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“Vote With Your Purse 2.0: Women’s Online Giving, Offline Power,” the nation’s first definitive public report on how online women donors use the Internet and emerging Web 2.0 interactive tools for political engagement and giving, reveals that the web is radically changing the way women engage and points towards greater political giving than ever. According to the report by the Women’s Campaign Forum Foundation (WCF Foundation), based on data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, women’s overall giving to Presidential campaigns is on track to more than triple what was given in the 2000 election and exceed 2004 numbers.  Donations of more than $200 by women to Presidential campaigns increased from $37 million in 2000 to $115 million in 2004. While it is too early to draw definitive conclusions about women’s giving in 2008, they already have put $109 million into the coffers of the two presidential nominees with months of giving to go.  Despite these increases, women significantly lag behind men in federal political contributions to Congressional candidates, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Although women have both the means and the inclination to make social change through their pocketbooks, the report indicates that just 27% of the financial contributions over $200 to Congressional candidates, political action committees (PACs) or party committees so far in this cycle have come from women.  “We are on the cusp of a new era,” said WCF Foundation President Ilana Goldman. “We are working toward the day when women’s financial contributions are a critical part of political participation and achieving political power. Online engagement is paving the way.”

According to a new study by the not-for-profit National Women’s Health Resource Center (NWHRC), the nation’s leading source for women’s health information, women who are dissatisfied with their overall physical appearance are significantly less likely to be up to date with preventive screenings, such as mammography and breast self-exam. The national survey, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, as part of the NWHRC’s new Learn.Love.Commit. breast cancer awareness campaign, finds that women who feel good about their overall physical appearance are more likely to have had mammograms (68% versus 59%) or Pap smears (78% versus 61%) than women who are unsatisfied with their overall physical appearance.  “Making the connection between self-esteem and preventive care is a big step to helping women understand that if they love themselves on the outside, they are more likely to take better care of themselves on the inside,” said Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, executive director of the NWHRC. “Our new breast cancer campaign seeks to not only give women the information they need on breast cancer risk factors, screening and treatment, but also encourages them to feel self confident and worthy enough to take preventive steps to keeping themselves healthy.”

As Procter and Gamble rolls out the launch of its new Downy® Total Care™ fabric enhancer this month, the company has collaborated with Ann Taylor LOFT® stores across the country to bring consumers a distinctive shopping experience. Celebrity Stylist and TV personality Jorge Ramon is hosting five special Downy Total Care events at Ann Taylor LOFT locations throughout the country this fall. As part of the promotion, several lucky women from each market will be pampered by personal shoppers and will have the exclusive opportunity to meet with Jorge to receive personalized style tips, gifts from Ann Taylor LOFT and special discounts store-wide. The events, kicked off with the first 50 women at the Ann Taylor LOFT flagship store in Times Square and will also be held in Cincinnati (October 16), San Francisco (October 23), Atlanta (October 29) and Miami (November 13). Women nationwide will be able to interact with Jorge and receive his style tips via customized hanger tags and in-store magazines at over 450 LOFT stores and also through the Ann Taylor LOFT and Downy Total Care websites.  The holistic, multi-touchpoint partnership is highlighted by National print advertising, co-branded interactive components, and a robust marketing program within over 450 LOFT stores across the country. The in-store elements, which will all play a vital role at the events, include wardrobe room decals, hanger tags, gift with purchase, product sampling, and a customized in-store magazine.  “Together with Ann Taylor LOFT, we’re providing value to our customers by delivering amazing product benefits to care for clothing. We want women to know that washable fashions can last from season to season,” says Mary Pochobradsky, Downy marketing director, P&G Fabric Care.

In a move that signals women want to move the dialogue surrounding the presidential election away from politics and toward substance, the non-profit organization WomenCount is launching a new campaign titled, “I’m a woman. I have issues.”  “It’s time for the candidates and the mainstream media to stop talking about the politics of the women’s vote and to start listening to the substance of the issues we care about,” said Stacy Mason, executive director of WomenCount.  Through a partnership with Tokoni (http://www.tokoni.com), a new social media community that enables people to share stories of life’s diverse experiences, WomenCount is encouraging women to voice their opinions about the political issues that matter most to them at a dedicated campaign site, http://www.womencount.tokoni.com. To ensure women’s voices are heard, WomenCount will collect the individual stories and deliver the messages to the presidential campaigns, the media and party leaders. Women are able to post their stories, invite comments from community members, and engage in dialogue with others who share their concerns. Also, participants are able to link their stories on other social media and networking sites, furthering the reach of their individual points of view. “Tokoni and WomenCount share the common goal of ensuring everyone’s voices are heard, and this campaign puts that conviction into action,” said Mary Lou Song, co-founder of Tokoni. “At Tokoni, we believe shared storytelling allows people to explore issues and points of view with greater understanding and appreciation.” 

A bilingual social networking site that caters exclusively to women who buy and influence the purchase of cars has arrived. Women-Drivers.com is an online community that provides a forum for women to write and read purchase, browse or service reviews, and locate certified women-friendly new car dealerships in the United States. The higher a dealership’s reviews, the higher its listing and visibility on the site – leading to more women going to that dealership. Women purchase 53% of all new cars in our country; however, they influence the purchase of 80%. According to NADA Data 2008, while that represents $80 Billion dollars worth of purchasing power, the process of buying a car is uncomfortable for many women. Why? “The vast majority of car salespeople are men and this Venus- Mars communication phenomenon can be intimidating to first time buyers, singles, mothers, as well as the PrimeTimers™. Most women simply aren’t comfortable or accustomed to negotiating in our country and can sometimes make the dealership wrong for their own lack of experience in the dance of negotiating”, stated president and CEO Anne Fleming. Women-Drivers collects the objective, consumer-based reviews, experiences, preferences, and demographics, and sells them via Women Satisfaction Index (WSI) INSIGHT ™ subscriptions. These real-time, 24/7 analytics provide benchmarks and correlative tools for dealerships to understand the exchange and experience, to educate staff and improve their service to women. Ultimately, this increases loyalty and market share of dollars spent by women. Dealerships strongly want to have their business earmarked as women-friendly, to close the deal with more women, and increase market share and revenue. By subscribing, an average dealership can increases their sales to women by 5% or higher. In other words by converting just 5 out of every 100 browsers into buyers, the dealerships annual sales can increase by approximately $750,000. In addition to the purchasing and servicing experience, Women-Drivers™ tracks the browsing experience, so dealerships can shift browsers into buyers. Fleming, who grew up in Venezuela adds, “The site is bilingual – with almost 1 of every 7 Americans being Latina or Latina decent, it is critical to our audience to have the site available in Spanish.” 

Results from a survey recently fielded by Entertainment for All® Expo (E for All®), the consumer video game expo held October 3-5, 2008, in Los Angeles, and PoshMama.com, an online community exclusive to women around the world, indicate some surprising trends relating to women and video games. Front and center: many women would rather play video games than catch up on sleep, according to the new survey which polled more than 120 PoshMama members on their video game habits. Responses were gleaned from the high percentage of female respondents (71%) who said that they play video games.  According to the E for All / PoshMama survey, more than one-third of those surveyed say that they play video games when they should be sleeping. Women in the survey also say they play video games in other unusual circumstances, including: while on the phone (32%); while at work/in a meeting (20%); and, while preparing for work (12%). When it comes to spare time, nearly twice as many women say that, if given an extra hour of free time at home, they would rather play video games than catch up on sleep.  “Playing video games is becoming an increasingly popular pastime for women, which isn’t surprising given that it’s a great way to spend time with family and friends, have some fun and even blow off some steam,” said Heather Weaver, technology contributor at PoshMama.com and author of GeekMomMashup.com, who helped create the survey. “The surprising element, as revealed in our survey, is that it is actually keeping women up at night. This and the other results reveal that the traditional video game industry has fundamentally changed—and will continue to evolve—as more and more women take over the video game controls.”

WomensNet.net Amber is back — and for women starting small businesses, this year’s $500 grant could make all the difference.  With an application deadline of October 31st, 2008, the WomensNet.net Amber Grant helps cover start-up expenses like buying or upgrading equipment, hiring a Web site designer or advertising.  “Our primary focus is assisting women who are trying to start small home-based or online businesses,” explaines Josh Prewitt, president of WomensNet.net. “No repayment is required or expected, although WomensNet.net hopes the winner will pass on the kindness by mentoring and helping others along the way.”  Founded in 1998 by Melody Wigdahl, WomensNet.net is an online women’s business community that exists to help women succeed in small business. The Amber Grant was created in memory of Wigdahl’s sister, who died at 19. Wigdahl established the grant to help other women in her sister’s name. “WomensNet.net is a supportive, encouraging environment for women in business and those who hope to become business owners,” said Prewitt. “In addition to the Amber Grant, the site offers a wealth of resources and information to women at all stages of business ownership. We invite women to apply for the Amber Grant and take a shot at realizing their dreams.”

According to a new poll featured in the November 2008 issue of ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, women are willing to switch brands of over-the-counter medications (68%), milk (67%) and eggs (67%) to save money, but only 29 percent say they would change their brand of pet food. Women are also reluctant to switch cosmetics (30%), personal-care items (48%) and toilet paper (49%).  The poll also found that when it comes to shopping for new appliances, 27 percent of women say that reliability is the most important consideration while the brand falls well behind the other factors in determining which appliance to purchase at four percent. However, women are not willing to sacrifice brand name to save money on appliances as only 38 percent of women said they would purchase a lesser known brand to save money.   “We were surprised to find that women are so readily willing to switch medications,” says Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart.  “However, I am happy to see that women value reliability over brand when it comes to large purchases such as appliances. Our guide will help you avoid costly repairs by showing you how to pick the most reliable brands.”

Nita B. Creative, a St. Paul-based design firm that has generated business from such renowned companies as Marshall Fields, Wilson’s Leather and Mall of America, will be re-branded as Affina, a brand identity firm that specializes in marketing to women and girls. “Why Affina? Our name comes from the Latin, affinitas, which means ‘a passionate relationship.’ We believe in creating brand identities and experiences that will surprise and delight their audiences. We call these ‘passion brands’. At Affina, we approach design authentically and passionately, and partner with clients who approach their audiences in the same manner.  Marketing to women isn’t about being exclusive, but rather inclusive,” says Renita Van Dusen, founder and CEO of Nita B. Creative.   “For years people believed that young American men, 18-35, held all the purchasing power. Not so! American women spend $5 trillion annually and account for 80-85% of all consumer purchases, making them the most lucrative, most active market of all. With those statistics, it is interesting—or obvious — to note that marketing to women isn’t a niche at all. Rather, it’s an intuitive way of marketing by understanding the needs and wants of the customer, which traditionally hasn’t been captured by most design firms.”  Continues Van Dusen, “It’s not about “painting the brand pink”, and certainly not about alienating men. By engaging women the right way, you are not only winning the heart of your most lucrative customer, you are also marketing smarter to all of your customers. Businesses need to understand the significance of their purchasing power and learn how to tap into this market. We partner with companies and brands that are passionate about marketing to women – or need to be and don’t know it yet!

Memorex recently unveiled a comprehensive strategy to distinguish and reposition the historic 47-year-old Memorex brand to appeal to the adult female consumer. Memorex, well known for its “Is it live or is it Memorex?” television commercials in the 1970s featuring Ella Fitzgerald, will be shifting its identity as a sound and video reproduction brand, to one focused on creating electronics and media tailored to fit the lifestyle of the 25-44 year old woman and every member of her household. As part of the new brand strategy, Memorex will expand its current product emphasis on digital media and storage devices to include intuitive and stylishly designed home and personal electronics such as Blu-ray Disc players, iPod(R) accessories, digital photo frames, and MP3 players. “The starting point in re-launching the historic Memorex brand was gaining clarity on our target consumer,” said Jeff Meredith, executive director of global brands, Memorex, at Imation Corp. “Through research, we found that women were largely neglected by current electronics brands. Our specific target consumer is a savvy female shopper, between ages 25 and 44, who is constantly on-the-go and has an expressive sense of style. She embraces technology as a way to help simplify and bring vitality to her life. Most of all, she expects technology to enhance the connection and experiences that she has with her friends and family. To appeal to this audience, Memorex will be introducing electronics that are simple and satisfying to use. These products will enable her to entertain — while bringing others together to share in the fun — and to do so affordably, with a touch of designer style.”

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