marketing

Giving J Crew Great Grades

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

This morning I woke up to something that made me smile. J Crew is launching their maternity denim collection. I am a fan of the brand and their continued growth and transformation (maybe less a fan of the amount of money my teen girls spend there!!!). And at the heart of that  is the obvious effort and care that their team has put into not only reaching but also understanding their market. And, as my last fifteen years in this industry have proven, this is a tricky market. Get it right — you get to be the hero, darling and BFF – get it wrong it’s over and fast.  Based on this image – and all that it captures, I would say, J Crew is well on their way to  making friends in BumpLand!

So for my Morning Report Card:

IMAGE:   A

COPY:      A

Giving great grades to J Crew for capturing the mood perfectly in their email blast this AM! If the fit and wear of this new maternity denim assortment is as good as this pitch-perfect image you will make my honor-roll! Well done!

Painting the Picture with TMI

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

I was just having a very passionate paint moment….really, I was. Corine Ingrassia was begging (in her adorable way) for help with the palate for her biggest project to date, her new home. I jumped up as fast as I could and said “pick me, pick me” – and really, I was not kidding. And really, I was armed with all my Benjamin Moore loyalty and tools — ready to roll (paint roll that is).

That got me thinking — how many other brands had me at hello? Who has made my super-short list of brands that get my signature swoon and preferential passion? I drafted the list.  And then I started wondering, what exactly does this say about me? Let’s see:

Fresh

Benjamin Moore

The Moth

Bedford Cheese Shop

Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask

The Dry Bar

Starwood Hotels (all about the W, Union Square but I am a loyal girl)

Ok so super smart people — what ever does this TMI say about me?

 

DC BUMP ADVENTURE

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

What must you know about pregnancy in DC? This week, I took the adorable Meghan Mills out to discover what should be on every pregnant woman’s short list here in the Nation’s Capital. I donned my Fairy Godmother tiara and grabbed my wand – and off we went! Here are my top three picks:

THE BREASTFEEDING CENTER FOR GREATER WASHINGTON

At 20 weeks, Meghan is ready to upgrade to a maternity and nursing wardrobe.

Hidden in a medical building at 21st & K — The Breastfeeding Center is both the most hidden gem and also the most essential resource in all of DC. Part community, part classroom, part retailer and part lifesaver — this is the one spot for care and comfort from the moment your pre-pregnany bras start to feel snug. I introduced Meghan to manger Gina who skillfully fit her for bras and helped her to hand-pick classes (Back to Work and Breastfeeding  - a must for the first time expectant mom) easing her discomfort on multiple levels. While there we met an array of dads (picking up or returning rental pumps), Moms with adorable babies on their hip (a quick stop for Medela supplies), due-any-day women (seeking out in-home lactation support for post-delivery) and more. It was is an amazing micro-universe and the top of my DC BUMP ESSENTIALS LIST

FUSE PILATES

Birth day buddies!  Both Meghan and Rachel are due in late February – can you guess who is having what?

A cozy and sun-lit space that is full of great, nurturing  energy, Fuse  is a nesters haven! Owner Roxanna has given birth to a warm and welcoming world for expectant mothers This spot  has the  cool urban vibe of a resotred townhouse with the pure, exacting goodness of reofrmer based pilates. The one class to be for any DC Mom to be is Fuse’s Push Prep. This is a course designed for all levels of moms-to-be. What I adore is how doula and instructor, Randi prepares her students for a combination of strengh and relaxation that the body requires to deliver a baby while at the same time – keeping a real connection and encouraging new friendships along the way.

TED’S BULLETIN

When Megan shared her  pregnancy cravings  with me, the choice to super-sate her cinamon and brown sugar  Pop-tarts urges was immediately clear. We made a b-line for Ted’s Bulitten on 14th street. We were greeted by Ashlie who introduced us to owner Mike (a new dad himself) who had some fun with us – tempting Meghan with a new universe of flavors to choose from (classic strawberry, blueberry cheesecake, salted caramel and the over-the top  peanutbutter and bacon). We did not stop there — we were offred the chance to design our own milkshake (I went with strawberry S’more) and sip our way into an indulgent afternoon. Ted’s menu also features a wide selection for those in the salty craving world as well (grilled cheese and tomato soup anyone?!?) – and will quickly become your crave-out go-to!

Ted’s Bulletin custom milkshakes to toast our guest of honor.

RESOURCE GUIDE

The Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington

Fuse Pilates

Ted’s Bulletin

 

 

 

Process over Product – or Why I Love a Good Interview

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

You know that buzz? The one you feel when you have asked and answered at the top of your game? The one when you realize or remember that these past fifteen years have netted you a whole lot of wisdom, insight and clarity about an industry that you have lovingly help propel forward? The one where you happily and strongly suggest the reporter also source some of your most beloved colleagues including:  Chris Pegula, Liz Lange and Ingrid Carney as innovators and game-changers who must be acknowledged? The one where you easily walk a “newbie” through more than twenty years of industry back story in a narrative so compelling that  it leaves you both eager to keep the interview going? Well that was my gift of last week.

A good interview just feels good – plain and simple. And a good interview with an intelligent, insightful reporter is really the cherry on top.  As I like to say (no, I was not the first)  - nice work if you can get it! I am always grateful for when this caliber of reporter shows up at my door.

Thank you Bethany Clough for including me in your piece this weekend. I was more than flattered to be a source in your most recent Retail Therapy column for the Fresno Bee. But better than than the piece (which was well done) was the time spent in interview with you. What a treat! I think I’ll never get tired of of a good, well-informed conversation with a smart reporter with an eye for writing a worthwhile read.

Until next time…

 

What’s Your Number?

Friday, July 6th, 2012

A little lesson to end the week:

Numbers – ah numbers – what can’t you do with some good numbers? Massage them, manipulate them, misrepresent with them. There is so much amazing art associated with good old un-intrepetred numbers, raw data if you will. Perhaps that is why Kai Ryssdal remains on the top of my hit parade (my smart is hot and let’s keep it that way) list – he knows his way around numbers. Still, I would be remiss if I did not give a mighty bow to the New York Times – now here is an outlet that knows how to have fun with numbers. One of this week’s highlights had to do with birth rates in the US. The New York Times took these numbers and boiled it all down to this:

Pregnancy rates have decreased over the past two decades among all races, ethnicities and age groups — except for women in their 30s and early 40s.

And then they go on to slice, dice and otherwise make gazpacho of the numbers. I say good (and not just because I adore gazpacho). WHY?

Simply put – pregnant women of all races and  ethnicities in their 30s and early 40s are our sweet spot, our goddess our muse here at Forty Weeks.  We adore pregnant women of all races and ethnicities in their 30s and early 40s. That amazing maternal mark is unique too in that she is pregnant with intention, education, income and excitement. She wants in on the pregnancy experience and she is an eager participant (as are her family, friends and partner) in Forty Week journey.

She is our girl (woman really) and we have got the inside line on her. Our work is simply to keep our finger on the pulse of this remarkable woman and make her both understandable and accessible to our clients (trickier than it sounds). We help our clients speak to her with dignity and respect (read as no fear-mongering, no duckies,  no bunnies, no pastels). And this we do with great precision, passion and  and care. Really, because she is our number one priority, the only one that matters and all the rest of the numbers grow from there…

Stressed From the Support of it All

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

I have been cuddled up with some new data this evening. Thank you HANS VILLARICA for the great company. I have been turning over and again numbers reported in today’s Atlantic which considers how much time new parents spend on line. The sample size was relatively small 154 mothers and 150 fathers. The data attempted to make sense of how the time spent on-line,  and in specific on Facebook, impacted their self-described success as new parents. According to the article -  New moms increase their use of Facebook after giving birth, and their online activity may influence how well they adjust to parenthood.

Yes, new parents seek out  communities (old school, tribal nurture and care  if you will) on line. This is true. But here is the bit of the data that needs more focus — the more time these women actually spend on line the less happy they report feeling. So what is this fine line between stress and support — or really, where is it? Is there a magic number of hours spent on line? Is it about passive exposure versus active information seeking? It is about the composition of  the community or the quantity of it? Is it some hard to compute formula of internal and external factors – the equation of which is still nebulous?

Hint: there is no right answer.

One could argue that we need to help women back away from their digital parenting a bit — perhaps take a break from getting it right and  focus on getting to just get enough insight and connection to feel fed, seen and successful. We could encourage some delayed start program to the Mommy Wars (how though, this predates the birth and the bump) or a delay in game? But that is likely not on the horizon. In fact, I would predict just the opposite  - and in short order.

Leaving us where?

Responsible (to a degree).

Forty Weeks wisdom goes something like this (if you are a client, forgive me, you’ve heard this mantra before): The building of on-line communities that feel supportive, nurturing accepting, open, honest and easy to access are the responsibility of the brand.  Setting the tone, holding the line and raising the bar – also the responsibility of the brand. Be the brand a publisher or a manufacturer – the onus is the same. And while the shiny attraction of being the hub of a new mother’s life is alluring, for sure, the abuse of that that privilege will never go unnoticed (did I mention how savvy new mothers on line are?).

And so while we know that if you build it, they will come. I urge that you please  pay careful attention to the larger impact of these communities and please proceed to build with care. Consider it your investment in the next generation of Moms.

Why We are Better for the Celebrity Bump

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Having just spent some time deep in The Baby Bump (which, if asked, I would have titled, Bumping up Careers, One baby at a Time) in today’s New York Times, I want to first commend Jacob Bernstein for a well-researched, engaging piece and then slap him for missing the other side of the story. All he shares is true – he does a careful job of tracing the history of the thriving Bump Business. Mr. Bernstein tackles the profit center, career booster questions with savvy. What he misses is the positive side of the equation. He fails to examine how celebrity pregnancies, played out in public view actually give back  and otherwise contribute to the experiences of more than 4-million pregnant women in this country. And so while, yes – there is a way to interpret celebrity pregnancy though the lens of commercialism, I suggest we take a bit of a deeper dive.

In defense and even appreciation to these celebrity gestaters  – a quick inventory of what they are giving back along the road to baby:

  1. Normalized Pregnancy – Out of back rooms and suddenly on full view, while sometimes extreme, these very public pregnancies open the windows and doors WIDE and allow us to see a broader view of pregnancy (for better or for worse). And with that there is a change in the candor, content and scope of dialog – not just on-set but around water coolers as well.
  1. New Vocabulary, Confidence and the rise of the “Experiential Pregnancy” – The Hollywood bump-set give pregnant women a sense of confidence, style, and a new view to a range of real, radiating beauty. Since early aughts the style community has risen to the occasion as well – suddenly maternity fashion (thank you Liz Lange) and nursery décor (check out project nursery, for example) were elevated to meet the desires and aspirations of main street parents (In reaction to the new view of Melrose and Madison avenue parents). Our new vocabulary included (and does to this day) glow, maternity chic, fourth trimester, etc. – making the challenges and triumphs of one’s changing body and lifestyle a shared, open experience.
  1. Expectant Parents – before the celebrity baby boom hit, we did not include Dad in much of the baby talk. This wave of celebrity family has certainly played a part in bringing Dad into focus and view – what used to be “her” pregnancy became “our” pregnancy. And with the birth of a Dad came a new version of Dad, in a wide range of populations. This year saw the first male breastfeeding blogger, for example. And many a Diaper Dude is carried with paternal hipster pride.

AND MY BURRIED LEAD – PHILANTHROPY, EDUCATION and CARE

  1. Celebrities have loaned their voices, status and energy to critical work focused on raising much needed funds and awareness for issues effecting all populations of families. I have been honored to work on a wide range of projects with expectant and new celebrity parents and remain grateful for all they have given back. They have raised their voices and pointed attention to causes that need it most.  When Christie Turlington throws herself into Every Mother Counts or Jewel donates nursing bras in her name to Baby Buggy’s efforts in her adopted home state of Texas this ignites change. When  Gwyneth Paltrow or Melissa Rycroft openly share their battle with postpartum depression (PPD) or  Jennifer Garner discusses breast-feeding and back-to-work challenges it increases awareness and care around issues that were once quiet and cloaked.  The list goes on and on – and it should!  These celebrities have marked their entry into parenthood with very meaningful and powerful gestures that help to advance not only the conversation around key issues but also the outcomes for all families.

In the end, the story is that of a bigger picture, both sides of the equation and how the game is advanced for all parents with celebrity parents on the front lines.

I can’t quit you…

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Customer service, care, consideration and concern — it is everything. The customer IS always right and the brand is always at risk…

Still, today while musing on what is takes to connect and keep in an authentic relationship with consumers, I  went to a very personal place and considered which brands can “fail” and still stay in my sweetest of spots.

And so, (and yes I know I am procrastinating, you want the piece on connection not the list of my un-breakable brands) here is is – a short list of brands that I can’t quit. Brands who along the way have not impressed me but whose offerings somehow make it all ok:

Fresh — you know, when it all started between Fresh and Forty Weeks it was about as good as it gets…but now after a multitude of turn-overs on the retail level (frustrating!!!) and some pretty weak b to b exchanges I have my doubts. Yet – I get endless complements on my skin, my scent and no, I could not live without the Sake bath ritual…

W, Hotel — I am your little Eloise at Union Square, you treat me like a princess (and my family like royalty) and for that I am grateful. Still, there was that unprofessional nastiness with the BabyMoon and later some messy communication between your PR team and mine.  Finally, hearing that you would not support my R Babay Foundation by donating even a room for auction on the occasion of my honor as Champion — oh that is just bad. Still, I have rooms booked and look forward to each an every return (thank you CT and co).

Quartermiane Coffee – You are the my two-stop a day habit. And your eager team is quick to jump into “happy Julia mode” when I walk through the door. Still, your “points rewards” system is eternally broken, your stores get just a wee bit dirty for my taste and your lines run too long because you have too few people working. And yet, we start every morning (when in town) sitting at the espresso bar and planning out our day…

And so the learning here – yes there are exceptions to every rule. And brands can find themselves irreproachable – but as brand, why would you take that chance?

A Tale of Intention v. Execution…

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Here at Forty Weeks, we spend a lot of time in “Strategy Session”. In fact, it is where I feel most invigorated and capable of helping my clients reach their objectives. Great strategy is good – and flawless execution is even better.

As I am known to often remind my clients, team, friends oh let’s just go with anyone within earshot,  strategy and tactic are so very different. To put it differently, but in a way that echoes as resonates with such bellowing clarity this week – intention has little to do with execution. And execution, no matter how you spin it, is what you will be remembered for.

What do I mean? What is my warning? Read on…

In the isolation of a conference room – filled with like-minded and like-aspiring souls (here with an agreed upon objective) there is group think at play – an enabling force that changes everything. Here, ideas get big, exciting, juicy  - and this all happens at the speed of light. The pace is fast and the passion is sky high. Here, the complex seems easy (that is the passion speaking) and the  intricate details seem simple. It is work -place adrenaline at play. And why not??  When you have such deep-seeded, authentic commitment to something (and ideal, a goal) –  this is how one should feel. It is this energy that  brings us to an intoxicated place where the concepts flow and  the otherwise obvious limitations or even walls become near invisible. Here in the swirling creative moment of ideation big roadblocks or even common-sense considerations disappear into the vapor.

And it is here, at this moment when rational thinking – logic and reason are needed the most. Not to bring anyone down, not be a buzz kill, not to damage spirits or egos. But rather to preserve the original goal and intention. And avoid the damage that is so much greater than the potential gain of the program in play.

I can be more specific still…

If you set out to empower, promote or serve women then you need to focus squarely on just that. Your entire agenda must be women-centric and authentic.  You must  embrace all women not just a few. If you want to advance the ball – you can’t do your own version of climbing, clawing, dismissing and using in the name of the intention. No, that does not work. In fact it will back-fire  - hitting you hard and reminding you that there is really no end that justifies the means, especially not when you are smack in the middle of the most transparent age of  transaction we will ever experience. The whole world is watching – 2012 style. And you are going have to be mindful and careful – especially where  women are concerned.

So next time your ego, your group think  and/or your great intentions seem too good to be true (or possible)  - slow down, bring in clear heads and new voices, ask the questions differently and listen to the answers. There are ways to do solve this riddles – always. The answer (and the danger) lies in the execution.

Lessons of a Tattered Pink Ribbon

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

The conversation today is not about breast cancer, reproductive rights, right wing agendas or politics.

Today it is a branding conversation.

Join me, if you will for a quick look at the brand accountability, social media savvy, it’s how you protect, manage and strategically position your brand case study for the history books…

The Lessons of a Tattered Pink Ribbon

(or ten things we learned the day The Susan G. Komen Foundation died):

  • Social Media renders all entities transparent – thus accountability is key
  • Social Media has permanently shifted, altered and sped-up the way in which we receive, share and interpret information
  • This one fact defines how brands act, react and respond
  • Brands are accountable to ALL – no exceptions
  • All populations are a brands’ potential ally or foe – no exceptions
  • Brands must act with speed, candor and care – no exceptions
  • Brands must remain in a proactive, strategic stance not in a lesser reactionary mode —Planned Parenthood was brilliant in how they turned a significant funding loss into a giant brand, funding and positioning gain
  • Komen failed the exercise across the board
  • Pink is dead, Komen is over and their partners are stuck with the residual mess
  • The focus on real corporate responsibility (including all forms of organizations – non-profits included) is just beginning – pay attention…