A Personal Letter to Disney: Be Brave

There is a storm brewing with the Disney release of a toy line featuring its first truly ‘brave’ heroine, Princess Merida. Seems that in an effort to appeal traditionally to little girls’ doll tastes, the rough and tumble star of “Brave” has lost weight, filled out her too tight gown and adopted that doe-eyed sparkle princess look….the look and the life that the animated Merida despised.

I will let anthropologists and psychologists dissect why this is right or wrong. Or just cowardly.

I will turn instead to my own experience, watching the animated film alongside a 7 year old redhead named Soleil.  From the moment that Merida, the cartoon ginger wild child, picked up her bow and galloped through the woods, Soleil’s heart pounded in the saddle alongside her heroine. Proud, cheering, valiant.

For once, the story wasn’t about a cookie-cutter forgotten waif lifted by a prince to a palace. This was true grit, the kind of beauty any girl with guts can achieve. The knowing eyes, the powerful stance, the in-your-face joy of being a girl alive in her own skin spoke to Soleil. And the hair, the untamed, boundless curls that said, “Remember me!” Go ahead, Disney, give our real ‘brave’ Merida a sparkly crown. We need her in the Magic Kingdom. But don’t mess with her curls or her curves or her courage.

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Weighing in on Leaning In and Sheryl Sandberg


The news of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book “Lean In” hit the front page of The New York Times this week. But how will it affect the way women, especially younger women look at work? My blog on today’s Huffington Post gives my two cents. Enjoy, comment, like, disagree…whatever. Love to hear from you! Or leave a comment on Huff Po!

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5 Reasons Women Talk More than Men

On TODAY today, Andrea Canning hosted a segment about why women talk more than men, see it here. New research indicates that women may actually over-index on a brain protein linked to language, called FOXP2.

Of course, the piece concluded with lots of irate husbands on the street complaining that their wives never shut up and in-studio banter about who talks more and ‘Chatty Cathy’ defense. After listening to thousands of women–especially my besties–talk over the years, I know they talk more than most men. (I sure do!)

I have used the ‘women talk 20,000 words to men’s 7,000 words’ stat but never knew about the protein rationale. Here are my five unscientific reasons why women talk more:

1. They notice more and therefore, have more content to share. And they want you to know it.

2. As a gender that feels unlistened to, they figure, if I just talk more, something has to get through!

3. They like to tell stories and provide context rather than just ‘get to the point’ as they are so often (annoyingly) told to do.

4. Talking is therapy and connection. By talking, I am soothing, sharing, being alive with you. Silence is often a signal that something is wrong. Unless it’s during savasana, which means, ahh.

5. If they are like me, talking is a way to fill in the sentences that others leave unfinished. Because others don’t talk fast enough. And we know what they are going to say anyway!

The good news for marketers is that women are the talking gender AND the buying gender. Silent types can’t help you figure out your marketing problems. Talkers can. A person of few words, like “Me, too!” isn’t a great help to you. A talker is, and your best talkers are….women.

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Sales Show Women Are Only Green-ish

Okay, we will try not to rub it in. But after four years of predicting that women were more ‘greenish’ than green and that they will only buy green if it’s as convenient, effective and equally priced to conventional products, we get to say, “I told you so.”

In today’s New York Times article “As Consumers Cut Spending, ‘Green’ Products Lose Allure,”  sales on everything from kitchen counter cleaners to hybrid cars are sinking because the penny-pinching consumer would rather save money than contribute to a cause. While there’s an affluent core of advocates who are still fueling the growth of the smaller brands like Method or Seventh Generations, mass brands have met their match in today’s mass female consumer.

We don’t mean to say that women don’t want to save the environment or live in a more holistic, organic, healthy way, but in this economy, women are running households with every bit of ingenuity they can muster. Cutting pennies adds up and even though she got that original glow from displaying her Clorox Greenworks cred, she can’t justify the markup anymore. And even though Clorox has reduced prices, women continue to make choices that feel right for their households.

We identified this “greenish” trend in What She’s Not Telling You as the Half Truth of Ego Protection. Sure, she likes to feel that she comes off as a conscientious person, but underneath, she’s got to draw the line somewhere. Consultants and pundits who are preaching at conferences and corporations, painting the entire female population green, are misleading marketers to overdeliver on what is a Half Truth among women. Sure, we are growing our green consciousness…but take it one step at a time or find yourself buried.

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It’s Not About Anger… It’s About Ego

Half Truth: Women are demanding customers.

Whole Truth: Women don’t like retailers who take advantage of their perceived reticence.

Women, who may be mild or diplomatic under most circumstances, will whip out their evil twin when it’s time to duel with errant sales and service people. When we’ve asked women to describe their identities as shoppers, they are proud to claim their power. As one woman told us, ‘I’m a ‘you’ve got one chance to screw up’ shopper.’

Another woman we interviewed demonstrated her revenge technique on a salesman who made her feel he was too busy to take her call. In what was clearly an oft-repeated performance, she mimicked her best imperious voice, as she raved at the hapless receptionist, ‘You tell your boss, this is an escalated phone call, use that word and tell him I want service right now!’ As the other women in the group applauded, I could see her relax into the knowledge that this story only got better with the telling, securing her place as queen of customer

Marketers of services faced with an irate customer like this can figure out whether her anger is real or manufactured by starting with the magic words, ‘You’re right. Now, how can I make this better for you?’ Play to her ego; all she’s really wanting is the respect she deserves and to not be seen as the cowering, customer chump.

Want to learn more about half and whole truths? This post is straight from our book, What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It. Read the first chapter online HERE, and grab a copy for yourself from Amazon.

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Why Are Insults A Side Effect Of Aging?

Half Truth: Women are resistant to aging.

Whole Truth: Women are engaging in ego protection, to build thick skins against the many insults and disrespect that come hand-in-hand with aging.

A few months ago I was shopping for sexy evening shoes, a Rorschach test for any woman’s mojo. Ballet flats are practical for everyday, but stilettos keep a woman in the game.

All around me, 20-something shoppers were picking out the most gorgeous and painful-looking styles, while I kept looking for the perfect pair of great but not too high sandals. But suddenly I spotted them. I picked up a pair of superhigh, sparkly Stuart Weitzman pumps and asked the balding salesman for them in my size. (I only mention ‘balding’ to give you a heads up where this is headed.)

He brought them out and I slipped them on (or rather tried to stuff my toes inside) and gingerly stepped to the mirror, feeling not quite like a Vegas showgirl but darn close. I asked casually if he had the next bigger size and he said no. But I was smitten, and I couldn’t take them off. I said to him, ‘Maybe I can make these work.’ And he looked at me, shook his head, and whispered, ‘When you get to be our age, you don’t do dumb things the second time around. You need to order a bigger size.’

Our age? Second time around? But I’m only . . . ! Somehow the shoes had lost their shine. Ego-shattering moments lurk just around the bend for women of every age and at every stage of life, like being asked when you’re due when you’re not even pregnant, or being called ‘ma’am’ for the first time (yes, we know it’s a courtesy, but not when you’re only 32).

In everyday life, women dodge the slings and arrows hurled their way in the form of left-handed compliments or unintended disrespect. It’s bad enough when a teen son rejects his mom’s friend request on Facebook; it’s unforgiveable when women feel dissed or underestimated by the products they buy and the people they buy from. So it’s not surprising that women adopt the coping mechanism of Ego Protection, the fourth Half Truth, to shore up their best beliefs about who they are.

Want to learn more about half and whole truths? This post is straight from our book, What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It. Read the first chapter online HERE, and grab a copy for yourself from Amazon.

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Zico: One of America’s Hottest Brands is also a Whole Truth Brand

I was very happy to see that my favorite coconut water, Zico, made it to Ad Age’s 2009 America’s Hottest Brands List, reported by Natalie Zmuda.  Introduced to it over two years ago at a hot yoga studio in New York, I looked forward to my Zico water at the end of each class even more than the class itself.  

Now I must confess, I wasn’t that good at Bikram Yoga. When everyone was staring at the wall behind them during backbends, I was looking at the ceiling and my favorite part of class was when they shut off the lights and I could lie perfectly still for as long as I wanted. (Hot yoga was a lot of work for an early evening nap!) 

As my reward for not passing out and actually lasting the full 90 minutes in the room, I would treat myself to a cold Zico.  And while I could have drunk the whole 11 ounces right there in the locker room, I enjoyed walking out of the building and onto the subway platform with my Zico in hand so others would think I was a dedicated yogi. 

As a Whole Truth Brand, Zico has connected with the E (Ego Protection) of G.A.M.E.S., our acronym for why women tell Half Truths.  Zico gives people bragging rights. And that’s actually part of the brand strategy. Mark Rampolla, Founder of Zico Beverages says that it heads straight for hot yoga studios, where it has had success in cultivating a crop of brand evangelists.

And while I haven’t been to hot yoga in quite some time, when I’m feeling like I need a pick me up, I pick up a Zico and head down those subway steps, and hold the container so others might think I could have just come from class.

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Shoes, Glorious Shoes

In a recent piece in the New York Times, Stephanie Rosenbloom found a bright spot in a still slowly moving retail scene: the picked pace of shoe buying. It seems that women who’ve managed to skip buying dresses and handbags have detoured to the shoe department. Two reasons mentioned which we’d lay money on: Shoes fit no matter what size dress you wear, so they are the one treat that doesn’t make you feel guilty for eating that extra chocolate. And the changing fashions of this year have given a kick to boot sales, creating the need for a ‘boot wardrobe.’(I am guilty of bootie buying myself.)

The Ego Protection Half Truth of this shoe shopping is that it’s a cheap way to update last year’s outfit without the rub-off of the show-off problem of spending irresponsibly. “I just bought shoes this fall to work with my old stuff.” But the Whole Truth is that she knows that women notice shoes, often more than a new sweater and she needs to show that she’s defiantly still kicking. And since most of the purchases aren’t fancy Jimmy Choo’s but DSW and Payless, she can get extra emotional credit with friends by declaring, “But I got them at a buy one, get the second 50% sale.”  She can have her platforms and still keep her feet on the ground.

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When Good Intentions and Ego Protection Collide: A Win for Clorox

Brand Week’s Elaine Wong reports today that consumer demand for new green products were weakened by the recession but that overall, sales of green cleaners are growing at a faster pace than their traditional counterpart.

It is no surprise to me that Clorox’s disinfecting products are giving the company healthy sales. First, you have women’s Good Intentions – In Chapter 3 of our new book, What’s She’s Not Telling You, we share the Half Truth that women want to be healthy – healthy bodies, healthy lives, healthy homes. But the Whole Truth is that while they have the best of intentions in keeping a healthy environment, sometimes the house only gets really clean when company is coming over.

Which leads us into Ego Protection (check out chapter 6!) – Sure, she says she wants to be green, but we have detected that women actually want to be “green-ish”. If it is going to take more time, money or energy, they’d prefer to skip the ‘au natural’ and opt for products like Clorox Green Works, which offer a dose of green while nodding to their strong germ killing brand heritage.

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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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