I attended a breakfast last week entitled “Marketing to the Female Investor.”  I was pretty jazzed about this because, in addition to a pretty good expert panel, the core of the event was a review of fresh research on the topic and I was looking forward to getting a sophisticated update on my own experienced-but-possibly rusty notions.

That’s not exactly what the audience got.

The research’s executive summary declares that “single women are on the rise” (is this the 70’s?) and the study confirms that women are living longer, marrying later, get 58% of all undergrad degrees awarded in the US and are opening businesses at 2x the rate of men.  Speakers presenting the research still referred to this as the “women’s market” – despite the fact that 52% of all US citizens are female – and declared that members of this group have “special needs.”  The research itself, as in years past, said that 71% believe that financial services marketing is targeted to men, and fewer women then men say they understand financial services products well or extremely well (e.g. mutual funds, stocks, IRAs, trusts).  A nervous presenter inadvertently plunged me into a moment of despair when she explained that, while the female respondents may not have an equal understanding of said products, “they are still intelligent.”

Good grief.  Had nothing changed in 15 years?

When the morning turned to the panel, however, the tone began to change for the better.  Most of the panelists’ real-life priorities and programs focused on women’s changing roles in society, and how these role changes are increasingly non-linear:   that women, more so than men, may move back and forth between the core roles of provider and caregiver… and may, as a result, be more or less educated about financial services, may be shopping for products at different times, etc.

So is there a primary segmentation scheme more relevant than gender?  Is it more valuable to target based on whether a person of either gender is home taking care of a child or aging parent vs. bringing home the bacon?  With roles, education levels and life span all changing, is gender becoming a secondary variable, rather than a primary one?

I sketched out the following during the session (and since I can’t draw in 3D, I just inserted the “Decision Maker” axis in here so I wouldn’t forget about it…):


There’s no question that, when observed in as close to real circumstances as possible, men and women tend to have different ways of consuming information, choosing financial advisors and so on.  But, right or wrong, “women’s marketing” has frequently been housed in retail bank groups focused on special niche populations – and this has not served to create a breakthrough positioning for, well, anyone.

Maybe we’ve reached a critical mass whereby it’s not whether or not one is female or male that should drive marketing communications and sales process design, but rather the role a person plays that dictates her – or his – financial needs, research habits and buying behavior.

The Short Life of the Chief Marketing Officer
This blog would be remiss if it did not provide a link to the most recently quoted article focused on the plight of the CMO.  This piece does not cover a lot of new ground, but I do give it credit for circling around what I’ve always said is the heart of the matter:  that is, fuzzy, mismatched expectations between the CEO, the organization, its stakeholders and the CMO him/herself.

 If I had to explain what I mean in one (two?) sentences, I would say that some equate marketing and, by extension, the role of the CMO, to “branding” and advertising.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, many understand the CMO to be a senior business person first, with a core expertise in the entire marketing mix:  one that should be at the CEO’s senior management table when matters concerning the customer are discussed.

If I sound like I have a bias, I do:  I am in the latter camp, not the former.  I do not mean to say, however, that either one is “right.”  Any point along this spectrum can be perfectly fine if it is mutually-agreed and adhered to by the CEO, the board, the organization and the CMO in question.  In good times, and bad.  And there lies the rub.

The New Corporate Intranet, Web 2.0 Style

Serena Software, a vendor of enterprise change management software, is replacing its existing intranet with Facebook on the front-end, attached to a CMS on the back-end.  The implications of this are pretty interesting.  I just hope that Serena eliminates Facebook’s “Change status” function, lest the company get a lot of “In meeting”  “On phone” “In meeting” “On phone” “On phone in bathroom…”

Tiffany Goes Into Business With Swatch
Swatch is setting up a company that will use Tiffany branding and designs to sell watches that will be made and distributed through its global distribution network.  Hopefully, this is a genius move that reflects the melding of mass affluent and luxury purchasing trends around the world.

Newspapers Still Wield Some Influencing Power – Online
Newspapers are still powerful, or are at least still read by those who are:  Mediamark Research reports that readers of newspaper sites are 52% more likely to be categorized as “influencers” than non-newspaper Web site readers.  Good info, for those planning media budgets for ’08 who may think that newspapers are on their way out.

Nielsen Releases 10 Most Popular Lists of 2007
GoViral Ranks Top 5 Viral Advertisements of 2007

I guess I’d vote for the RayBan spot (3.2M YouTube views since May) but ONLY because the Blendtec ad (2.7M views since July) to me is, well, royalty and should be on a list all its own…

I Really Hope My Brain Does NOT Always Work Like Google
As has been previously reported in this blog, Google tends to report popularity.  NB: If what’s popular is also truthful, I’m all for it.

Companies Should Keep and Forward Old Phone Numbers
This is a great tip that seems so simple, but we all know that companies do not always follow this advice.  If a customer pulls out a dusty old catalog and is ready to order a Christmas gift, be sure she can find you.



Tech Tools for the Financially Challenged
An off-base title for a list of nifty, mostly VC-backed sites that help integrate your far-flung financial affairs and analyze how, where and when you spend.  The privacy challenge, of course, is that a user must provide all of his/her account information.  Some company – either one of these or a player to be named later – will get around this problem. 

Visa, Card Lab Create Custom Holiday Gift Cards

The cost and complexity of card design and manufacturing has dropped practically down to nothing.  And with online photo technology…  I think this is a brilliant idea that works to counteract the “coldness” and implication of laziness that can come with receiving a gift card.  FYI – here are some solid metrics on the booming gift card market.

“I Took the Blows and Did It May Way”

Sure, she’s eccentric, to say the least, and the stories I’ve heard about what it’s like to work for her are legendary.  But her attitude – her recovery from life-destroying criticism – is instructive.
“They tried to hurt me, and maybe they did, but I know this much is true: You can take your punches, and you can take everything away from me, but no one will ever hijack my imagination, my drive, my creative spirit, or my dignity.”  

Facebook Retreats on Online Tracking

Great Artists Steal!  A Podcast with Professor William Dugan
A great podcast from my friend Paul Dunay, who interviews the author of the new book, Strategic Intuition.  See The Wall Street Journal’s positive review here.


Trademark Office Rejects Hormel’s Claim Against Spam Arrest  
“In a stinging loss [so dramatic!!], meat company Hormel’s effort to have anti-spam firm Spam Arrest’s trademark registration canceled has been dismissed.” 

Head of Rove Inquiry in Hot Seat Himself
“The head of the federal agency investigating Karl Rove’s White House political operation is facing allegations that he improperly deleted computer files from another probe using a private computer-help company…    Bypassing his agency’s computer technicians, Mr. Bloch phoned 1-800-905-GEEKS for Geeks on Call, the mobile PC-help service. It dispatched a technician in one of its signature PT Cruiser wagons…  Mr. Bloch had his computer’s hard disk completely cleansed using a “seven-level” wipe…

This is a“you couldn’t pay for this kind of press coverage” stories – I wish I ran Geeks on Call!

b.      You really should read the whole article.  “Seven-level wipe…” It’s practically satire.

c.       It was even fun searching for “geeks” at the Wall Street Journal website.   NBThis blogger needs to get out more. 

I’ve long followed the interesting and well-chronicled careers of Mark DiMassimo of DiMassimo Goldstein (DIGO) and Eric Yaverbaum, who runs Ericho Communications and has written a number of bestselling books.   Together or apart, they’ve been the marketing minds behind a who’s who of successful brands including Ikea, Dominos Pizza, Progressive Insurance, Glaceau Vitamin Water, Crunch Fitness and Jet Blue.   

Now Eric and Mark have taken on a much different assignment:  that of helping the planet.  Their focus is not greenhouse gases but bottled water, and they’re doing so through the launch of a joint venture called Tappening and a huge educational media blitz.  Tappening asks everyone to send in one empty commercial water bottle with a note inside that commits the sender to drinking only tap water in the future.  The initiative also calls companies like Coca-Cola on the carpet for creating massive waste:   did you know that California alone throws out three million empty water bottles every day?   You can also get a uber-hip Tappening bottle to carry your tap water around in.  Or, rather, you could before the bottles sold out in the first 36 hours of the campaign.  [See below for a nice shot of the bottles and a handy link to a FoxNews interview about Tappening.]


I spoke to both Mark and Eric today to get a rare look behind a grass-roots campaign that’s getting major attention – one based on the power of what they call two  “mad dads.”

Stephanie:  Hey, guys.  From what I’ve read so far, this idea seems to have sprouted from the minds of two angry marketing geniuses who’d just seen a documentary about trash.  True?

Mark:  Well I can’t address the “genius” part, but we’re definitely angry.  I have three kids and they deserve a healthy planet.  That means we’re going to have to do a little more than change light bulbs.

Eric: As parents, Mark and I are very much aligned emotionally in this.  And we believe that we can impact a lot of people.

Stephanie: And just to get it out of the way early… you’re also making some money, right?

Mark: When you sell your entire inventory of bottles in the first 36 hours, you definitely make a few bucks, although we’ve been shocked at the response. We thought we’d sell out our inventory in a year and just self-fund the initiative.  But apparently we’re onto something!

Eric:   Yes, selling out after 36 hours and logging 450,000 page visits in two weeks tells us that, based on what we do for a living, we have the wherewithall to educate people – and we’re succeeding.

Stephanie:  I personally have no issues with two marketing execs making a few dollars by spending every spare waking hour doing something good for the planet.  But why promote tap water? 
Mark:  Because it was there, because it’s everywhere – and because it wasn’t branded.  And all three of us understand the power of brands.  Look at vodka, a drink with no taste.  But branding has given plenty of vodka brands taste.  And a brand makes people pay good money for good old H2O in a bottle every day.  And what’s even in that bottle?  Pepsi admits that Aquafina, the #1 bestselling brand of bottled water in the US, comes from tap water!   Tap water deserves to fight, if you will, on equal footing.  Reusable water bottles and the Tappening brand is where we wanted to start.

Eric: People don’t realize so many really sad and fundamental facts regarding what we do to the planet.  The bottled water industry adds to global pollution, wastes energy, creates waste and contributions to the causes of climate change.  The industry’s solution so far has been to talk about thinner plastic and recycling.  Thinner plastic still needs to be made, cleaned, filled, shipped, collected and discarded.   And nearly 25% of Americans do not recycle.  Tap water is right in front of us:  we believe that something so simple can be very powerful.

Mark: And by the way, the stuff in the bottle isn’t as well regulated as the stuff that comes out of your tap.  Compare what the EPA requires of your tap water to what the FDA looks at in your bottled water.  See who makes you feel better about what you’re drinking.  But the bottom line is that, on the whole, the water from your tap is healthy for you, healthy for your family and a whole lot healthier for the planet.  Take the money you save and put it to good use, if you can.

Eric: That’s also what we’re also trying to do by using a portion of the proceeds from every Tappening bottle sale to promote the documentary you mentioned called Garbage!  The Revolution Starts at Home.   Now they are starting to get traffic from our site… and that’s the way you start to bind thousands of people together behind a cause.

Stephanie: Interesting.  Do you see marketing discipline as the solution to other social problems?

Mark: Yes, marketing and value innovation.  It would be of enormous value to get people drinking more tap and less bottled.  So we look at that problem and we innovate.  Why don’t people drink more tap?  And we don’t disregard or belittle the answers we don’t like:  if drinking tap isn’t hip, for example, then we need to address that.  Scientists may study it.  Politicians may demagogue it, legislate it…  But we know that what really moves the needle quickly is marketing innovation, which is about design, branding and excitement.

Eric: People buy brands to express themselves and their values.  Tappening allows people to be part of this campaign, which we hope is both a stylish and socially valuable thing to do. Maybe that’s why so many people like our bottle. It brands them when they carry it.

Stephanie: So you want to make an ordinary-seeming topic cool.

Eric: Definitely.  Hey, I have a teenage daughter to impress! That’s not easy!

Mark: Absolutely.  Absolutely.  Tappening IS cool.

Stephanie: How important has digital marketing been to your success?

Mark:  Incredibly. We were blown away by the celebrities who found our MySpace page and spread the word.

Eric: And all the environmental organizations online….  The bloggers also have gotten the word out, and they’ve been collaborators in developing our concept.  A lot of hard questions in this space need to be answered. And bloggers ask them. They don’t cow-tow to anyone.  To them, I would offer the biggest thank you.

Mark:  Traditional media has driven our success as well.  We and others are spreading video from TV interviews we have done all over the web. We’re getting newspaper and radio coverage.  It all ends up in digital form and then it travels everywhere.

Eric:  The doom and gloom predictions about the future of mainstream media fascinate me, because “old” and “new” media work so well together:  traditional media produces high-quality content and then the web spreads it around the world.  Given that both Mark and I are usually the “senders” of such messaging for our clients, it’s been a blast to be on the *positive* receiving end of it!

Stephanie:  Well many thanks to you both.  And if you have any Tappening bottles squirreled away… I want one!
Readers:  consider what Mark and Eric are saying about the phenomenon of branding, the social quality and power of “cool,” and the idea that this concept could be applied to just about anything.  What can we apply it to next?

Without Snow Globe Innovations, Christmas Décor Will Be Flat

Adweek Not A Weekly Anymore

A New Ad Agency – Eager For Press – Blunders Fundamentally
There is a new agency in New York called Womankind that is promoting itself as a new idea: advertising created by women, for women. It’s not new, of course (paging Mary Lou Quinlan), but it’s getting its 15 minutes. And what does it do, to show that it is serious about “harness[ing] the power of female ad and marketing executives” to make difference? It chooses a man to be interviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

This made me want to slap my own forehead. Hard. There is nothing in the universe that would have kept me from putting a woman up for that interview. If all the female ad executives in the world were wiped out by some advertising plague, I’d have media-trained a homeless woman. Or used a female sock puppet. Or put a dress on a rock.

I would have to think twice about giving business to a shop who, in my opinion, just displayed such colossally poor (and easy to correct) judgment right out of the box! Not kidding.

Clinton Library To Get More Green

Sak’s Wealthy Clients Help It Buck The Trend
“The higher-end luxury price points have not seen a slowdown and we feel quite good about that consumer’s buying power at this point,” Saks Chief Executive Stephen Sadove said on Tuesday.

This is one of several interesting articles spawned by Saks’ prediction of increased sales in the 3Q and a prediction of better sales in 4Q06 vs. 4Q05. The key observation overall appears to be that the haves are getting more and the have-nots are slipping down, while the middle is getting squeezed.

High-end luxury retailers, targeting the truly affluent client (net worth of $1M-$10M) are still performing, as these are the customers immune to credit problems, housing woes and $3/gallon gas prices. But those in the middle who have been reaching up to “low end luxury” brands such as Coach for the last 5 years or so (consumers with annual incomes of $100,000 to $300,000) must now pull back and will shop at Wal-Mart instead – shopping closer to their needs than their wants.


Town Considers Criminalizing Online Harrassment After 13 Year Old Commits Suicide
A terrible, sad story about “Internet shaming” and the death of a 13 year old girl. Where are we going re. regulation on the Web? What responsibility, if any, do we believe that ISPs, social networks and other involved parties must take?

Bob Garfield’s Campaign Against Comcast Continues
“For people with anger issues, the internet is a cathartic godsend and/or lethal weapon.” “… all he needs to have, basically, is fingers and rage.”

Garfield’s ongoing campaign is funny to read, ha ha, and we all feel good about it when we agree with the attacker’s point of view. Then it happens to you personally, or your brand. What do we do?


Check out the WGA’s YouTube video about the writers’ strike.  

A few observations:

(1) Re. the actual reason for the strike… I think that media companies are going to have a hard time having it both ways. The video goes out of its way to make a point of this, just in case anyone has forgotten how much dough these same companies have claimed that new media content is worth.

(2) There were several articles this week claiming that the WGA members were beginning to win over the public.  How best to reach, first off, The Daily Show’s existing audience and, secondly, the millions of others who want to see something funny (and will listen to your message as a side bonus?).    Plus you don’t have the eternal recall problem of remembering whether that caveman ad was for Geico or Aflac… You’re the whole game!

The best marketing possible is authentic, endemic and real:  and the bar is only raised for social media efforts.   For me, this may be the most spot-on use of social media/YouTube/UGM. Huzzah!

(3) I have a blinding admiration for creative talent and this was just too good not to post.

Stephanie Fierman Loves Verizon

November 14th, 2007

OK, I don’t actually know anyone who loves their phone service… but I figured this headline wouldn’t draw Verizon’s ire and, well, I’m afraid of Verizon.

I recently found a blog called eyelesswriter.com, where the writer describes the experiment he did as a follow up to VerizonMath.com. VerizonMath.com is where you can find the story of George Vacarro, guy who called Verizon and recorded 6 different managers
quoting different and wrong rates for the same plan – sometimes 100 times less than Verizon actually charged – and then not being able to understand the mistake when it was explained to them.

But this Eyelesswriter is a fellow after my own heart: only 6 calls? Puh-leeze. Eyelesswriter called Verizon 56
TIMES over two days with two questions:

(1) What is the data overage rate for the basic 10MB data package for $29.99?
(2) If you get the Core Choice 450 minutes package with unlimited data, what is the data roaming rate in Canada?

As the blog explains, the first question was intended to be relevant to a general audience, given that nearly every phone can now receive data – plus the question referred to the most basic plan available. The second question was similar to the one described by VerizonMath.

Of the 56 reps to whom Eyelesswriter spoke, only 1 answered both questions correctly. 52% (29) did not answer either question correctly and 7.5% of the incorrect responses under-quoted Verizon’s actual rate by 100 times or more. (There appears to be a bit of confusion between cents per kilobyte and dollars per kilobyte…).

The recording made me wince.

In the last couple days, as it happens, a couple of my blog/newsletter friends have also posted significant rants about terrible customer service experiences. What’s interesting and most important to me as a marketer is that the prevailing emotion usually projected by write-ups like these is not anger or hatred, but… disappointment.

It’s disappointment, because consumers want to have a good experience and they want to believe us marketers when we advertise, skywrite, promote, print, stunt, twitter, blog, facebook (as a verb), etc. and promise on-time arrivals and correct billing. That our XYZ is better. That we are the brand to trust. Consumers want this to be true!

And then, too often, it’s not. Marketers are imperfect animals, to be sure, but my circle of colleagues frequently discuss how much marketing can actually impact performance in some companies – and whether all the new Web 2.0 tools make folks believe that a little social media and behavioral targeting will make everything ok. I firmly represent the point of view that an entire value chain in a company has got to be ready to deliver or David Ogilvy himself couldn’t make a new marketing initiative work. At my last job at JPMorgan Chase, I sat on the same floor as the Client Relationship Managers and, among other things, was responsible for both marketing and training. So my team could launch the newest whiz-bang product, and that’s great, but we were also able to and fully accountable for ensuring that “the line” was well equipped to help sell and service the product for clients.

If marketing is all about creating valuable relationships with customers, we’ve got to continue to work across our companies to ensure that the rest of the enterprise is executing well. We’re the ones that need to keep articulating the brand promise for the entire company, ensuring that everyone embraces their part in it and working with every division to make sure that delivery expectations are understood, met and exceeded.

This is, actually, the joint mission of every CMO, COO, CFO, CTO, CIO and CEO team.

Verizon spent $1.9B in advertising last year. How much of that is undone by a rep who cannot distinguish between cents and dollars per kilobyte?

Inside (Marketing) Baseball

November 6th, 2007

OK, this may be “inside baseball,” but it’s brilliant inside baseball.
Take a look at this funny little ad for Hank Music, a company just waiting to provide the music (with rights) for your next tv spot.

Anyone who’s ever been involved in creating a spot – or creating anything, probably – can identify with that moment, that moment, that – moment – when things GO TO *#!@.  Usually during an all-night edit session. Around 4:30am.    GAH!!!!  

Or, or, maybe it’s 1991, and you get a call from the printing plant because there’s a problem and it’s the weekend and you’re the most senior person they could find on the client side, but you don’t know what to do because you’re just a kid and we’re talking millions of dollars if you stop the press but if you don’t and the…  Oops.  Sorry.  I’m back now. 

There are so many great shots here – I think I’m voting the guy in the fetal position under the desk as my favorite. But it goes by so fast, I can’t identify him from this list of these venerable “actors.” Let me know if you can.

Sam Baerwald Head of Production, 72andSunny
Wayne Best Executive Creative Director, Taxi
Mike Byrne Creative Director, Anomaly
Izzy DeBellis Creative Director/Partner, Berlin Cameron NY
Ben Fruehauf Creative Director, Campbell Mithun/MN
William Gelner Group Creative Director, BBH
Liz Graves Freelance Agency Producer
Greg Hahn Creative Director, BBDO
Chan Hatcher Editor, Rock Paper Scissors
Eric Hirshberg Chief Creative Officer & President, Deutsch
Scott Kaplan Creative Director, BBDO
Jeff Kling Executive Creative Director/Partner, Euro
T.K. Knowle Executive Producer/Partner, Bob Industries
Paul Lavoie Co-Founder/Chief Creative Officer, Taxi
David Lubars Chief Creative Officer, BBDO
David Perry Director of Broadcast Production, Saatchi
Rob Reilly VP/Creative Director, Crispin Porter Bogusky
Ted Royer Executive Creative Director, Droga 5
Chuck Ryant Executive Producer/Partner, Bob Industries
Tom Sann Agency Producer, Campbell Mithun/NY
Eric Silver Executive Creative Director, BBDO
Damien Stevens Head of Production, Saatchi & Saatchi LA
Bruce Wellington Head of Broadcast Production, BBH

Or perhaps we could call this post, “Stephanie Fierman Meets The Future” or “It’s Hard To Keep Up When You’re Over 40.”  Whatever. 

The upshot, I suspect, is to introduce my audience to Tara Hunt, otherwise known as Miss Rogue. Tara is pretty famous in the increasingly important Web 2.0 – I’d say even Web 3.0 – environment of building authentic customer relationships. Tara’s blog made her Canadian phone ring one day, which got her a job in San Francisco, which led her and her partner Chris Messina to start a company, Citizen Agency, which is now turning down clients.  Big clients.  Big Fortune 50 clients. 

Maybe they won’t turn down business forever, but Citizen Agency is currently focusing on smaller technology companies where Chris and Tara think they have the best chance of actually helping the client execute customer-centric strategies around product research, design, development and marketing.  If that’s not clear, Citizen Agency’s blog post of October 2 is from Chris, humorously relaying the explanation of Citizen Agency’s reason for being during a hot stone massage.   

Another post describes it thusly (see picture and text below.  For you marketers out there, I dare you to say that you haven’t been in the room when one of these conversations has taken place… See if you can guess which comment is the client’s and which might come from the agency):


“Your slow performance is the number one reason your customers are leaving.”
“But we can’t afford to buy new servers.”
“Your slow performance is the number one reason your customers are leaving.”

“The reason your developer network is dead is because you put too many limitations on your API usage.”
“But our investors want us to keep it secure and tight track of who is using it.”
“The reason your developer network is dead is because you put too many limitations on your API usage.”

“Your user experience is horrendous. Bloggers all over the web are talking about it.”
“Well, that is just not priority right now. We have to get the next release of features out.”
“Your user experience is horrendous. Bloggers all over the web are talking about it.”

Their point is, of course, that losing customers makes these other concerns superfluous.  But why don’t we listen? And if that’s too much homework for today, let’s just try to figure out how we can use social media and community to help.  I think part of the struggle is that a lot of folks are trying to understand social media and its impact on brands and marketers as a trend, or the new “thing.”  Like… I don’t know, say, six sigma:  for most of us, if we kept our mouths shut and waited it out, six sigma went the way of the time and motion study.   

But social media is not going the way of the slide rule, because it’s not a trend but really the creation of an entirely new communication stream between customers and companies.   Sure, Bebo, Facebook and the like will be old news some day, but companies having to adapt to a constant 24/7 two-way conversation with their customers – where those customer comments may be on display for all the world to see – is here to stay. 

As marketers, it’s our responsibility to make this a good thing for our brands, no matter how foreign it may be.  It’s our job to help our CEOs understand that loosening the reins is, well, mandatory.  It’s our job to define what the new party phrase “the consumer is in control” actually means in our own spheres of influence.  After meeting Tara Hunt today, I was not only tremendously impressed but also very relieved to know that there’s such great help out there.

Checking In At Brand Camp

November 4th, 2007

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything from Tom Fishburne’s ingenious Brand Camp series, so I thought it was time.  Tom has a way of getting to the heart of marketing – and what’s funny about it – without making me feel too ridiculous (I think…). 

Check this one out:  which one would you be?


If you’re not reading Tom’s blog at http://tomfishburne.typepad.com now and again, you’re missing something fun.  He’s also currently living in London rolling out the Method Home brand in Europe, which so far is an inspiring (and for the small team in London, PERspiring) story of real branding with a mission.