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Meredith Corporation and ServiceMagic.com, an online destination for homeowners to find reliable contractors and an operating company of IAC/Interactive Corp. has announced a multi-media partnership that combines the Meredith Women’s Network – a network of websites including well-known, home-related properties inspired by the Better Homes and Gardens brand such as BHG.com, DIYadvice.com, Kitchenbathideas.com and Remodelingcenter.com – with ServiceMagic.com’s network of prescreened local service professionals. Meredith’s premium sites, which draw 16 million unique visitors each month, will now feature a fully-integrated, customized find-a-pro tool powered by ServiceMagic.com. The free tool will allow consumers using Meredith websites to link directly to ServiceMagic.com’s database of top-rated local professionals.  “This agreement brings together the two major elements of any home improvement project – inspiration and the right professional to make it happen,” says Craig Smith, CEO of ServiceMagic.com. “The millions of homeowners who look to Meredith for design ideas now have a reliable source for finding the specialists to make their projects a reality. It takes a home project from inspiration to installation.”  In addition to adding the find-a-pro functionality to Meredith’s Web properties, the partnership also calls for the introduction of a 1-800 concierge telephone service to Meredith audiences. This service will provide homeowners with the one phone number they need for home services, whether it is lawn service, painting or a full remodel. ServiceMagic.com’s team of experienced customer service representatives will help consumers find the right professional for their job and stay with them from planning to completion of the project.  “Our strategic alliance combines the complementary strengths of Meredith’s robust and inspirational content, our online engagement with the consumer, and our advertising and marketing leadership with ServiceMagic.com’s ability to connect them with professional home service providers.” says John Zieser, Meredith chief development officer. “The relationship is a perfect example of the types of win-win alliances Meredith will continue to pursue, balancing the strengths and leadership of each partner in ways that better serve our consumers and clients.”

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Hotels.com® has selected six of the best hotels around the world designed specifically with women in mind, three of which are located in Asia. Hotels have been selected that offer plenty of pampering, as well as easy access to some of the world’s best shopping areas – all guaranteed to give girls the time of their lives. The hotels are:

  • Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa, Singapore
  • Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, Bangkok
  • Movenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach, Phuket
  • Park Central New York Hotel, New York City
  • Grand Hotel Amrath, Amsterdam
  • UNA Hotel Cusani, Milan

Makeup artist to the stars Mally Roncal and actress Tori Spelling are teaming up with Q-tips® cotton swabs to reveal their beauty secrets to rescue women from summer makeup meltdown. Spelling stepped into the window of Macy’s Herald Square earlier this week, where she unveiled the new Q-tips Vanity Packs – stylish Q-tips dispensers that are finally attractive enough to sit on countertops. Women in New York City and across the country can visit select Macy’s for free makeovers and a free sample of the Q-tips vanity pack all summer long. Makeup wearing women have an average of 19 beauty products cluttering their vanity – from makeup brushes to applicators — according to a survey commissioned by Q-tips cotton swabs. And, no matter what the economy holds, women are still in search of the perfect beauty tool. Women who wear makeup would be willing to spend an average of $24 for one beauty tool that could correct all makeup blunders. “Women clean out their closets every season, so why not their makeup areas?” says Roncal. “Every beauty routine should begin with a beautiful, clutter-free vanity area or bathroom countertop with only the beauty essentials you really need. That’s why makeup artists rely on Q-tips to rescue their routines – they are an affordable beauty tool (around three dollars for the new pack) and perfect for applying, blending and touching up makeup every day.” Women everywhere can visit www.qtips.com to enter for a chance to win* a “VIP Beauty Rescue,” which includes a New York City beauty shopping spree, complete with a personal stylist. At the website, they can also find out where to get their free “summer beauty rescue” makeover and free sample of the new Q-tips Vanity Pack.

In an ongoing effort to celebrate women riders – and those who dream of riding – Harley-Davidson will host its third annual Women’s Day on Sunday, August 2, 2009, during the 69th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The Motor Company will also offer a variety of activities for women throughout the rally between August 1-7, 2009, at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, including an interactive women’s area featuring motorcycle and product information, seminars and giveaways.  Women who visit the interactive area at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center will find a wide array of information, from new functional and fashionable gear, to becoming a mentor to new riders, demonstrations on how to pick up a bike, and a scavenger hunt, as well as information for new riders looking to get behind the handlebars of their own motorcycles. Harley-Davidson will donate $5 to Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) for each woman who completes the scavenger hunt.  During Women’s Day, the Motor Company will offer special seminars focused on teaching women how to customize their motorcycle for fit, function and style; healthy eating tips while out on the road; and best practices for conducting a pre-ride safety check.  “We’re looking forward to Women’s Day at Sturgis,” said Leslie Prevish, Women’s Outreach Manager for Harley-Davidson Motor Company. “These initiatives help showcase our dedication to educating and empowering both current women riders and those who dream of hitting the open road. The events are also great opportunities for women riders to connect and share their inspiration for riding.”

A recent Ketchum survey of attendees of BlogHer ’09 confirms that women bloggers are a growing channel of influence for marketing and public relations professionals to target as key influencers — but only if communications professionals do their homework first. Conducted in June 2009 among bloggers registered to attend BlogHer, the survey revealed that approximately four in 10 have provided information or feedback collected on their blogs to marketers to help them better market to women or mothers. But an even larger percentage (53 percent) said they would consider doing so if asked, revealing an untapped opportunity for marketing and PR professionals to enhance and expand their base of influencers when marketing to women. The survey also showed that nearly half of those surveyed say they hear from public relations professionals at least once a week, with another 30 percent being contacted daily. However, despite this frequency of communication, women bloggers indicate that PR and marketing professionals need to do their homework if they want to work more effectively with this audience. When respondents were asked what they ask marketers to know before contacting them, several common themes emerged:

  • Take the time to read their blogs and understand their areas of focus. Many women bloggers said they would like to hear about news and products that better match their specific interests.
  • This applies to location, too. A number of respondents said they receive communications about products and events not available in their regions or even their countries.
  • Know that they are “more than their blog” — they have other roles in addition to being a mom or a blogger, say respondents, including jobs outside the home.
  • Similarly, don’t assume that all women bloggers are “mommy bloggers.”

“Our research at Ketchum shows that women want marketers to understand them, and the female blogger audience is saying the same thing, loud and clear,” said Kelley Skoloda, director of Ketchum’s Global Brand Marketing Practice and author of the new book Too Busy to Shop: Marketing to “Multi-Minding” Women. “Given that friends and family, offline and online, are the most credible sources of information when making a purchase decision and that many bloggers are now virtual friends with their readers and other bloggers, it behooves marketers to really listen to and respect the influence of female bloggers.”

Women are cutting back more on discretionary expenditures than men in poor economic times according to a new survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of TD AMERITRADE Holding Corporation. Of those who participated in the survey, 86 percent of women reported spending less on elective expenditures compared to 78 percent of men.  When asked specifically about the lifestyle changes that have been made in the past 12 months due to the current economic environment, those surveyed provided the following responses:

  • 58 percent of women are eating out less, compared to 48 percent of men
  • 54 percent of women are buying fewer clothes and shoes, compared to 40 percent of men
  • 48 percent of women are shopping more at discount stores, compared to 37 percent of men
  • 36 percent of women are cutting back on charitable giving, compared to 26 percent of men
  • 31 percent of women have cancelled or postponed vacations, compared to 22 percent of men

Additionally, the survey found that 22 percent of men reported making none of these lifestyle changes, compared to 14 percent of women.  “More and more women are now responsible for managing the family’s finances, and they are more cost-conscious as the economy tightens their purse strings,” said Paula DeLaurentis, managing director, strategic alliances, TD AMERITRADE. “As a result, women are cutting back on daily expenditures and luxuries now more than ever.”

In the spirit of all things summer, M2W E-ssentals wants to know what you did over your summer vacation. Was it a solo backpacking adventure through Europe or an African safari? Maybe you decided to just stay home and play the part of a tourist in your own city. Whatever it is, let us know—we will choose several stories to share with our readers during the final weeks of summer fun!

Leave your comments below or send an email to Patti Minglin, pminglin@comcast.net.

King.com (www.king.com), the world’s leading online skill games company, recently brought together women gamers – ages 24 to 61 – to speak directly to the casual games industry and reveal what it is about gaming that motivates them. King.com organized a live focus group of 6 women to give women gamers their voice, and to help the industry learn more about their motivations for playing games and what makes the best games. Key findings included:

  • Women are just as competitive as anybody, competition is really important and they really want to win.
  • Women want games to look good and be visually captivating. Vivid colors and animation are big motivators for women to play with a game. Dull colors and flat graphics are a turn-off.
  • Women want to be able to play games and donate their prizes, points or cash to charity. They felt that, during the recession, there should be a demonstration of compassion from the gaming community.
  • Women felt that playing games online was now sexy, and no longer geeky. Rather than feeling like a “loser,” it was felt that gaming had become mainstream and socially acceptable among their friends.
  • Women use games as a form of mental exercise, using their progression through different levels to evaluate their progress and stimulate their brains.
  • Women play games to get better at playing games. They actively hunt out games that help them improve their game play; even playing games they aren’t attracted to if it helps them master their favorite ones.
  • Women like to spend money on online games. Most spent between $30-$50 per month on online games.
  • Women play up to 8 hours every day, breaking up their game play to accommodate their professional and domestic schedules.

“We continue to gain insight into our users through dialog, surveys and ongoing interaction. This panel provides a useful snapshot of new interests and trends within the casual games industry,” said Riccardo Zacconi, CEO, King.com.

This summer, Comfort Inn hotels and Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine are offering consumers the chance to win the ultimate girlfriend getaway vacation to New York City to attend a taping of “The Rachael Ray Show.”  “Comfort Inn is a great affordable option for women and their friends to take a memorable ‘girlfriend getaway’ vacation this year,” said Chris Malone, chief marketing officer for Choice Hotels International, franchisor of the Comfort Inn brand. “Comfort Inn hotels’ welcoming staff and cozy beds help you feel relaxed after a full day on the go. And with free high speed Internet and free hot breakfast you’ll be fully prepared and ready for your big day ahead.  Now through August 27th, consumers can log on to chatandchew.rachaelraymag.com/comfort and enter for their chance to win the ultimate girlfriend getaway which includes a trip for four to New York City to attend a taping of the “Rachael Ray Show”. The lucky winner also receives roundtrip airfare for four, two-nights accommodations at a Comfort Inn hotel and $2,000 so she and her friends can have the ultimate big city shopping spree.

Chicago’s annual Running of the Brides® sale on Friday, July 24, is expected to attract a record number of brides-to-be looking to snag a bargain on a wedding dress. The doors of Filene’s Basement on State Street will open at 8:00am to let loose hundreds of brides and their helpers into a sea of white. “The number of calls we’ve received is way up compared to last year,” said store manager Melanie Schuetz. “Brides are looking to save anyway they can, and if they find a dress here, they can stretch the wedding budget a lot further.” Once inside the store, the racks are stripped bare in less than 90 seconds as the brides and their team members grab the first dresses they come upon. Then it’s time for the women to strip — down to leotards, sports bras or even underwear — to try on the gowns in the middle of the sales floor. If it doesn’t quite fit, a seamstress can do the trick, and the bride can still come out way ahead. But what happens if a petite bride found she pounced on a size 14 dress in pink chiffon instead of a size 4 in white satin? That’s when the real fun begins, as the women start bartering to find the right designer or size. It’s a ritual that turns Filene’s Basement into an old-fashioned bazaar. “The ‘rush to the racks’ when the doors open can be a lot of fun, but it’s not everyone’s idea of a good time,” said store manager Schuetz. “We want brides to know that by late morning things calm down and customers can go through the dresses one by one in relative calm.”

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