Beyaz Weird As Possible

June 6th, 2011

Birth control ads are strange. Exhibit A: the Nuvaring ad (see HERE) where the gals take off their clothes and climb into a hot tub with their yellow bathing suits on. Each woman has a… each has a number… and… and one has a bathing cap… and then the hot tub spins like a ride at Disneyland… and then there’s a song that makes me hear Satan’s voice urging me to kill (Mommy!).

I don’t know what’s going on, other than understanding that I better use Nuvaring because remembering to take a pill every day is simply too much for me. At least I think that’s what is says.

So in a land of weird, one must rise extra high to be noticed – and I think Beyaz overshot by a mile. Check out the ad (see below or HERE):



The “it’s good to have choices” positioning is fine, but to put women in a shopping setting, where they can simply choose the men, educations, homes and discretionary incomes of their dreams off a shelf at any time – with as much thought and planning as picking a bottle of ketchup – is offensive. And what was the general idea here: that because women understand shopping the best, we can make birth control a section of a department store to help the message hit home?

Then there are the choices themselves. The home the female shopper chooses is a sweet little purple house, with a car out front that looks like it’s from the 50s. Is that where women belong, or when women were “best” – in the 50s? Have we already failed if we don’t want the picket fence?

And the stork: the only “selection” that tries to literally follow the woman once it is rejected (a stalking stork, if you will). All the women in this ad are still in their 20s: are young women supposed to have babies… or else? Note there are no “and” equations in this ad. It’s all about the “or,” as in grad school or a baby. None of the shoppers leave with more than one item.

or me, though, the most disappointing episode takes place over in the Significant Other section of the store. First of all, the store only carries men in inventory. Being homosexual is not a choice in this retail establishment. Then comes the best part: a woman standing in front of a man (under glass…), only to have another female come along with a smirk on her face and snatch the man off the shelf.

That’s nasty and cruel. And pits women against one another.

The site TresSugar.com does a great job breaking down the ad, scene by scene, object by object. Take a look if you get the chance.

Even in the fantasy world of flying snacks, sodas that never make you fat and perfect hair, I think this ad is over the top in its disdain for women.

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This is an encore presentation of a blog post originally published on Stephanie Fierman: Marketing Daily.

There’s a real reputation-meets-revenue battle happening online.

Today, any advertiser with a Google AdWords account can buy virtually any keyword to advertise its own goods, regardless of whether said advertiser has the rights to use the word.  This is particularly troublesome for companies that have spent decades burnishing brand franchises and consider the associated names and words to be reputational assets of great value. 

If you go to Google right now and type in “LVMH” (the owner of numerous brands including Louis Vuitton and Hennessy), one of the sponsored ads shouts “Designer Handbags 70% off,” with a URL that includes the Louis Vuitton name. That has LVMH steamed and the company sued Google in Europe for trademark infringement.

Well the ruling is in… and it’s a split decision, advantage: Google. Upon Google’s appeal of earlier rulings (that didn’t go its way) the highest court in the EU has determined that – on its face – the mere fact that an LVMH-protected word is available for sale by Google does not mean that Google is in violation of LVMH’s trademark rights.  stephanie-fierman-louis-vuitton.jpg

Specifically, the court has said that the search company is not violating trademarks if (a) its automatic ad system is judged to be “merely technical, automatic and passive” in its operation, and if (b) the company is not aware and cannot be expected to fully police all the words that advertisers purchase.

Since computers are programmed by humans, I would argue that the first point is debatable, but there it is.  It was not a flat-out win for Google, however, as the court also ruled that Google must remove said ads if the brand owner formally complains about an advertiser infringing on its marks.  If Google fails to do this, the court says it won’t be so helpful in protecting Google’s revenue stream the next time around.

The court also reinforced that Google could be held liable for selling keywords that openly encourage or facilitate counterfeiting, which is a win (or at least a booster shot) for brand owners.  And lastly, the court also clarified the responsibilities of advertisers who mustn’t, by “using such keywords, arrange for Google to display ads which do not allow Internet users to easily establish from which undertaking the goods or services covered by the ad in question originate.”

I don’t know about you, but if I’m an advertiser that gets into hot water for legally buying a word that Google sold to me – and I’m not trying to sell knock-offs – I’m naming Google in my legal response.

stephanie-fierman-brand.jpgLVMH has been on the attack re. this issue for a long time all around the world, and must fight infringement in all possible sales channels. It has sued (and has won), for example against eBay in the past.  And  LVMH was front and center in the effective elimination of a thriving Louis Vuitton counterfeit trade on Canal Street in New York City.  After this ruling, the company will flood Google “Don’t Be Evil” Inc. with complaints until the search company will at least have to question what (and how much) it is defending by taking on massive legal expense (and bad PR) in order to make money from advertisers leeching off others’ trademarks.

And speaking of buying Louis Vuitton knock-offs on the street, a LVMH board member asks what may be the most probative observation yet: “Under trademark law anywhere in the world, brand owners have the right to stop third parties from using their names. “Why make an exception for the digital world?”

 As the division between online and offline “worlds” continue to disappear, why indeed?

I am disheartened by GM’s new adverting campaign. And the fact that they even have one.

Oh, you say you didn’t know that GM was advertising again with your money? Exactly.

But putting aside the “taxpayer money” piece… what could the company possibly know yet that’s different from what it’s been saying (not doing, necessarily, but saying) for years? “We’re starting over, we hear you, we’re building ’em small, we’re going green, we’re gonna be competitive on a global scale.”

The company’s been bankrupt for 20 minutes. No one’s ever run or worked for or invested in a bankrupt GM. Why not take a breath and think about the very first words you want the American public to hear from you?

But instead the company moved forward with ads that were obviously made prior to the bankruptcy announcement. They already knew what they were supposed to say (see above rebirth, small, green, etc.), so they put some ads out there and paid Donny Deustch a bunch of money to go on Morning Joe and say great things… just as they might have done for any big new happening.

And there’s the rub. This advertising – who knows, maybe any advertising right now – IMHO says “business as usual” for this car company. With a tinge of humility (see hockey player land on his face), it’s all good feelings and autos and rah-rah.

In World War II, auto plants retooled to make planes, tanks and munitions. Michael Moore has said that “the only way to save GM is to kill GM” and that the U.S. must seize this moment in history to re-envision the corporation on nearly the same scale.

Whatever one thinks of Michael Moore, I believe we can all agree that radical change is in order. And maybe GM will shine once again in some new incarnation. I hope so. But by instantly and reflexively pushing out the standard flag-waving, sun-rising, children-playing advertising, GM has sent that first all-important signal to the marketplace: and it looks eerily like the old one.

As my readers know, I’ve been fixated on the concept of value for quite some time. Any random post may not seem to fit this theme, but just about all of them do: turning store returns into a great shopping experience; Visa offering upscale bathrooms to attendees at a festival; a company that lets you leave a voicemail for a person without running the risk of actually having to speak to the person (eww!).  All of these are examples of real, observable value.

money-tree.jpgFor all intents and purposes, this is my first post on the general state of marketing since the US economy imploded. I haven’t said a whole lot because I’m still forming my own opinion on what brands need to do to survive and maintain consumer loyalty. What I am ready to say is that the key is value.

I believe the key distinction now, however, is between real and perceived value. Perceived value is what I talked about when I happily acknowledge(d) buying $250 Gucci sunglasses. I am fully aware that I could derive the same amount of real value from $10 shades bought on Canal Street.  Shield eyes from sun? Check.  but I saw a level of psychic value in the brand for which I was willing to pay an enormous premium. I measured that psychic value by how the world around me recognized that value. Looking at myself in the mirror wearing Gucci sunglasses gets old quickly. But having people reinforce my purchase – every day – as I walk around the city? Priceless. Value has two ingredients: (1) the real value that delivers functionality, and (2) the “psychic premium” I’m willing to pile on top so that the world sees me (and I see myself) in a certain way.

It turns out that it is not just beauty – but also value – that is in the eye of the beholder.

This is why even people “with money” have slowed their spending… why even luxury goods are seeing a decline in sales. It’s no longer fashionable to display the same brand names that only months ago were a mark of prosperity. Those marks are now seen as an indication of greed, of phony superiority, of foolishness. It’s not cool to show you have lots of discretionary income when everyone else is suffering. That’s why Mrs. Dick Fuld is still shopping at Hermes but now demands the store place her purchases in a plain white bag. It’s why Danny Meyer says his restaurants are actually selling the same amount of wine (as before the crash) but fewer bottles, his supposition being that people have decided that a bottle sitting on the table is an unwanted signal of wealth. It’s why DeBeers’ new ad campaign attempts to position diamonds as something to be kept forever in a world filled with “disposable distractions.”cutting-credit-card-debt.jpg

Don’t get me wrong: there will always be rich people who wear big big diamonds in environments where everyone else is doing the same. That’s not going to change, but that’s also not what fueled the success of Coach and Vuitton and even Starbucks in the US: what did was millions more not-so-rich people over-extending themselves to buy that Vuitton bag (or Gucci sunglasses) because they liked the world’s reaction. These behaviors are at the heart of the “trading up” phenomenon in America. Take away both (a) the people who couldn’t afford their purchases in the first place, and (b) those who can afford expensive things but who will no longer get the thrill of everyone else’s desire, and you’ve got major, major problems. Products and services that run on perceived value need to make a new plan, Stan, and fast.

This will not happen overnight. As I said, some people who can still afford to buy status-driven things will continue to do so. Others will wean themselves off instead of going cold turkey. Read the Wall Street Journal editorial, “I Once was Chic, But Now I’m Cheap,” written by an Apple buyer who vows that his family’s next computer purchases will be PCs. The piece reads like a therapy session. The writer’s preparing for the DT’s.

I’m also not particularly convinced that this is some sort of seismic global shift in values; the current economic situation may simply repress luxury consumption for awhile. But until that happens, consumers will either live without or discover products and services that deliver more real value: and once a shopper discovers that a store brand whitens his teeth as well as your brand, he may never come back.

stephanie-fierman-treat-customers-right1.jpgDraw your loyal customers closer, now.  Add value, if you can.  Remind your customers why they buy from you.  Get them to tell others, and you may just be able to stay flat (which is, after all, the new up).  The water level is going down, gentle readers, and all that’s underneath are the brands that deliver enough usefulness to hang tough until the next tide comes in. And that could take quite some time.

Stephanie Fierman Prefers Tylenol

September 9th, 2008

More than 25 years ago, Tylenol changed the “crisis management” business forever by taking decisive action to compromise profitability based on something that was not its fault.

In the fall of 1982, seven people in Chicago died after taking Extra Strength Tylenol capsules laced with potassium cyanide.  A 12-year old girl was reportedly the first to die.  Panic ensued.  Police cars roved the streets in and around the Chicago area blasting warnings from PA systems.  When it was determined that the poisoned bottles had come from different factories, the possibility that Johnson & Johnson (Tylenol’s ultimate parent) was somehow to blame was decisively ruled out.  Officials came to believe that one or multiple criminals had instead removed bottles from stores, tampered with the contents and then surreptitiously returned the bottles to store shelves.

And yet, responsibility never entered into the decision-making process underway at J&J:  only public safety did.  The company stopped all Tylenol production and promotion.  It issued a national recall not after the episode was over, but while it was still very much underway.  The bottles returned to J&J as a result of the recall had a retail value of more than $100 million.  I shouldn’t say that J&J stopped all Tylenol promotion:  it paid for and issued new national advertising instructing individuals to avoid taking any products that contained Tylenol, and offering to reimburse anyone who sent in an existing bottle of Tylenol capsules.

Once both the crisis and J&J’s action plan were in full force, Tylenol’s market share dropped like a rock from 35% to 8%.  To be expected.  What was not expected was that share rebounded in less than one year:  a return widely credited to J&J’s immediate and decisive action to sacrifice its own well being for the health of – really – the entire country.   Since then, J&J’s response is widely considered to be the gold standard in crisis management.  Act now.  Ask later.

I cannot overemphasize how I feel today about J&J’s behavior that long-ago autumn when I was still a kid.  It made an impression that has lasted my entire career:  one that influences how I measure companies and my own conduct as a business executive to this very day. 

So when I see a company disregard such a lesson for no other reason than financial gain, I am not just nonplussed – I’m disgusted.[Bassinet Recall]

SFCA Inc. purchased the assets of Simplicity Inc., a baby bassinet manufacturer, earlier this year after Simplicity went out of business.  SFCA is an affiliate of the private equity firm, Blackstreet Capital.  Two weeks ago, fifteen retailers – including Target, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Amazon and Kmart – halted the sale of certain Simplicity bassinets that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said could be hazardous to babies after two baby girls died (from strangulation in their bassinets).  The Wall Street Journal reported that Toys R Us were selling eight of the 66 models affected by the warning; the chain pulled the products anyway.  And all the retailers affected agreed to permit consumers to return the bassinets for a refund or store credit, regardless of how long ago the product had been purchased. 
These retailers heeded the lessons learned from the shining example set by Johnson & Johnson.  Act now. 

SFCA, on the other hand, is doing nothing, holding fast to its claim that it bears no legal responsibility for the hazardous bassinets.  The USCPC couldn’t even issue a product recall, because SFCA would not cooperate.  Rick Locker, a lawyer representing SFCA has declared the company unwilling to recall  “a product that it did not make and sell.”  The blog Daddy Types reports that – while SFCA may have hired Locker to assist with this matter – Locker is also paid as counsel for the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association:  the lobbying organization that helps protect the makers of children’s products.  


Ironically, the JPMA’s website is currently heralding September as “Baby Safety Month.” In July, the association tooted its own horn for “reaffirm[ing] its commitment of safety.”  The communications contact on the July press release isn’t someone at a real PR or crisis management firm:  it’s a woman at Association Headquarters, Inc., an organization whose lone means of support is selling services to organizations such as… JPMA.  You can’t make this stuff up.

dilbert-business-ethics2.jpgHenceforth, SFCA has taken a “Who, me?” approach to its products killing children.  The company claims that it might go out of business if it took all the offending bassinets back.  I find this particularly ironic and outdated in our Web 2.o world.  If SFCA came out on the Web and announced a recall (even though they were not legally responsible), the company’s future would be far more secure.  The company would be a hero.  Parents would rave and remember the company when they went shopping the next time.  They would tell one another, at a time in history when spreading the word is easier than ever.  Their marketing folks would get college and business school cases written. 


Isn’t this exactly what Tylenol did and exactly what happened as a result (in a decidedly Web 0.0 world)?  But then again, it’s not hard to imagine those meetings in 1982 where well-meaning lawyers warned that a recall could take down the company and J&J’s top management said, So be it.  We’re not going to stand by and let people die.  Short-sighted greed and bad lawyering are in full control at SFCA. 
The drawbridge is up.  SFCA is not legally required to take back the affected bassinets, there are no mandatory standards for safety in the category and the USCPSC cannot bring legal charges against SFCA.

No matter.  There is a higher standard for working and living on this planet that J&J set and by which all corporations should live.  As an aside, I’ll say once again that it’s just good business: (a) the positive halo effect for J&J post-crisis was and still is phenomenal, and (b) not doing the right thing will get you in the end.  You can expect boycotts and bad press at minimum: perhaps a crazed parent manufacturing a terrible happening to take you down if you’re really unlucky.  Permanently disastrous online search results.  But aside from it being good business, it’s about acting human, like someone whose own child or grandchild was killed by your product.


There is no exception – and if there is, I haven’t heard about it and SFCA most definitely does not qualify.  This is capitalism run right into the ground, taking humanity and business ethics down with it.

SFCA  Simplicity bassinets   Blackstreet Capital  JPMA 
Johnson & Johnson 1982 Tylenol   Rick Locker  

I sometimes refer to the difference between Marketing being at the “front of the [business] process” and marketing being at the “end of the process.”

Marketing (with a capital M) at the front of the process is about assuming the voice of the customer and leading/partnering in the process of uncovering an opportunity, identifying a target audience, testing product-price-promotion, crafting messaging, etc. Then rigorously testing post-mortem with the goal of constant improvement and deeper insight, etc.  In other words: building a product and experience to meet the needs of the customer.

marketing (small m) at the end of the process is when a creator follows his own voice, and then lets the marketing team suggest whether the poster should be blue or off-blue.

Then there’s… not even being in the same room as the “process.” The director of Pixar’s new movie, Wall-E – a mostly-silent movie about robot love – was quoted in last Sunday’s New York Times as saying, “I never think about the audience. If someone gives me a marketing report, I thow it away.”

Well, gosh! How wholly satisfying for Pixar’s marketing team!

Look, this guy may be perfectly great to work with, and could well be one of those people that truly has the golden touch. The kind of gut that marketing people try to bottle. He did, after all, win an Oscar for a fishy little movie called Finding Nemo. And Wall-E is getting wonderful reviews.


And if we all waited around for market research to uncover a customer need, we’d be literally sitting in the dark and Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs would be bummed. I get it.

But we know these names because these people are visionaries. There are many, many more, however, with the same attitude sans the honeyed hunch. People who believe that thinking about the consumer would require an unattractive conversation about commerce, with all of the un-artistic factors that go along with it. This attitude is one of the reasons why so many movies/books/ideas fail. Artistic “vision” – no customer.

Rising gas prices, baggage fees and the like are causing a lot of folks to plan summer vacations close to home… or at home.  UrbanDictionary defines staycation as “a vacation that is spent at one’s home enjoying all that home and one’s home environs have to offer.”  That sounds fun and relaxing – right up until you all decide you’d like to wring each other’s necks.  “Mom, there’s nothing to dooooooo!”

Over and above the normal picnic/game/pool promotions, this is a great opportunity for lots of local and national consumer-focused entities to promote themselves in this new context.

Some retailers are already getting into the act.  Wal-Mart has launched an “American Summer” campaign, cutting prices on everything from hot dogs to mosquito netting.  Their tag:  a summer getaway is “as close as your own backyard.”

Toy stores should get together recommendation lists based on budget, location (weather), age of children and so on.  Create promotions around toys and products best used at home.  And any smart local business trying to drive traffic should consider throwing a kid-friendly party:  growing up in a small town in New Jersey, I remember the parties thrown by the local Midas Muffler shop and one of the new bank branches in the community.  Hot dogs, face painting, balloons – families came out in droves.  Local, inexpensive happenings like these can create loyalty opportunities. 

Local newspapers (print and online) could feature daily and weekly ideas for great things to do around town – even borrow the concept of “3 Days In…” (see here and here for examples) and print entire itineraries for families to consider.  The web is great for this kind of editorial because it would enable a visitor to sort on the variables most important to him or her, such as distance from home, number of kids, indoor/outdoor activities, etc.  Sell incremental advertising around these features.

Local TV stations and affiliates should look at their programming schedules in the coming months and see what might be “repackaged” as stay-at-home, family fare.  Ad time could be sold to local supermarkets and other shops offering “specials” for fun nights at home.

There are also plenty of ideas being pitched for a very adult type of staycation, which usually revolve around a 2 or 3-night hotel or resort package of some sort.  Here’s one from Fodors.

Some creativity could really help businesses and families make the most of a challenging situation this summer.

NOTE:  And while you’re at home, you’ll have time to check out my second blog at http://www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.com.

There is an article in today’s WSJ highlighting the difficulty of maintaining charitable giving in a challenging economic environment. This particular piece highlights Arpad Busson’s ARK, or Absolute Return For Kids, and its upcoming annual dinner. Tables sell for as much as $200,000 apiece and sold out several weeks in advance. Still, Busson is concerned.

He should be. A recent US-based study of 30,000 families indicated that a reduction in annual income leads to an equivalent or higher reduction in giving.

I’ve always been curious as to why non-profits don’t get more creative when it comes to holding events that could demonstrate the true value of every dollar donated: my thesis being that the rich will give no matter what (or certainly would not give less), and the average person would be inclined to give more if she could really see and feel what her contribution means to recipients.

The example I’d offer is one that I personally experienced several years ago when volunteering for an arts organization. This organization has intensely loyal grant recipients and a devoted community, but its fundraising efforts were/are challenged (particularly after 2001). This non-profit holds events of the standard variety: dinners, galas, etc.

But this non-profit creates unique, palpable value in that its grants are literally perceived as sustenance by its recipients. Artist after artist told me (along with a pro-bono brand strategy team I organized) that the money meant he could pay his rent on his studio for x number of months – so he could create something and sell it – or that the cash let her buy food that she could not have otherwise afforded. Many artists, in fact, mentioned that they used the grant to eat: often at McDonald’s, in order to make their dollars go further. These were not hoity-toidy “let’s-hold-a-dinner-at-the-Waldorf stories: they were tales of real life – human life – and the difference this non-profit was making for artists.

As a result, we made a somewhat unorthodox recommendation to the non-profit’s board: hold your next “gala” at a McDonald’s. Approach McDonald’s as a partner. Close down the biggest, nicest McD’s in Manhattan for one night and host a fanciful black-tie party there. Serve McDonald’s food: food that represented the true value the non-profit was delivering. Have artists/grant recipients tell the crowd what the extra money meant to them – and how intimately familiar they’d become with the dollar and extra value menus…

And we proposed, by the way, that – done right – this would be the “it” event of the season in New York.   The local news coverage alone would have been hugely valuable to raise the organization’s profile in a unique and intriguing way.

In other words: show the enormous impact every dollar makes. The following year? Hold the party at a big paint/art supply store – because in addition to food, we heard a lot of stories about how the money was the only way the artist could buy supplies.

This recommendation was not approved by the board – a little too avant-garde (and, in hindsight, not adequately pre-sold prior to the presentation!). But the idea is still as real as ever – the worse the economy, the more a non-profit must go out of its way to demonstrate value in a way that touches people:  whether they give $5 or $5 million.

 Readers:  please check out my new blog at http://www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.blogspot.com.

After graduating from business school, I found an apartment on New York City’s Upper East Side.  Two main factors drove my choice: (1) It was one of the few in the big, bad city with which my mother was comfortable, and (2) It was maybe the best value for the dollar.

At the time, I was completely unaware that Reason #2 was not exactly what my beloved neighborhood was known for.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

My zip code for over 15 years – 10021– surpasses all others in New York City for the number of wealthy households.  Founded by John Jacob Astor over 150 years ago, the zip is home to more than 1,300 households with more than $2 million in income-producing assets.  Sure, the zip has its wanna-be’s – 10023 and 10024 aspire to the throne with 826 HH (2.07%) and 689 HH (2.1%) who meet this criteria, respectively – but 10021 is the king.  Do 10023 and 10024 have blogs dedicated to them, like 10021 NY Socialites?  I think not.

It would be terribly uncouth of you to doubt me but, just in case, here is incontrovertible proof:  The CW’s Gossip Girl takes place in 10021!  And ABC has decided that the zip is posh enough to merit its very own show called – what else? – 10021.  Evening-soap-opera TV has spoken.

So while I was a bit sad and nostalgic when the U.S. Postal Service split 10021 into three, smaller zips,  some of my richer neighbors were downright apoplectic – and in major denial.

Real estate agents have clients specify the now-smaller 10021 zip and refuse to see anything else.  “I spent my whole life wanting to get into that zip,” said one home-seeker.  And stationers catering to the hoi polloi have displaced clients who still insist that their notecards and matching envelopes say 10021: even though their addresses now reside in the new and unknown 10065 or 10075.

So while Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?” shall we now ask, “What’s in a zip?”  Apparently so.  For many of the wealthy who either grew up in 10021 or who were able to move there based on their net worth, those now stripped of those 5 little numbers feel exiled.  And for others whose assets are nowhere near $2 million in investable assets, the zip code was a silent endorsement:  while we may not be afford Birkin bags, we certainly did not have to correct outsiders who drew their own lofty conclusions based on our zip code.

So once again we see that the definition of product differently from that of brand.  The product is 5 digits like any other.  But the 10021 “brand?”  How it makes people feel and the conclusions drawn by the rest of the world based on a 10021 address?  That’s another thing entirely.

Me?  It’s strange, but I am getting used to 10075.  Then again, I never derived any part of my sense of self-worth from my zip code.  But try to take away my 212 home area code or my 917 cell area code??  Let’s not even think about it.

Friends: Take a look at my new daily blog Stephanie Fierman – Marketing Observations Grown Daily for shorter takes on news and trends of the day.


BlogHer and Compass Partners have just released what may be the first significant study of women and social media.  FYI, in case you are not aware, BlogHer is a network founded by three female bloggers in 2005. Today, it is backed by Venrock and boasts 1,500 contextual ad-targeted blogs created by women. Yours truly posts pieces from this blog as well as http://www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.blogspot.com to BlogHer on an increasingly-regular basis.

So back to the study…


BlogHer/Compass Partners surveyed a nationally-representative sample of 1,250 female Internet users plus 5,000 visitors to BlogHer. What they found is notable in sheer numbers, passion and experience:


* 36.2 million women actively participate in the blogsophere every week. 15.1 million do so by publishing (and reading/commenting) and 21.1 million (just) read and comment on blogs.


* 44% of female blog publishers maintain one blog and the remaining 56% write two or more. 56% have been writing for 2 years or less – I was surprised that this number was so low.  27% have been writing at least one blog for more than 3 years. Was “blog” even in my daily vocabulary 3 years ago?


* Women are so passionate about blogging that many say they would give something up rather than surrender their blogs, with 50% saying they would sacrifice their PDAs and 43% willing to stop reading newspapers or magazines to maintain their bloggy existences. They’d have to give up something, for sure, because 55% of blog publishers write and 56% of readers do so on 2 or more days each week. It helped to discover that only 20% are willing to give up chocolate (so at least we’re not all crazy…).

In the general Internet sample, 24% say they are watching less television, 25% are reading fewer magazines and 22% are reading fewer newspapers because they are so absorbed by the blog world. As would be expected, these numbers are higher for BlogHer members because they are significantly younger than those in the general sample (68% to 42% concentrated in the 25-41 age group, respectively). More than 50% consider blogs a reliable source of advice and information and claim that blogs influence their purchase decisions.


So what does it all mean?  Here are some conclusions and tips, plus what I see as a few gaps in the data:


* Me being me, I need to first point out the riskiness in considering blogs to be reliable sources of advice and information. Since I know that you’ve giving up everything else to read my blog… one need only point to my own experiences, the Obama-as-terrorist tale and the JuicyCampus disaster. What I would like to know: what percentage of readers seek to confirm a piece of information they’ve read on a blog from additional news sources (blogs and non-blogs)? How do you determine that a blog is trustworthy?


* This study would certainly imply that any party with a message to disseminate should consider blogging. What I would like to know: how closely do these opinions align to those of men? And does this trust extend only to blogs written by women “like me,” or does it extend to corporate/institutional blogs, as well?

* The time-shifting aspect of the study is fascinating and enough to get anyone’s attention. What I would like to know: what kinds of television programming, magazines and newspapers are women willing to swap out? Are they giving up hard news, or are blogs replacing pop culture information sources?


* 38% of blog publishers and 29% of blog readers say that blogs have influenced their decision to purchase goods or services. What I’d like to know: are there particular goods or services that appear to be discussed more/most on blogs? Are there any patterns we can discern as to the characteristics (e.g. complexity) of goods and services most discussed on blogs? If I’m the CMO of one of these widget companies, what is it about non-blog sources of information that I might be able to improve, and how can I build credibility in the blog universe?


* By design, the study specifically confirms that women trust blogs at a fairly high rate so, as a marketer, I’d think hard about how to leverage this phenomenon in other ways. For example, I’d consider companies that recruit female consumers to personally talk up products to other girls/women (such as Mr. Youth, Alloy and P&G’s Tremor).

And lastly, the #1 reason that female bloggers (65%) say they blog is for fun. 60% say they do so to express themselves and 40% to connect with “others like me.” In other words – even in this new and blogerrific world – it’s about them, not us. Marketers who make a connection that feels personal relevant for a female consumer are the ones that succeed. Those that don’t? We’ll be reading about them in the blogosphere…

If I’m just not writing enough to suit you, please check out my new *daily* blog at http://www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.com.