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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It’s Not Easy Being Green. Or Honest.

How much weight does the word “organic” hold when it comes your purchasing decisions? Do you place more value—monetary or otherwise—on organic clothing? Food? How about beauty products?

We only ask because 26 cosmetic companies making “organic” products are facing a lawsuit from the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health for using the word without the certifications. The companies (the full list can be found HERE) may be in violation of a California law requiring products carrying the organic label to be at least 70% organic ingredients. Attention, shoppers: Now that you know, would you still buy the products?

If found guilty, the companies involved will have more than just legal problems. First of all, if they’re stripped of the organic label, they’ll be unable to fulfill their female consumers’ Good Intentions. Because how convenient is it that the products you love are also organic, and therefore less damaging to the environment? Organic beauty products make it easy to be green-ish.

Also, women love empathetic companies. They love companies that understand them, that enable them to both save the planet and have a flawless complexion. But if it’s found that any or all of these companies—whose products have been tested by the Center and found wanting—aren’t living up to their claims and are in fact lying to their consumers, said consumers will feel targeted, manipulated, and disinclined to keep buying.

Honesty gains a lot of ground with female consumers, but deceit loses much more. Let’s hope, for the sake of brand loyalists everywhere, that honest trumps organic.

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The Skinny on Lululemon’s Success


On Friday afternoon, NPR Marketplace interviewed me about the success of retailer Lululemon Athletica. I was excited to weigh in on the yogawear juggernaut because I’ve been a fan since first discovering them in a Vancouver store while on my book tour in 2005. I’m addicted to the brand and have watched (and contributed to!) their growth ever since. Here’s why:

1) Terrific execution at retail: their philosophy of optimism and energy spiced with a dash of yoga zen pervades the entire experience. No matter the store, they cast their salesforce to engage the local community. They’re helpful, never presumptive, always knowledgeable and fun. (They ask where I practice yoga and even offer free classes in store!)

2) Consistently gorgeous design/color/news that can sustain the hefty pricetag in a category of disposable black leggings: They’ve co-opted the fast fashion code of Zara to activewear, driving frequency of visits and size of purchase (Gotta have that grape pullover with the thumbholes before they sell out!)

3) And as I mentioned in the interview, the brand’s secret Whole Truth: the fabric makes your butt look great. (Try it out yourself.)

Even with expansion, the brand hasn’t lost its chic. More like a Chanel bag or a Tory Burch flat, it’s ‘what to be seen in’ at the cooler gyms in big cities, high end ‘burbs and resorts. Lululemon is a cult of ‘namaste meets fashionista’, with a discrete logo that follows you from yoga mat to sidewalk runway. (Oh, and did I mention it makes your butt look good?)

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Good Intentions? Gulp!

Whenever we talk to women about eating well, they are quick to jump on the Half Truth of “I try to be healthy,” but within seconds, rebound to the Whole Truth, “But red wine is good for you , right?”

Well, recent news from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association reveals there can be too much of a good thing sabotaging women’s Good Intentions and may actually be hurting them (“I try to drink red wine instead of white to get that Reserva-whatever” ingredient). The study indicated that while consumers know that red wine has benefits, unfortunately, they don’t know that the benefit has limits. Supposedly women should only consume 4 ounces a day, which to my count is less than a typical goblet served at most restaurants and dinner tables. Add a second or third glass of ‘good for you’ and her Good Intentions can end up leading to cardiovascular disease, like high blood pressure and even stroke.

So, what’s the solution? When healthcare organizations tout the benefits of drinking red wine or milk, eating chocolate or fiber, it’s only fair play to learn from the oldest adage of all, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” (Not an orchard…AN apple.) Be specific. Let her know that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Make an honest woman of her, for health’s sake.

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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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Empty Promises: Hand-In-Hand With Good Intentions

Half Truth: Women make strong commitments to a healthy lifestyle.

Whole Truth: Women have the best of intentions, but life gets in the way.

Women talk a good game of sticking to promises, even if they don’t actually follow through. They really do hope to organize their lives, stay on top of their finances, and take control of the unbelievably large amount of time they spend online. So how can marketers capitalize on their Good Intentions without getting shortchanged?

In face-to-face research, the first simple step to eliciting a woman’s Whole Truths rests with a one-word question: ‘Really?’ When a woman starts to preach about her rigorous beauty regimen (‘I never go to bed without carefully removing my makeup’) or how she plans to use all the applications of your new tech toy (‘I always read the entire instruction manual first’), try following up with ‘Really?’ in your most amazed, shocked voice. Let the word hang in the air for a moment. It’s funny how women will laugh and begin to confess how many times they have strayed and what they really do.

Want to see a Half Truth exposed in front of your eyes? In work we did for a healthcare marketer on chronic heartburn, women claimed that they avoided spicy foods. But when they arrived at the research venue, we put them to the test with a covert experiment. We offered a choice of bland turkey sandwich or lasagna with garlic bread. Guess which entre was decimated? (Proof that they were telling a Half Truth of Good Intentions!)

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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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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July 24, 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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