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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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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New Strategy: Listen.

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It’s no secret that retailers have been feeling the strain from the recession… In a time when you have to justify every dollar spent, more frivolous purchases (such as clothing and accessories) are being pushed to the bottom of the list.

In an effort to revivify retail spending, stores are “reinventing their business strategies” and creating new initiatives to encourage consumers to loosen the death grip on their wallets.

A recent New York Times article highlights several such strategies.  Retail giant Macy’s, for example, recently launched a program entitled “My Macy’s,” designed to increase customer satisfaction by instituting constant contact between local sales staff and the store’s buyers and planners.  With the mandatory weekly check-in, merchandisers will see a log of customer complaints, wishes, etc, segmented by individual location, and then make changes based directly on that feedback.  So not only will the store provide their customers with precisely what they’re requesting, they’ll save their budget by  trimming the fat of items that are going unsold.

The article also mentions a growing trend among retailers to enhance the shopping experience through better customer service.  “More middle-market chains are striving for Nordstrom-quality service to win customers.”  Hmmm…

Not to be a Negative Nan, but really?  When you boil it all down, aren’t they really saying that the hot new strategy for getting customers back into the dressing rooms is to listen to what they’re saying and give them what they want??  Shouldn’t we have been doing that all along?  It’s no secret that a loyal customer is someone who feels listened to, respected, appreciated.  I have no doubt the strategy will yield positive results–our business was built around the benefits of actively listening to women–but it’s too bad it took a recession to drive that point home. 

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LAUGH in the face of fear

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Today The Wall Street Journal featured some plucky entrepenours who are making money by selling creative, recession wares.  Picture Lance Armstrong bracelets that say LAID OFF NEED A JOB.  Or a beer mug that says “This beer is going down like the stock market.” Call me sick but I find this kind of humor HI-larious.

A few weeks ago I swore that I was going to edit my life of negative people who act like Chicken Little (so glad I’m avoiding them now as they are in a tizzy about swine flu!) and now I can replace them with perfectly sarcastic voices of reason.  My favorite Tweets are from http://www.someecards.com/ and I wish I could go have a cocktail with those writers! You know someone who writes “Allow me to take some pressure off of your job search, no one is hiring” has to be a lot of fun.   I also like http://www.meancards.com/ for saying what we mean. 

 OUTSIDE: Get well soon.

INSIDE: My patience for your condition is starting to wane.

While I don’t have the guts to send their cards out I love that they take a stab at the traditional Hallmark sentiment (usually insincere anyway).

This kind of humor is tricky though and I worry about marketers who try to copy the wit in their own advertising.  Usually backfires.  I’m particularly fond of Saturn’s new ad that pokes fun at car companies that promise to take back  your car if you lose your job.  The Saturn ad points out that it would really stink to lose  your job AND your car so they promise to help with your car payments until you get on your feet.

What makes you laugh (even when  you aren’t supposed to)?

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August 5, 2020
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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