than click on.

She writes, “After the initial fun is over, weather forecasts, friends’ groups, and video can seem gimmicky, and when the sites present youthful styles like that pintucked T-shirt and tights to a grown woman headed to the office on Monday morning, they can seem downright disconnected.”

She notes brands that are trying to reach out with tactics like models who show how clothes fit or custom-measuring systems that could take a tailor to input. I’d like to cast a different vote on this. Stop cheesy “older woman” targeting. Start selling me great clothes.

Over the past year or so, my online apparel buying has escalated, especially for deals, and it’s got nothing to do with complicated, fit-to-measure sites. Instead, I turn to brands I know or super deals like I get on ruelala.com or bluefly.com.

I like when Nordstrom.com simply asks if your body is straight or apple shaped, which any 40 something knows with her eyes closed. I worry that if sites start uber-catering to women over 40 as if they are clueless about what looks good on them or offering Internet version of boomer chit chat, they will fail as miserably as Gap’s Forth & Towne, a retail concept that assumed that women over 40 thought they looked over 40.

My message to the hidebound apparel industry: Wake up. Midlife women want well-made, on-trend, consistently-sized, good quality clothes that are well-priced for what they are. We love a bargain. We’re glad to try a trend (if return shipping is free) and we’re super loyal to brands that like us. Catalog brands like Acacia, Garnet Hill and Athleta, all inspire us to buy stuff that make us feel eco, homey or fit. Love our complexity. Respect our smarts about our bodies. Realize we know trend from fad (especially the second time around.) Our minds are open. Is your store?

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December 2, 2021
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.
Go There

press & praise