Marketing to Women: The Power of Storytelling from Kurt Vonnegut

April 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Stories are the playbook for life.  Stories are the way we teach, the way we communicate, the way we entertain, and the way we impart value. Some marketers have known the value of story for many years.  Researchers tell us that a story is the only way to activate parts of the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.  Those of us who know the iconic J. Peterman catalogues read them for the mesmerizing value of their stories about where their exotic products were discovered and the effect of wearing their products.


Kurt Vonnegut, American Writer

Recently, as a literary & anthropological experiment, Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn decided to see if they could resell cheap knickknacks (avg. cost $1.25) on eBay and turn a significant profit by adding personal stories to the item descriptions.  Their hypothesis was that creative stories would increase the perceived value of each object and create an incremental profit on each item sold.  With the addition of colorful anecdotes, their $129 purchase of thrift store items was sold for nearly $8,000.

The Harvard Business Review reminded us of the power of the story as told by Kurt Vonnegut.  It seems that Vonnegut devoted his master’s thesis at the University of Chicago to studying the shapes of stories.  Vonnegut not only exhibits a great understanding of story, but is an entertaining storyteller.  He tells us there are basically three types of stories that we humans find irresistible.  The three stories are Boy Gets Girl, Man in Hole and Cinderella.  He tells his audience that the Cinderella story is “the most popular story in our Western civilization. Every time it’s retold somebody makes another million dollars. You’re welcome to do it.”

What you see in this short film is the endless fascination that the human mind has for story.  As marketers, we need to be students of Vonnegut and the story, and make all our marketing a powerful story for consumers.

Marketing to Women: The Future of Reading

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

Katie Dunham and the LA Library Bookmobile

Katie Dunham and the LA Library Bookmobile

I just returned from the LA Festival of Books and on my plane trip home, as I juggled between my iPad and a paperback, I wondered about the future of reading.  Some think we are in a transition as disruptive as Gutenberg’s printing presses more than 500 years ago.  In fact, some in Silicon Valley think Gutenberg was the first technology geek and call him their patron saint.

The Facts, Please!

Women contributed to 58% of book purchases in 2012, up from 55% in 2011.

According to Pew Research, more than 50% of Americans now have some type of handheld device–either a tablet computer like an iPad, or an e-reader such as a Kindle– for reading e-content. That number is up from 43% of adults who had either of those devices in September 2013, so adoption is growing.

Some 76% of all adults have read a book in the past year, but 82% of women have read a book in the past year.  The typical adult read or listened to five books during the year but the median number of books read by women was 14 books.  Those who read books on an e-reader tend to be more female, while gender is fairly evenly split on iPad book readership.  The amount we read has stayed fairly level the past few years.

But here’s an interesting statistic.  The majority of those reading e-readers still read print books as well.  Among adults who read at least one book in the past year, just 5% said they read an e-book in the last year without also reading a print book.

Sure, publishing is changing.  Bookstores have become curated collections, not mass marketers, and writers are unchained and able to post their own books to Amazon.  But as I walked through the LA Festival of Books and saw and heard people lovingly hold and share their books and heard authors speak of their inspirations, I realized that story is still alive and well.  And that is the future of reading.

Marketing to Women: Expert Content Most Trusted

April 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

What content works best?  Marketers are struggling to make out what content is most valuable and how it works for them.  But, let’s look at how it works for the shopper.  The study recognizes three types of content:

Unknown• Expert Content:  Independent editorial reviews.  You know, the stuff you don’t pay for, in credible forums written by recognized experts.  If you were in the tech field, you might want a Walt Mossberg review or a TechCrunch story.

• Branded Content:  Paid materials like advertorials, company websites, or company blogs.

• User-generated content:  Unpaid reviews by web users on sites.

A new study from Nielsen and inPowered looked at the major types of content and its effect on the purchasing process.  And guess what?  A huge 85% of participants in the study said they seek out third-party information for all sorts of products.  They may use a variety of sources for information including social media, user reviews, advertising, websites and expert reviews.


But when it comes to purchase consideration, affinity and familiarity, expert reviews win every time.

Screen-Shot-2014-03-25-at-3.34.16-PMAccording to the study, 61% of participants said they were less likely to trust any review commissioned by the company that produced the product while editorial writers are, by definition, offering their honest opinions.

Some might interpret this information as meaning you need only public relations.  But the truth is, all that content adds up to more than just one vehicle can accomplish alone.  Expert reviews may proceed a new product announcement.  Advertising will follow up and create awareness for the product.  Websites may provide product details.  And word of mouth and user reviews help reinforce the expert opinion and advertising claims.  It’s not just one

Marketing to Women: Ford Parody of Cadillac Spot More Appealing to Women

March 31, 2014 § Leave a comment

Thanks to Adweek for alerting us to two spots that espouse totally different views on marketing Hybrid Cars – one spot from Cadillac and one spot from Ford.  Which one do you think appeals to women looking for a hybrid plug-in?  An insensitive male spokesperson who worships status toys or a confident female entrepreneur who wants to make the world a better place?

ford-cadillac-poolside-hed-2014Here’s the facts:  Women purchase half of all vehicles sold in the US and take part in 80% of the car buying decisions.  And women request 65% of the service work done at dealerships.

The Cadillac Approach

Cadillac has been airing a well-criticized spot espousing that the American dream is based on taking less vacation and owning lots of things.  The spots seems to reek of elitism, egocentric views and insensitivity.  The  intent of the spot was to sell Cadillac’s CLR luxury plug-in but it seems to have struck a raw nerve with today’s more socially conscious consumer.

The Ford Approach

Ford took on the Cadillac spot with their own spoof of the spot posted on YouTube.  The focus of the spot is sustainability, entrepreneurism, and making our cities better.  The spokesperson couldn’t be more different — a successful black women Pashon Murray, the founder of a sustainability consultancy and advocacy group.

Marketing to Moms: Coupons Still Rule in All Forms

March 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

Moms seem to have the most desire to find bargains and clip coupons.  No doubt it’s because households with children under 18 spend more money than households with no children or with children 18+.

Gallup-Daily-Spending-Americans-With-Without-Children-Mar2014A Gallup poll shows that across all incomes, households with children just spend more – on all types of things.  So it is no surprise that Moms are the most active users of coupons.

Moms are seeking discounts, whether they get them from an app or still cut them out of the newspaper.  In a new report from eMarketer, Moms are seen to use coupons more than non-Moms.

170518The chart shows how printed coupons still reign, but coupon apps are still an important part of the mix.  As the smartphone becomes the tool of choice for many, apps will continue to grow in use.  Moms appear to be always on the alert for deals and ways to save money.

Also important in the total mix are the online saver sites.  Womensforum reported that 37.8% of mothers reported using the food or frugal website/blogger sites that share coupons.

Being frugal is still cool and may be a residual effect of the Great Recession for some time to come.  But certainly, households with children are looking for ways to stretch their dollar.



Marketing to Women: A Twitter Photo is Worth a Thousand Retweets

March 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

resizeFor those of us watching the Oscars this year, we know that this little selfie set a new retweet record.  In just a matter of minutes, the Ellen tweet had 1.9 millions retweets and even crashed Twitter for a moment.  The previous record was 778, 801 for President Obama’s “Four more years.”

But what about that Tweet made it so special?  I mean,  other than Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Spacey, Meryl Streep, Ellen and that cutie Jennifer Lawrence.  Seems it was because it was a star-studded photo.

Why do some tweets have higher engagement?  Twitter did a study of its own to find out what makes some tweets so popular.  Looking at more than 2 million Tweets sent by thousands of verified users across different fields over the course of a month, Twitter determined that the addition of hashtag, a number or stat, a quote, a video or a photo increased the effectiveness of the tweet.  So it seems that a Twitter Photo is worth a Thousand or maybe a Million Retweets!

Overall, the most effective tweet components across all verified accounts were:

Photos, which averaged a 35 percent boost in retweets.
Videos, which got a 28 percent boost.
Quotes, which received a 19 percent boost in retweets.
A number or stat, which received a 17 percent bump in retweets.
Hashtags, which garnered a 16 percent boost.

The overall effectiveness of different elements vary across various categories.  The chart below shows the effectiveness of photos for news, but in television it might be a quote or a video url.  However, the premise is that tweets need an enhancement to make them shareable.

Marketing to Women: Women Buying Healthcare Insurance

March 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

Insurance-Pills-Computer-300-00256C58Since the Affordable Care Act has been in place, a recent Gallup poll shows the number of uninsured American declined from 17.1% to 15.9% in the first quarter of 2014, the lowest level since 2008.  Half of Americans who remain uninsured say they will ultimately purchase health insurance as the March 31 deadline approaches.

The percentage of Americans who get insurance through a current or former employer fell nearly two points so far in the first quarter of 2014 to 43.4%. More Americans now say their primary health insurance coverage is through a plan fully paid for by themselves or a family member compared with at the end of 2013 — 18.1% vs. 17.2%. Those most likely to still be uninsured are under 34, Hispanic and make less than $36,000.

A recent presentation by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee reported that those purchasing healthcare are more likely to be female, aged 45-64.  Why is that?  Women use the healthcare system more regularly than men.  We have babies, we have a need for more preventative services, and we tend to be in charge of our family’s health.

Before the Affordable Care Act in 2008, the American Academy of Family Physicians reported that women want a health care system in which they and their families can conveniently obtain preventive services, see their personal physicians the same day they become sick, and receive coordinated follow-up care from hospitals, or care from other physicians.   A Kaiser Family Foundation report indicates over half of women have a chronic condition of their own to contend with.  Women need appointment flexibility – less than a third have the flexibility to change their paid work hours, but nearly 20% of them provide care for a family member.  These challenges continues to be important information for those seeking to satisfy their patients.


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