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.

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.

Retail Cooperatives Move Online
Data cooperatives that track catalog purchase behavior have been around for decades.  Catalog retailers join the cooperative, submit their own anonymous but detailed purchase data and then can use the aggregated data to make targeting decisions.  Now this concept has jumped to the web, which could be very exciting.  An online cooperative called aCerno acts as a clearinghouse for retailers to share data collected from web transactions. “The system would allow an online retailer to contribute information, such as a cookie tied to a customer who bought a lawn mower. Another co-op member could then use that data to show the person an ad for a related product, like gardening supplies, with the supplier getting a cut.”

Online Video-Sharing Site Usage is Huge

43% of female and 53% of male adult Internet users visited an online video-sharing content site in 2007, and the %s in all age ranges soared.  Check this article for interesting and detailed stats.

Top 10 Viral Videos of 2007
Here are Jack Myers’ picks.  The #1 most popular video had 20 million views on YouTube and needs no introduction.  On a personal note, I did not do so well with geography in elementary school myself, so this video makes me feel a lot better.

Taser Home Shopping Parties a “Stunning” Success
The Tupperware party idea has finally jumped the shark.  Proof positive that you can apply a high-pressure ponzi scheme to just about anything!

Match the Medium to what People Actually do with It
This is an article detailing some of Rupert Murdoch’s thinking re. the future of the Wall Street Journal and, of course, he’s a genius.  His simple point of view is that – in a multi-media, multi-channel, multi-screen world – each channel’s content should be based on the interest and needs of its users.  For example:  perhaps the long, long, long stories on the cover of the Wall Street Journal each day would be better off in the weekend edition, when readers could actually find the time to read them.  The WSJ shouldn’t be ESPN, but maybe a simply sports score chart would be useful to traveling businesspeople who might get yesterday’s scores by picking up the newspaper left outside her hotel room. 

This is the process that Time magazine must pursue if it is going to survive.  Forget about the past.  (1) Put index cards up on a bulletin board that say Website / Mobile Web / Mobile Text / Print.  (2) Decide who uses each, when and for what.  (3) Execute mercilessly.  This is the process that the Variety franchise pursued when I was at Reed Elsevier:  Variety online is best for quick visits and breaking news.  Daily Variety is great for finding out what you missed yesterday, with just enough context.  Weekly Variety offers long-form articles and a discussion of trends. 

The Trading Up Phenomenon is Recession-Proof
This is an article in The New York Times (01.20.08) that tries to tie the idea that consumers are reigning in spending at the moment to an overall “decline” of the idea that consumers who are not truly wealthy “trade up” to luxury brands when they have discretionary cash.  This blogger has discussed her interest in this concept before, and recommends Michael Silverstein’s and Neil Fiske’s book on the topic Trading Up: The New American Luxury.  Like Silverstein, who’s quoted in this article, I think the author of this article is way off track.  The whole point is that middle- to upper-middle class people trade down when they are low on funds, and up when they are flush.  “The trading up phenomenon is quite recession-proof,” Mr. Silverstein says.

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.



I admit it.  I have a special relationship with the Saturday Wall Street Journal. Many of you will recall the brouhaha when Dow Jones launched the Saturday edition in 2006.  Do they have enough non-endemic advertising to make it profitable?  What will it look like?  Will anyone read it?  Don’t we have ENOUGH to read? 

Well I love the Saturday Wall Street Journal, and I’ll tell you why.  For most, Saturday is the only day of the week when one does not have to go to work the very next day.  Saturday mornings are full of promise.  The streets are (sort of) empty, and I believe that, this time, the weekend really will last forever.  Then I joyfully kick back to read what I consider Dow Jones’ own version of “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.” 

Yes folks, I love the Saturday WSJ because I think it’s the kookiest read around.  It takes the WSJ brand in a whole different direction… but I can’t quite figure out what that direction is!  I mean, if business can be funny, it is actually funny.  I don’t know if the newsroom actually holds back nutty stories (“Hey, it’s only Tuesday:  let’s hold that ‘puppy saves Fortune 100 company with magic drool’ story ‘til Saturday!”) but it might as well. 

Here are my favorite selections from the Saturday, Oct. 6 Wall Street Journal: 

·         OK, right out of the box, I’m going to cheat a little.  “The Hit List” is where the Saturday WSJ gives a well-known person the opportunity to share his or her favorite music.  Today, I have to admit, the column actually made sense, with Barry Manilow choosing his favorite music.  The time they thought I’d be interested to know what John Malcovich (best known for dangerous, slimy characters in films such as “Dangerous Liasons” and “In the Line of Fire”) listens to, however, I did wonder what they were thinking.  Next up:  “Salman Rushdie chooses songs to hide by…” 

·         This one is too perfect for a superhero lover to pass up.  Under the headline “Economan Pleads Guilty” is a story of a guy named Al Parish who took 500 investors for about $90 milion dollars, which he used to buy himself some major bling.  To top it off, Parish was apparently known for his flashy appearance and a website that showed him – wait for it – dressed as a superhero with a huge “E” on his chest.   

·         A great fox guarding the hen house story…  We should all be relieved to know that Whole Foods, John Mackey’s own company, has completed an internal investigation of John Mackey, and John Mackey had decided to “reaffirm” his support for John Mackey. 

Mackey is the CEO who, while attempting a hostile take-over of Whole Food’s chief competitor, Wild Oats, was simultaneously using an alias to post blog comments badmouthing Wild Oats and implying the target company was unstable and in poor financial health. In addition, “Harobed” (the unbreakable code equaling his wife’s name spelled backwards) liked to praise himself in creepy ways, saying in one post, “I like John Mackey’s haircut.  I think he looks cute!” 

This. Story. Is. Hilarious!  I mean… how are we supposed to take the businessworld seriously?  Senior execs knew that Mackey was the mystery blogger back in 2001 but said nothing, violating what many would perceive to be their duty to serve this public company’s shareholders.  They all still have their jobs.  And you have a CEO clearly trying to influence the purchase price of a target competitor… when not spending his time online saying that he thinks he’s cute!!!  Wow.  Hey SEC, anyone home?  

·         Peggy Noonan is best known as an assistant to Reagan and a speechwriter for G.H. Bush.  She is the person who gave us “one thousand points of light,” “Read my lips:  no new taxes” and the book, The Case Against Hilary Clinton.  Since then, she has attempted to appear more moderate, and write about both sides of the political aisle, but it just never… works.  She… leaks, here and there.

Thus I thought truly goofy Peggy Noonan’s piece today called “The Trance.”  It appears to be about the thoughtful look (?) Obama gets when he’s thinking, which is weird enough, but then she makes a crack about whether or not he actually can think.  That Peggy Noonan, I know.  Then she whipsaws toward complimenting other Democratic candidates such as Chris Dodd and I’m confused again.

 Thankfully, all is made well when it becomes clear that the entire purpose of her approximately 1,200 word article is to slam Hilary Clinton.  Well why didn’t you just say that upfront, silly? It would have saved me about 1,100 words…

  ·         And finally, a long riff from Steve Stechlow on his love for Bruce Springsteen.  Best part:  Stechlow bestows the greatest love of all on his teenage son when he invites the kid to Springsteen’s opening night in Hartford.  Long pause.   Kid’s response: “Who else is playing?”  Stechlow: “It is… a body blow.  How could I have failed so miserably as a father?”  Funny for the text, and hilarious because… THIS is a WSJ story?! 

So the next time you need a refreshing businessworld-relevant giggle, read the Saturday Wall Street Journal.  I can promise you as much humor as probably any newpaper, short of The Onion, can muster.