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If ever there was a time for American women to get their financial plans in order, it’s now. However, even the current economic crisis isn’t enough to drive some of them to take real action and responsibility for their finances. State Farm(R) released findings of a national survey revealing that while almost three-fourths (74%) of American women feel anxious about their retirement and financial futures due to the recent economic decline, only 15 percent have made major changes to their financial plans. State Farm conducted the survey to understand how women are responding to today’s tough economy and what they know about planning for their family’s financial future.  Key findings from the survey show that 65 percent of women have reconsidered their financial strategies within the last six months; however most of them have not made changes significant enough to ensure their futures. Thirty-five percent conducted research, but ultimately didn’t do anything differently, and 37 percent only made small changes with little or no impact on short- or long-term financial performance, such as moving money from checking to savings accounts.  When women look for financial guidance, they don’t always seek out expert advice. The survey showed many women turn to their spouses (24%), parents (16%) or friends (13%) for financial advice, while fewer are likely to turn to the experts, including insurance agents (12%) or accountants (7%). But then again, many women don’t jump at the chance to talk about money. More than two in five (41%) find going to the dentist less excruciating than talking to their spouses about their daily finances.  “The State Farm survey indicates that women are more aware of their retirement needs, however, too many of them are not taking the necessary actions to secure their financial futures,” said Susan Waring, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of State Farm Life Insurance Company. “In these worrisome times women need to talk to someone they trust. Financial planners or insurance agents can help them find the best solutions for their families or their individual needs.”

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Women on the Fast Track, a national networking organization for business and professional women, has launched a new tool to help today’s business women not only set new goals for themselves in 2009 – but achieve these goals with the help of other business women throughout the world. Beginning December 2008, Women on the Fast Track has set up an online program where women can work to create clear-set goals for the new year, and then share them with other business women on the site. This unique program demonstrates how women can truly help each other during challenging economic times.  The Women on the Fast Track“Goals Gone Wild” program is expected to attract hundreds of women worldwide and assist in making their business New Year’s Resolutions by setting new goals for 2009. This program will allow women to benefit from the insight, experience and contacts of other business women throughout a wide variety of industries. There is no charge for participation in the “Goals Gone Wild” program.  Every woman’s complete set of goals will be posted on the Women on the Fast Track website, where others can review them and see how they may be able to assist. As an additional resource and service for today’s business women, anyone who would like assistance in identifying and clarifying their 2009 business goals can call 516-222-0236 to speak with a Women on the Fast Track member who has experience in helping women develop and reach their goals.

While the economic downturn might make women pause about new purchases, it won’t affect how much they’ll spend on their beloved pets next year.  As part of its ongoing “FemiNation” dialogue into the lifestyles and attitudes of contemporary women, Lifetime Networks recently announced a survey on the relationship between Women 18-49 and their pets. The poll found that 89 percent of women indicate they will spend the same amount or more on their pets in the next 12 months, while 24 percent plan on spending more money.  “This poll shows that pets are no longer viewed as mere companions, but as integral parts of their families,” said Mike Greco, executive vice president, research. “Underlining this powerful emotional bond, 87 percent of women consider pets members of their family, with 59 percent willing to risk their lives to save their pet.”  The survey also reveals one third (28 percent) of women put the needs of their pet ahead of their own. Given a choice between human or animal companionship on a deserted island, 13 percent opted for their pet — perhaps because 30 percent say their pet is the best listener!

Liz Dolan has been named chief marketing officer for OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, effective January 5, 2009. Ms. Dolan is a celebrated marketing and branding expert, having served as marketing head at NIKE, as well as host and creator of the award-winning talk show, Satellite Sisters. In her new role, Ms. Dolan will oversee creation of a brand identity for the network and will steer the development of all marketing efforts supporting the on-air launch of OWN in late 2009/early 2010. Additionally, she will be responsible for all on-air, print, radio, and online marketing messaging, as well as the fully integrated strategy concepts aimed at maximizing the business and programming objectives of the network.  “Liz’s talent for capturing the true emotion of a brand is extraordinary,” said Schwartz. “In today’s crowded television environment, you must have a truly inspired marketing vision to capture the attention of viewers. We are confident that Liz will orchestrate the ideal plan to reach viewers who are looking for an inspiring, empowering, and informative television and online experience.”  “I am thrilled to join the team that will create and launch OWN,” said Ms. Dolan. “At NIKE, I learned how to build strong emotional connections between individuals and a big brand with big ideas. Since then, most of my work has been in smaller, multi-platform start-ups that served very focused audiences, including Satellite Sisters. This role at OWN will call upon all of those combined skills; I feel like I have been in training for just this job for two decades.”

Physicians Formula Holdings, Inc. has announced that Physicians Formula Organic wear® was presented with the “Breakthrough Product of the Year” Award within the Mass Market Color Cosmetics category by Women’s Wear Daily (“WWD”) Beauty Biz. During its annual Beauty Awards ceremony in New York on December 11th, the magazine recognized Physicians Formula for constantly bringing new innovations to the market.  “We are very pleased that Women’s Wear Daily has chosen to recognize the first-to-market originality of Organic wear,” said Ingrid Jackel, chief executive officer of Physicians Formula. “Our team continues to lead the way in providing consumers with unique beauty products in the mass market. We are very proud of our Organic wear line, which is the first makeup line in the U.S. to be ECOCERT® certified organic, and the first mass makeup line that is 100% of Natural Origin.”  In presenting the award, WWD Beauty Biz commended Physicians Formula for being undeterred by the beauty industry’s debate about the merits and authenticity of natural products, and charging ahead with the introduction of Organic wear. The comprehensive, ECOCERT compliant line features face, eye and lip products including tinted moisturizers, pressed powders, bronzers and eye shadows and comes in packaging that uses 93% less plastic than standard compacts. The magazine noted that, “[Physicians Formula] took the mass market’s flirtation with organic to a more serious level, clearing space for eco-minded products not just in the skin care aisle, but along the cosmetics wall, as well.” They further noted that after launching the line by asking consumers, “How Green is your makeup?” the Company is placing a more glamorous spin on its message for its 2009 introductions.  This is Physicians Formula’s third WWD Beauty Biz award within the Mass Market Color Cosmetics category, including an award for “Best Executed Launch Strategy of the Year” in 2007 for its Mineral Wear launch and “Most Innovative Marketer of the Year” in 2003.

Read into it what you will, but OGIO’s newest golf bag is not named to get attention; it is styled to command it. The new OGIO Cougar is a confident bag designed just for women, demonstrating a seasoned appreciation for the sport.  The Cougar cart bag (MSRP: $160.00) weighs in at only 6.6 lbs. yet is loaded with high-value features – the kind which only OGIO can provide. A proprietary 10″ Uniter top, made popular for its intelligent 15-club organization, tops off individual full-length club dividers. The company’s patented Ball Silo delivers golf balls through its side-mounted rail system, while additional pockets – six in all – protect gear including cell phones, rain suits, and other valuables.  “We’ve been designing gear bags for more than 20 years, and know what a true athlete wants by her side,” says Tom Gocke, OGIO’s global VP of golf. “Our Cougar is not an afterthought accessory designed as an add-on to a clothing or shoe line. This is a bag designed from the bottom up, for a woman who takes her sport seriously, without necessarily taking herself as such.”  The Cougar’s styling also demonstrates grown-up sophistication. To date, its White Plaid (a plaid-on-black combination) already has pre-sold at record levels through golf shops and specialty sporting goods stores nationwide. The bag is also available with Lavender blocking on a black-and-white background, as well as a Brown Plaid accented with soft touches of pink.  In addition to the Cougar, OGIO’s 2009 women’s golf collection features remixed versions of The Shadow Cart Bag, The Diva Stand Bag and The Featherlite Stand Bag.  

After working with major donors to some of the most prestigious hospitals in Southern California, Janice Briggs has married two of her passions – travel and experiential learning – to create a company that offers a series of luxury retreats for women that are beyond compare.  Briggs is confident the time is right for such a unique travel opportunity, despite current economic conditions. A La Dolce Vita Retreat, which can range in price from $7,850 to $15,900 per person excluding airfare, offers a stress-free sanctuary to Europe or the Bahamas. Briggs is pushing forward with six retreats in 2009, having made substantial financial and personal investments in her company.  “When times are like this, you want to invest in yourself,” Briggs said. “This is a way to really focus on that. We need that more in hard times than in easy times.”  La Dolce Vita Retreats mixes five-star accommodations (including the Chateau Saint-Martin & Spa in Cote d’Azur and Hotel Splendido in Italy) with wellness seminars, cooking, fitness, perfume creation, yoga and other classes to create once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences at some of the most exotic locales in Europe and the Bahamas. Travelers will be treated to unparalleled luxury, enjoying everything from meditation classes to sailboat regattas.  Each retreat is geared toward creating wellness of mind, body and spirit and includes presentations by a revolving guest faculty who specialize in facilitating personal growth, enhancing health and fitness and understanding nutrition and integrative medicine. Briggs, a professional life coach, also conducts workshops of her own that utilize art visioning projects.  Briggs also has launched a philanthropic arm to her business and will donate 5 percent of profits to a non-profit organization in the Himalayas.

Gold jewelry is one of the top three most popular items for women’s discretionary spending in the U.S. according to World Gold Council’s (WGC) 2008 survey, What Women Want: Global Discretionary Spending Report, conducted by independent research firm, GfK, among 1,068 American women aged 16 to 65. The study was also run in the key gold jewelry markets of India, China, Saudi Arabia, Italy and Turkey. The findings of the survey reveal that gold jewelry in the U.S. has continued to maintain its appeal despite a squeeze on women’s spending power, a volatile and rising gold price and increased competition from other consumer goods. In the U.S., gold jewelry maintained its position as the third most popular item chosen by a woman spending her discretionary income on herself. It currently ranks below spending on ‘short breaks’ and ‘increasing savings’ but above such spending choices as a ‘meal at a nice restaurant’ or ‘beauty/spa treatment.’  Increases in price can have a negative effect on desirability in consumer goods categories; however, in the case of gold, the increase in price has underpinned its intrinsic value. According to the survey results, those who noticed the increasing price over the past 12 months were most likely to agree that the current price reassured them of the value of their gold jewelry. In the U.S., 68% of consumers who noticed a price increase said that it reassured them that “What I buy and own is valuable” while 67% said “gold jewelry is a good investment.”  Says John Calnon, managing director, Americas, World Gold Council, “In the context of a rising gold price, which reached new heights in early 2008, it was important that the survey focus on how the gold price may impact consumer attitudes and spending behavior. It is encouraging that gold’s price increase has re-emphasized the value of gold as an investment, as well as a fashion item, and has actually made it more desirable. This research has helped us to shape appropriate consumer messaging that will continue to build gold’s desirability during turbulent economic times.”

Millennial Media, Inc., the industry’s largest and fastest-growing mobile advertising networks company, and luxury lifestyle fashion brand Stella McCartney have announced their collaboration to develop and introduce a distinctive mobile advertising campaign for holiday shoppers throughout North America.  The campaign, which launched this week, and continues through the end of January 2009, represents the fashion designer’s first foray into mobile marketing. In addition, the initiative plays a critical role in the company’s holiday-focused integrated marketing efforts, which also include print and online advertising, direct mail, in-store, point-of-purchase signage, channel marketing, and public relations programs.  Created and implemented exclusively by Millennial Media, the campaign seeks to build awareness and consumer interest for the Stella McCartney spring and summer 2009 collections, while concurrently establishing a significant presence for the Stella McCartney brand on the mobile Web. The effort is specifically targeted at modern and style-conscious shoppers.  “Stella McCartney is a luxury lifestyle brand, and this partnership, through a unique and unconventional campaign, is geared towards further strengthening the brand’s presence to a wider audience,” said Stella McCartney. “This initiative enables Stella McCartney to target, with a new approach, fashion consumers in the U.S., while also being true to the brand’s efforts in environmental responsibility since the campaign is digital and avoids any wastage.”  For the launch of the campaign, a series of distinctive banner advertisements will be prominently placed on various mobile websites within Millennial Media’s premium mobile advertising network. This network is the largest in the U.S. with over three billion monthly impressions across more than 2,000 quality sites.  As consumers visit news and information sites on the mobile Web, they may click on any Stella McCartney banner to be immediately transported into an interactive fashion experience that closely replicates window shopping via a mobile device. When at the mobile Web site, located at http://lp.mydas.mobi/custom/stella/iphone/index.php for iPhones, and at http://lp.mydas.mobi/custom/stella/index.php for all other smartphones, a user then selects the Stella McCartney collection she wishes to explore. The user is then directed to a mobile fashion show, a series of look books which showcase each item in the collection. The user may then click on a specific design or accessory for a closer, detailed look.  In addition, the initiative offers shoppers an easy-to-use mobile store locator to pinpoint the closest Stella McCartney retail location, and a feature for subscribing to future news and information updates from the Stella McCartney brand.

Despite their later migration to the Web, women ages 40 to 49 represent a dynamic force online. SheSpeaks, a leading social network for women’s insights and word-of-mouth marketing, recently announced the results of a their study, revealing that 40-something women are highly involved in social networking, often demonstrating a more personal connection to online activities than their younger peers. A national poll of the SheSpeaks membership yielding more than 2,000 responses revealed nearly one-half (45%) of 40-something women respondents have profiles on popular social networking sites. A majority of these social network users indicated frequent activity on these sites, logging in several times per week.   “Contrary to popular belief, not only are 40-somethings active users and members of online social networks, but they are actually using the Web in a more purposeful way than their younger counterparts,” said Aliza Freud, founder and CEO of SheSpeaks. “These women have started to use the Web and social networks in ways that mirror the rest of their lives — from finding out about a product to shopping or monitoring their children’s activities — while the online focus for women 30 or under is primarily social.”   Additional findings from the study indicate that “shopping” is 40-something women’s #1 online activity (vs. “connecting with others” for younger women), and they research products online more than their younger counterparts. Forty-somethings are more likely than younger generations to post product reviews on shopping Web sites (62% vs. 53%) and to purchase products based on e-mails from a company (50% vs. 45%). While they lag behind their younger peers in terms of using blogs to discuss products, 40-somethings demonstrate an active usage of peer-to-peer tools for sharing product and shopping information. In addition, more than 70% of women with children ages 13-17 have talked about products within a social network, compared to 62% of women overall. As marketers explore opportunities to connect with female consumers online, the new findings uncovered that women are broadly represented on social networks and marketers are not reaching them in those venues. Online advertising was found to be largely ineffective among those surveyed, with one-quarter (26%) of respondents saying they actively ignore ads and 20% saying they are annoyed by the presence of online ads on social networking sites.   In addition to the 40-somethings, the SheSpeaks study also uncovered significant trends across age groups and demographics, including women under 30, Western Women, Parents of Teens and High-Income Professionals. 

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