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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Since When Are Sports Feminizing?

Long-touted as the epitome of masculinity with an undertone of “dumb jock,” big-name American sports such as baseball and football have traditionally been considered a boys’ club. (And yes, we know better than anyone that 44% of the NFL’s rabid fan base is female, but that’s a stat for another time.)

But the ultimate boy’s club, ESPN network, is “so masculine it’s almost feminine,” according to author Tom Shales, who was quoted in a New York Times piece documenting the shift. Readers who don’t tune into SportsCenter get the impression that the channel is a veritable hub of body-envy and sartorial innovation. The piece focuses on what message of masculinity is being expressed by the third highest-rated network on cable, but our interest was caught by a slightly different question: What message of femininity does this article transmit?

The author writes—as do others—that this fixation on appearance and the new prominence of topics that should perhaps be sidelined (Troy Polamalu’s heavily-insured locks, for example) are edging closer to center stage, and injecting an element of femininity into the network. Since when is caring how you look feminine? Isn’t it just… human? Much like the term “athletic” has ceased to imply “masculine,” there’s no reason why beyond-basic hygiene should still be considered a purely feminine realm. But comments like that of an enthusiastic ESPN female co-host, “When athletes come in to do interviews, it’s almost like a fashion show,” don’t exactly convey that women are capable of enjoying sports as more than pedestals for kitted-out footballers.

This is the mindset that is so often damaging to companies when turning their attention to female consumers. There’s an inherent belief that to catch female attention, all one must do is add the word “shoes!” and dye the product or service pink. Appealing to women isn’t about discussing hair or taking a (what you believe is) feminine approach. It’s about recognizing that female consumers are consumers before females. They enjoy and benefit from the same entertainment, products, and services as their male counterparts. We firmly believe that creating a woman-friendly company begins with being a company that’s friendly to women—note that ESPN is still a magnet for harassment lawsuits and sexual scandals. Despite the interpretive tie-tying and value of hair products, ESPN is not feminine. What “feminine” truly is… well, that’s up to you.

See you at the Super Bowl.

(Image from The Faster Times, via AP. Worth checking out.)

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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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Vanity Fair Doesn’t Believe Their Readers Are Telling The Whole Truth

I started giggling while reading Vanity Fair, and it wasn’t because I was staring at Cristiano Ronaldo’s beautiful abs.  It was the intro to The 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Poll. VF admitted in a sassy tone that they could not believe the results of their own telephone interviews; “for anyone looking over the results of our most recent poll, in which some of the answers seem to be, frankly, inside out”.  They go on to summarize some of the findings with such comments as, “we would have predicted the opposite…counter to our expectations…we’d venture that those proportions would be reverse.” And concluded with, “how would we know for sure?”

I love Vanity Fair. I know they’re smart and I applaud them for being bold enough to publicly question the results of their survey. I don’t believe that 9 in 10 Americans tell their doctors the absolute truth about everything either. But when clients ask why we so strongly believe in qualitative research versus quantitative I feel like I have some new support in my back pocket now. It’s in the follow up question, even if it just a “really?” which I believe this polled lacked. It’s the way she crosses her arms, averts her gaze, even laughs after saying something out loud to your face, the body language, the way she interacts with the other women in the group.  Not blindly answering questions on her cell phone while cooking dinner, painting her toenails or watching TV. Why do we believe in qualitative research? So we can see the Whole Truth.

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Will Brands Understand Sunset Daze?

So I am a huge television watcher. I wish I meant PBS or Masterpiece Theater. But nope, I am a classless, reality show junkie much to my husband’s dismay (he likes WWII movies and documentaries!). Besides getting caught up in the drama of other people’s drama I like watching how brands are getting weaved into story lines. What are they drinking? Whose cars are they driving? What product are they the spokesperson for? How do brands calculate risk?

So I watch the launch of WE’s bold new reality show “Sunset Daze” with curiousity. This show is about people, mostly women, living in a retirement community. Can you hear the audible gasp of 20 something media buyers everywhere? What would brands do with people 60+ besides sell them Poise or life insurance?

If I had one marketing message to scream from the rooftops it would be to MIND THE BOOMER. As much as companies want to go younger and younger all of the time there is enormous opportunity with Boomer Women. They have more money, more free time and the most loyalty. In the almost 11 years we’ve been in business I can count on two hands how many clients have wanted to really understand the emotional triggers of these women. Fewer than that have actually done anything with the information.

So what marketing surrounds “Sunset Daze”? Frankly, I’m a little dissapointed. On the WE site they actually have a game called “Bling my Cart” as in golf cart. Really? Couldn’t do better than that? What’s next? How many Geritols are in the jar? I’ve checked out the bios of the cast and some of them are barely above 60. That is far from over the hill but we are supposed to be shocked that they still want to live a little – go dancing, talk about sex and even date!

What brands do you think should have a place in a show like this? My first instinct is luxury cars, quick serve restaurants, airlines and hotels. I wish clothing and beauty would get into the act also but I won’t hold my breath.

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Whole Truths on WPIX this Morning

WPIX InterviewThis morning I got to beat the snow and appear on WPIX News with someone who I really admire – the stunning and talented Tamsen Fadal.  I will always wonder how she can start her business day at 2:30am and still be such a nice person.   My 4am wakeup call was worth it and  I was lucky enough to appear twice (one at 5:50am and again at 6:50am).  The interview was about the Half and Whole Truths of New Year’s resolutions.  Ignore my deer in headlights look in the screen grab!

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Can’t Put Jill in a Box

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Jack in the Box has a new commercial that features their frozen Tropical Smoothies drink as a solution for menopause. The fun spot, totally tongue in cheek, features a retro-styled woman in pink, crazily smiling her way through hot flashes thanks to the chilled treat. Supposedly, last night on FOX, Bill O’Reilly got all hot and bothered that menopause was even part of a commercial at all.

Chill out, Bill.

First of all, with more women turning 50 every minute, there’s a huge audience for this.

Second, women are open about the subject and they often laugh about it with friends.

Three, there’s money in attracting midlifer’s dollars–a rarity in youth-obsessed fast food marketing. (And interestingly, the many youtube raves on this spot are coming from men, so it’s a double whammy success.)

My advice to Jack in the Box? You didn’t go far enough. The spot is fun and cute, but come on–let her dump the smoothie on her head, let her create a bathtub full of them for a cool soak and at least once, let her flip out a little, smiling that eerie smile. Instead of just showing the weird shot of her cutting roses, let her rip into the Jack in the Box drive through, cut off a teenage driver, yell at the server to hurry up and  douse herself with it a la Paris Hilton’s spot for Carl’s Jr. If you want to appeal to older women with a brand known for its sarcasm, you’ve got to have a little more irreverence.

The brand knows young guys. Time to grow up (you too, Bill!)

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Unrequited Marketing

OK, TV time. I woke up around dawn on Tuesday and said to my sound-asleep husband, “Do you think that House and Cuddy never really got together last night?” He groaned, “I’m asleep.” Now, if you’re not a fan of “House”, see ya later.  

But if you are, you may be one of the millions of women suckered into believing that at long last Vicodin-addicted, miserable Gregory House and Dr. Lisa Cuddy, cool and smoldering hospital head, had, well… But just when things heated up, turns out it was all his drug-induced hallucination. Huh? 

I thought I was the only woman feeling jilted until I read Ginia Bellafante’s review. The plot was purely created to snag the hearts of their female audience and then dump them at the altar. Bellafante explained, “The producers of ‘House’ don’t care about our fantasies and instead poured a big bucket of Freon on our mushy sucker hearts. ‘House’ treats women who watch it the way House treats women generally: It mocks them for any genuine emotional investment.” Wow!  

Is this the idea behind brands that seduce women by making fun of them, like Coors or Doritos? Or, as a strategy, could a brand actually be like the character of Gregory House, the product we love because it doesn’t love us back? Tapping into something so powerful, our urge to redeem the heartbreaker, might be a cool marketing idea. Unless it keeps us up at night. What do you think?

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Setting the Record Straight and Getting Attention


During last week’s Grey’s Anatomy I found myself rewinding our DVR to replay the new Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals birth control commercial for Yaz.  

It wasn’t the claim that got my attention though, it was the correction that made me stop and listen. This new $20 million dollar campaign running during prime-time shows and on cable networks is their response to the Food and Drug Administration’s requirement to correct previous Yaz marketing messages.     

If you haven’t seen it yet the spot opens with an actress looking into the camera saying “You may have seen some Yaz commercials recently that were not clear. The F.D.A. wants us to correct a few points in those ads.”  I have to be honest, I didn’t see the first ads. In fact most birth control commercials don’t grab my attention. I had been on the same pill for 12 years (talk about brand loyalty) and never thought about switching because of new claims (my thought is often, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”).  But if I was stopping to watch this ad how many more women caught this message?

 When some companies get outed for not telling the whole truth (does anyone remember how quickly women were up in arms when we found out how Vitamin Water wasn’t as healthy as we were led to believe?) women can become vigilantes about setting the record straight. But given that Bayer has taken the time to come clean (even if they were forced to) I wonder if they will be forgiven easily by women.  In fact, I venture to guess that Yaz’s brand legend that it also helps with pimples and PMS will still hold strong, even if the ads don’t say it anymore.

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We’re all familiar with the age-old adage, “sex sells.”  And while I’ll be the first to agree that sex can have a place in advertising— I believe it’s important to attach the caveat that you have to be smart about it (i.e. know your audience).

When you get a sec, check out PETA’s new ad that was just banned from the Superbowl lineup thanks to its racy content.  The 15 second spot attempts to grab viewers with the tag “Vegetarians have Better Sex,” accompanied by scantily clad women stroking themselves with garden-variety vegetables.  Call me a prude, but watching a half naked woman lick a pumpkin does not exactly have me putting down my forkful of filet and picking up my checkbook.

With approximately 40 million women watching the Superbowl,  primarily for the commercials, your potential reach is huge.  And since women make twice as many charitable contributions as men, they are surely your prime target…so why, oh why jeopardize that and take the porn approach to igniting animal rights activism? 

Be true to your cause—chances are your message is powerful enough without the sex (especially creepy, vegetable sex).  Women are smart—no need to dumb down your content (or take it out altogether). Make your case, if it’s legit their dollars will follow.

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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.
Go There

press & praise