Express to sponsor Miss America pageant

Express, Inc., announced sponsor of 2012 Miss America Pageant

In a release issued earlier today, retail apparel chain Express, Inc., has been named the official sponsor of the 2012 Miss America pageant.  The news provides interesting insight into how both brands plan to continue marketing to women.

My own impression of the Express brand is positive, but dated; when I think of Express, I think of the silky geometric blouse I purchased there in 1992.  It was black, teal, and hot mauve, and I loved it.  That’s the last thing I purchased there.  If I were to hear they were retooling their brand, perhaps with help from Victoria Beckham or Lady Gaga, I’d happily give them another shot, if only to see what the heck that would look like.

The Miss America pageant, however, is not one of the partnerships that’s drawing me back in.  I know pageants have a fervent following, but shows like Toddlers and Tiaras have thrown a spotlight on their more objectionable aspects in a “so-awful-I-can’t-look-away” manner.  Is that how Express wants to reach the 20 to 30 year old customer it targets?

The deal makes more sense to me from Miss America’s perspective; they want to focus on scholarship and service, and Express does come with a certain “Working Girl” vibe.  However, as I said before, “black, teal, and hot mauve.”  If Miss America is looking to modernize their image, is this the right way to go?

What do you think?  Will Express’s sponsorship of the Miss America pageant reach women?

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Tracy tells NYWICI how to reach the female audience

Marketers (and men) find themselves constantly asking “what do women want?”  A question that is impossible to give a simple answer to, as women as a whole never all want the same thing. “All mom’s are not the same, all women are not the same,” Tracy said. This makes advertising to women today difficult and challenging.

On December 6th, last Tuesday, Tracy Chapman was a panelist for New York Women in Communications, Inc (NYWICI)  event, “What Women Want: Strategies for Reaching the Female Market.” The panel of marketing experts was moderated by Lesley Jane Seymour, the Editor-In-Chief of More Magazine, who aimed to uncover what the best approach in understanding the thoughts, motives and triggers of a targeted female audience.

Tracy explained that as a marketer or advertiser it is easy to get caught up in the half-truths that women tell, but it in order to succeed in reaching the target female audience the whole-truth must be uncovered. “Women have and project the best intentions;” however, often times what women say and do are very different. If the whole truth behind these intentions are uncovered, it is much easier to reach the intended female audience.

Tracy provided the attendees with insightful information that helped to make the event a great success!

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My View On The View

Often women will hold back from telling their whole truth opinions in fear of losing approval from their co-workers, or in an effort to protect their own ego.  In a work environment differing opinions and thoughts are often the driving force behind those “ah-ha” moments that in turn lead to some of the most innovative ideas. So, I have to wonder what will it take for women to voice their differing opinions in the workplace?

I was lucky enough to be a part of  The View’s audience for their live show yesterday. There is something so refreshing about the female hosts’ honesty that draws me into their morning show, especially when there are controversial hot topics to discuss. The hotter the topics, the hotter the tension.

Yesterday the women discussed the on-going Weiner-gate scandal and the rumors, which later that day became fact, surrounding his decision to resign from his position as NY Congressman. The women disagreed and Barbara even became very vocal with her opinion on the matter; however, once everyone stated their opinions they moved on, laughing a minute later regarding their past experiences with shoplifting. There is something inspirational (maybe even empowering) watching these five strong women disagree and the tension rise, only for them laugh and move on moments later.

As women, I know we have all been in the situation when we disagree with even our closest friends, but shy away from stating our opinions in fear of losing their approval or hurting our self image. If Elizabeth Hasselbeck can disagree with Barbara Walters, then why can’t I get the courage to tell my friend that I cringe every time she says Jessica Beil is the epitome of beauty?

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Pay It Forward

If you’re starting your career this fall or maybe you’re already 10 years into it, who are you meeting now who will remember you later?  The assistant to the brand manager? The security guy at the reception desk? The junior media planner? Too busy for more than a quick nod on your way into your ‘important meeting’?  Think again.

I didn’t start my career planning to chum for every possible ally along the way. I just took my own personality to work, something I learned at the kitchen table from my gregarious mother, who worked as a secretary at various Philadelphia ad agencies in the Mad Men days.  She always told me how some people treated her graciously while others gave her the ‘where’s the boss?’ once over.

So, by osmosis or genes, I picked up her style along with my briefcase and always tried to see behind the eyes of those who let me in. It wasn’t hard; it was fun and I met so many fabulous people on the way.

Years later, the karma bounces back. This week I called the office of the chairman of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, hoping to get a foot in the door with a high-powered stranger. Even after three decades of success, I felt like a newbie again, fearing the kiss-off of “We’ll get back to you.” But when a woman named Kathy answered the phone and I started to explain that I’d sent my book, she stopped me in the warmest voice, “I remember you from when you worked for one of our agencies.” That was in the early 90s. Yet after thousands of wannabe-important’s passed by her desk, she’d remembered.

Many times I run into people I met briefly in some long ago client office. And whether it’s in an airport or in some corporate elevator, I’m always delighted to hear, “Hi, Mary Lou! Remember me?” Several years ago, I visited Avon’s NY headquarters, my 80s career “alma mater” and at least a half dozen assistants-turned-managers reached out, “You’re back!” It amazes me to know that in a no-human-contact e-mail, texting world, there are still hugs to be had.

It’s a small world in marketing and advertising. Yesterday’s junior is today’s CMO. More important, yesterday’s acquaintance can be today’s friend. I know we’re in a hurry to win. But if you pause long enough to listen, to meet, to thank… you won’t be alone when you get there.

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Jen Tells Working Mother The Importance Of Being Social Media Savvy

Jen tells readers of Working Mother like it or not, it is time to get social media savvy… By not engaging personally or professionally you risk looking out of date, stodgy or stubborn – all dangerous things to be in the shark tank of today’s job marketplace.  Read the full article at: workingmother.com

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5 Ways to Recruit Better

We’ve all sat in back rooms where a client has become frustrated because the woman in front of the mirror “doesn’t look like our customer”.  This is usually followed by a frenetic scrutinizing of the recruiting grids and a resigned harumph that it is too late to do anything now.  (Unless you try the  hateful trick of pretending she has a phone call to remove her from the session).

Here are 5 Things to do to make sure you have a better recruit:

  1. Write a better screener.  Don’t just use the one you wrote last time and change the date.  Really look at your questions and see if each of them really contributes to the bigger picture of the person you are trying to find.  Get down to the fewest number of questions possible.
  2. Don’t recruit clones. The goal is to get women in the room who have similar habits (usually distinguished by whether or not they use or don’t use your product) but who have different lives and stories to tell.  (Naturally the exception is if you are holding affinity groups where the goal is to understand the dynamic among women and their like minded friends).  If you recruit all of the women to be too much alike you will undoubtedly find that they react similarly to things that you share with them.  If they react negatively to your idea, you are likely to blame Group Think but the screener should be blamed for recruiting too many similar women (or the idea should be blamed for just being wrong).
  3. Don’t call during dinner or pre-bedtime hours. Timing is everything.  Ask your recruiter’s call center to think carefully about the times they choose for calling potential respondents.  I can guarantee that if you are trying to recruit mothers of toddlers they will not answer their phones while they are eating and definitely not during the mayhem of putting her children to bed.  If she does answer the phone, she will most definitely be distracted and impatient.  Also if your topic is particularly intimate make sure that your callers are women not men so that she will feel less embarassed to answer honestly.
  4. Assign provocative written homework. If you think that your research subject is particularly complex or creative then you need to make sure that you have women in the room who can quickly grasp and respond to ideas.  At the end of our screeners, we assign a short, written homework assignment so that we can make sure that we get women who will be  up to the task.  Don’t make it some fantasy question like those usually used for articulation screens but rather make it something relevant to your project.  Set a short deadline (must submit withing 48 hours of being invited) and carefully review what you receive.  If they don’t get it, dismiss and re-recruit.  This will also help you avoid recruiting clones (see #2)
  5. When in doubt, ask for a phone call. If you review someone’s homework and you are still on the fence, ask the recruiter if you (or your moderator) can call them for a quick phone conversation.  You can probe them on their homework assignment or on some of the screening criteria. These calls take almost no time and are good practice for all of us.

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Only the Meek Blame the Secretary

As the daughter of an incredibly talented woman who wore the title ‘secretary’ with pride for 30 years, I have to weigh in on this Yahoo! Finance story that Pepsi had to pay a billion dollar plus settlement, blamed on “the goof of a secretary.” Supposedly, a document sent to Pepsi’s law department in Purchase, NY was put aside by a secretary who was busy preparing for a big board meeting and somehow, the paper never reached the proper authorities in time to avoid getting slapped with a default.

I don’t know whether the suit has merit. I don’t know if the woman, who was probably doing the job of the four people until they got laid off, mislaid or lost the letter. But I do know this. When people sue other people, they usually start with threats and yelling. The letter isn’t the first inkling. And I also know that secretaries, now generally called admins, more often than not, save the day rather than sink it. And that ‘secretaries’ have probably avoided millions and billions of dollars of damage over the years for companies who never gave them credit.

I know my mom did. So, my message is, right or wrong, don’t blame the secretary. Put your grown up pants on. Thank her for saving you in advance.

(Now, about those pilots playing on their laptops….whole different story!)

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Back Atcha

bullying.jpg 

This week’s New York Times piece “Backlash:Women Bullying Women at Work” raises an issue I get ticked off about. (Not enough to shove someone, like the “FemBullies” in the article supposedly do, but pretty darn mad.)  Because although there are bullies of both genders, I think women get the worse rap. 

Whenever I’ve spoken about workplace stress, someone asks, “Don’t you think it’s harder to work for a woman than a man?” inevitably followed by “My last boss was such a B___, (rhymes with “Witch).” Women conveniently file bullying male bosses under “whatever”. But women can’t get over being badly treated by another woman. 

Why are we harder on women? Because we expect more. We expect a woman to be fairer, more understanding, more ‘like me’. Sometimes she is. Sometimes, she’s just a jerk. But she’s neither forgiven nor forgotten and her memory lingers like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Tempers.  

Why does this tick me off? Because every time a woman piles on this myth, she’s hurting the chances for other women to advance. In fact, she’s hurting herself, too. If the powers that be buy into the watercooler line that ‘a woman will never fly around here,’ she won’t. Men and women are equally capable of being terrific colleagues. Mean-ness doesn’t discriminate by gender. (And one wonders, who inadvertently taught women bullying tactics in the first place?) 

C’mon! We are bigger than these petty schoolyard antics. (Even if sometimes we’d like to slug someone.) 

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The Importance of Being Earnest

betagamma.jpg 

Yesterday, I was honored to be inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, the international honor society for business colleges and universities. I was awarded the national Medallion of Entrepreneurship by the Saint Joseph’s University chapter, my alma mater. And I am proud and grateful.

For lots of reasons. First, I was never in a sorority, let alone a fraternity (could I have been?), so even though this one doesn’t come with parties or the ability to get pinned, it’s really cool. (And there’s no hazing that I know of.) Second, it was great to be saluted as an entrepreneur. As I said in my remarks, I wasn’t the 8 year old in my neighborhood with a super successful lemonade stand. I’m a corporate refugee who was looking to build a life and work that I’d love to live in. So, being honored for what our company has become was especially sweet, especially on the brink of our 10th anniversary of Just Ask a Woman.

But the best part of all was learning that the award was given to someone who demonstrated honor, wisdom and earnestness. I’ll leave the first two for their kind words, but I have to speak up about earnestness. I love that. I’ve been wearing my heart on my sleeve my entire career and this is the first time anyone said it was a good idea. To me, earnestness is wholeheartedly throwing your best intentions and actions against what you do. And I’ve been trying my darndest to do that my whole life. So, Beta Gamma Sigma and Saint Joe’s, thanks for saying it’s good to take business personally. Feels so nice!

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Always Learning from Donna Sturgess

This week, Jen and I saw GlaxoSmithKline’s Donna Sturgess in action, giving a terrific talk about emotional branding at an Advertising Women of New York breakfast. Full disclosure, Donna is a client and a friend, but from the audience’s reaction, we weren’t alone in our applause.

There were two areas she covered relevant to women, in particular. First was the importance of knowing ‘what’s her emotional starting place?’ When a woman approaches a category or product, she’s not a clean slate. She can be weary of overpromise (weight loss) or fearful of failure (smoking cessation). The marketer’s job is to connect with it and uniquely move her forward with a brand proposition.

It made me think of how marketers often portray consumers as emotionally static (she’s optimistic, she’s worried), when really women can be on an emotional rollercoaster. She’s just not confessing that to you. Ask yourself…Where is she already and what can I do about it?

Donna also suggested that the way to ‘sell in’ emotional branding to rational brand folks is by providing rational proof of emotional truth. She measures everything from brainwaves to eye motion and expression and adds it all up to a compelling number to convince even the emotionally-averse, good advice for today’s boardrooms where fear may be on the agenda.

Donna Sturgess is a renegade of innovation. From Aquafresh to alli, she’s a hard driving advocate for new products that break with traditional, rationally based marketing. Cool that it all begins with understanding the softer side.

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June 27, 2019
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