You Can’t Market Your Way Out of a Bag

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

I will admit it – my brand incudes a bit of tough love, no holds barred, call em like I see em- strategy – and while many of you have not experienced the candor of a Forty Weeks Strategy session – today you will get a taste.

I am often citing case studies of powerful brands that can’t market their way out of a bag. Today, I will go quite literal with a tale of bags, fees and brands gone bad (at least badly off message).

Let’s begin this tale with a disclaimer… I know little about the Montgomery Maryland county ordinance that now requires retailers to charge $.05 per bag given to a customer at the time of transaction (by request). However, I am both green (enough) and a passionate protector of brands. With that as a starting point…

I do know this –

Montgomery Country Maryland (interesting side note, I grew up in Montgomery Country ,Pennsylvania) is home to hamlet of Bethesda – a near perfect demographic storm. The town is rife with suburbanites who fancy themselves urban. Young, hip, fit, moneyed and trend forward (enough). There are many generations – grandparents, new parents, babies, teens  all looking to stay in the mix…The psychographics alone are compelling and would drive many a flagship to Bethesda Avenue to claim their piece of the dream.

And so they come to make it so – shiny flagships, concepts or pop-ups – they come…

They come to bring their brand to their target market – forget the bottom line (for the moment) –this is a brand building exercise and opportunity as much as a profit building one.

If I could I would spend hours talking to Street Sense’s CEO (and very smart guy) Marc Ratner about this one – he is really the guru of the topic. I am just passing by – but I am still , as a brand savant, a bit lost.

Riddle me this – why would J. McLaughlin,  The North Face, Le Creuset , Aveda, or even Georgetown Cupcake CHARGE for a bag?

Yes, it is the law….but savvy brands must know better than to:

Charge to have their brand walking along the streets of Bethesda

Charge five cents in an act which is completely off-brand

A bag is not only walking endorsement, promotion and nod it is also a courtesy. Why, after paying a premium price for a cupcake would you then ask for a nickel for the iconic bag in which to carry them? The super luxe J. McLaughlin bag – is fine, finished and completely on brand. And charging for it? Well that, I will say with complete conviction is OFF BRAND.

Brands, all of you – listen up. Pay for the bags yourself. Underwrite those five cents as an investment in your brand. This is as about as intuitive as it comes – if your brand is built around luxe and lifestyle  – if you have bothered to sidle up to the consumer of your dreams in Bethesda, Maryland, then get smart. Ready?  You pay the tariff and instruct your team to smile and say, “thank you, the bag is on us”.

You are welcome.

Goodbye 2011 — Bring on the New Year

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

As the year ends, I find myself slowing and reflecting – appropriate I would say after the wild ride that was 2011. Looking back this was a year of remarkable challenges and frankly some very happy endings. And when I wander back through the months – one thing stands out and that is commitment. The deep, undeniable commitment of the Forty Weeks team to their clients, projects, partners, ideals, core values and biggest picture view of what needs to happen next. I continue to be moved by the way in which the entire team reliably navigates with such grace and passion. And frankly the results impress even the very hard-to-please me!

I am lucky to be surrounded by such remarkable people, engaging projects and to be at the epicenter of such a vibrant industry.

What do I see for 2012? Funny you should ask…


This sector of our business continues to grow and thrive – in fact, this particular sweet spot of ours has lined up perfectly with the needs of some of our oldest industry friends as well as international newcomers, expanding brands and organizations in transition. The process of stopping and defining via the Forty Weeks Road Map has led some of our clients on the way to the very best of what is next for them – and of course, we take great pride in these critical accomplishments. Look for Forty Weeks to continue to lead the category in strategy and for new brands to find their way to our innovative methodologies.


It is where I live – in clear lane of ALL mothers needing the tools to survive and thrive for themselves, their children and their families. I have had a long-standing commitment to bringing the Forty Weeks savvy to a wide scope of philanthropic organizations. This year, expect to see some new milestones – think both brands and non-profits raising the bar both on what they will do to reach much needed funding milestones and awareness and also on what they will deliver to all women. This is both energizing and incredibly exciting for all parties and something we will take great pride in on an ongoing basis. Some hints – think celebrity, programming, anniversary and celebration.


There is a great deal to say about how the collective sum of the women I connect with on a daily basis is much greater than the individual parts. And the parts are outstanding too!  It is community made up all of some incredible secret sauce.  And with that power, commitment and drive I can hardly wait to see what comes next! Well I may have a little idea, but you will need to stay tuned…


Join us as we explore a wide range of topics with some of the brightest women in the business. Expect new, provocative topics, insights and calls to action in 2012!


Oh yes, I will keep my “Fairy Godmother” wand well polished,  my bump-style spree step-out in high gear, my craving radar at the ready and my pampering play list well studied — this is the fun part, and I would not pass on the privilege of sharing a little Gestational Girl-time for all the tea in China (oooh, tea sounds good!!!).


I did hear a little something…


Yes, there is lots brewing here and mainly I will say, stay tuned and you will not be disappointed

Am I a tease?  Well yes, I am – but I promise the “what comes next” is the stuff that makes us all glad we came along for the ride. Happy New Year and I will see you all, with bells on, in 2012!

Musings from your Fairy Godmother…

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Today on Twitter I was overwhelmed and completely moved by being referred to as a Fairy Godmother. It was not the first time (thank you David Gaunt  for the Dolly Levi comparison), but I must admit – in the big, reality show world of experts, gurus, and other super savants – all titles that clearly do not suit me, this one feels right. I know my wise friend Samantha Ettus would agree – this is my personal brand.

Nadia and Julia - Babymoon in NYC!

Nadia and Julia - Babymoon in NYC!

I have been in this space for quite a long time. And I have seen a great deal (understatement). Feel free to pursue the Back Labor Blog for a sense of just some of the madness I have witnessed.  I have seen brands, trends and individuals rise from obscurity, take hold or more often than not – fade away. I have coined, encouraged, mentored, mediated and managed. I have advised, advocated and sometimes (ok, maybe more than sometimes) agitated. But in the final analysis what it comes down to is this – PEOPLE.  

I have fought hard for one thing the care and feeding of expectant and new parents – ALL new parents. Be it my early, impassioned aspiration of helping brands to speak intelligently and with care to this very eager but also suddenly vulnerable  market of new and expectant parents, or my desire to create real-time access to honest information from which parents can make informed decisions –  or my sincere belief that brands, influencers and consumers alike have a real obligation to give back in a way that allows all parents access to this level of care and yes, honest, clear information.  I have raised the bar and insisted that this industry can operate from a place of  integrity and respect.  And I am relentless in my pursuit and maintenance of this standard (mandate). It is no secret I am as tough as I am generous and I like it that way.

It is about respect. And with that comes care – and yes Jessica, Nadia and all of you beautiful creatures, that includes a blow-out and decadent nibbles when you are feeling at the end of your pregnancy rope. Because, to me, that is part of it too. There is fun to be had, life to celebrate and certainly there are quality relationships to forge.  So, Bippity, Bobitty, Boop– I am happy – no, I am ecstatic,  to be the Fairy godmother – it is nothing short of an honor and am I both humbled and proud.

And so while people keep popping up (oh should I have said Pope-ing) up in the expectant and new parent space – I am happy to let them have their Fifteen Minutes, two-seasons, blog-of-the-moment, what-ever floats their boat.   If you need me, I will be here with my magic wand, making it so….

Facebook’s Madonna Whore Complex…Explained Via Roundtable

Friday, February 25th, 2011

I have been in the business of pregnancy and baby for more than a dozen years. And yes, I have seen a great deal. Brands come and go, trends come and go, enemies du jour come and go  – it is part and parcel of being smack in the  middle of one of the most profound and powerful moments in a woman’s life. But what remains constant is the awe with which we accept the responsibility of bringing life into this planet (no matter what form that takes) – and the incredible feeling of connectivity (to other women as well as to the universe as a whole) a woman experiences as a mother. This bonds us to each other and makes friends of seamless strangers. This is what connects us despite the wide range of our life experience, age, expectation and certainly situation. We are mothers unified by our desire to “figure it out” the best we can as we make our way down a new, unchartered path.

So, it would seem natural then that the rise of Facebook would be a boon for women. Here  was a vibrant open community on which we could collectively see, share and experience the remarkable and new (and often overwhelming) journey of pregnancy, birth and parenthood. Yet, somehow Facebook has decided this is neither the place nor the community for such endeavors. We have all watched as breastfeeding and birth have become high targets on the censor list.  Ask Ciaran Blumenfeld about how we have managed to build a successful Facebook community for Bravado without so much as the use of the world “nipple” (forget a breast image) to keep us safe. And now, this week it seems pregnancy  photography is an issue as well.

Too Much for FB?

Too Much for FB?

I’ve asked some of the best brains in the business for their (very) quick take on the reality of Facebook and mothers. It was my goal to bring together a wide range of voices to help us make sense of this one.  And so meet:

Audrey McClelland- Founder of Mom Generations,  Co-Founder of Getting Gorgeous and other landmark projects connecting women. Mother of  4 active boys  – .

Sarah Evans -Social Media Expert – UNDERSTATEMENT. Sara is excited to be pregnant with her first child.

Samantha Ettus – Bestselling author, media personality and personal branding expert. Author of Forbes Personal Branding Blog.  Mother of three beautiful children. and

Danielle Friedland - 

Danielle Friedland, mom of 2 breastfed babies. The Social Media Manager for giggle and Healthy Child Healthy World and Editor-in-Chief of Bravado Designs’ Breastfeeding Diaries blog. She created the Celebrity Baby Blog in 2004 which she sold to in 2008.

Nicole Feliciano- Founder and Editor of  Super savvy and connected Mother of two equally stellar breastfed daughters.

Here is what this amazingly well informed and diverse group of Social Media leaders had to say on the question of why images of  pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding – all central themes of  motherhood, are such a challenge to Facebook.

Audrey McClelland -  I have to admit, I was surprised to hear all of this was being censored by Facebook. Pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood is natural… and considering there are over 85 million moms on Facebook, it’s shocking to me that there isn’t a “safe” place to post certain things. I had always viewed Facebook as a place where women can come to connect, meet, share and engage… and I feel like this is stripping us from that.  Truly.  As modern moms, we look for ways to connect digitally because that’s the way people connect nowadays… it’s sad to see Facebook pull away such natural and open and honest images.


Sarah-  I’m definitely new to this conversation, so what I’m sharing our preliminary thoughts…I don’t necessarily want to see my friends’ naked body parts on FB, but it is their decision to share.


Samantha -  It is only this year that you could add your kids names and ages to your FB page in addition to your spouse. FB has been a late bloomer every step of the way in regard to parenting. In my mind it is a simple explanation – it was originally created for college kids by a college kid so it would be logical then, that the “grownup” categories are coming later, as the founders and the company age. Perhaps now that Randi Zuckerberg  is married, a kid isn’t far behind and in turn, parenting will be a new focus. That is, if they get there before a competitor takes it on.


Danielle- Facbeook is not anti-woman — their staff is just not mature. I can’t confirm this but my impression is that Facebook is staffed by recent college graduates who don’t have pregnancy and motherhood in their mindset. They probably see a pregnant woman as fat instead of radiant. They probably see breastfeeding as “gross” instead of natural and nourishing. They have probably never seen a baby breastfeeding in real life nor were they raised thinking that breastfeeding is normal given that the majority of babies born within the last 20-40 years were not breastfed themselves. They just don’t get it. But you know who is? The COO of Facebook is Sheryl Sandberg, a woman who is also a mother. She needs to communicate to Facebook employees that pregnancy, breastfeeding and pride in motherhood is quite normal and in no way obscene. She needs to set policy that respects women and mothers as they are the largest growing population on Facebook.


Nicole- As for me, I find navel piercings more challenging than bumps and boobs. I’m sure this phenomenon is all about boys making decisions. Was social network (the movie) sexist? No, they just didn’t involve women that is different from being anti-woman.

The more companies we start the more conversations we steer.

And so with these insights comes more questions. And too, an opportunity to ask – what do you think?

Money for Mompreneurs!

Friday, May 21st, 2010

I have spent close to a dozen years surrounded by amazing women with inspired ideas. I meet them at various moments in their entrepreneurial development. Some have made the daring transition from corporate to “no net below” and others are still exploring the infinite possibilities of their creativity and drive. I met them when they are a few years in and ready to grow to the next level and other times, desperately looking for a way to hold on. I’d like to think that my strategy, stewardship and care have made a real difference in the lives of women. I am proud of the successful women that have been or are on my client and friend roster. It is an impressive lot. And really, the work I do is so very lucky.  The one thing that I’ve not ever been able to offer is seed cash  – today I read that Kimberly Clark  is doing just that.

The deadline is coming soon (you’ve got twenty days). And certainly – it will take some work (and as I always say nothing teaches you more about your business that answering hard questions about it) – but why not?  There are ten grants of $15,000 available. Veteran Maria Bailey will be a part of the process (maybe she will mentor a bit too?).  You can find the details here: - Good Luck!

Mom2B, No Mas – The Partnership Take-Away

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

The Mom2Be trade show first came to my attention when my friend Jennifer Hofhelder sold her company, Bella Mama (oh she made such delicious pregnancy and new mother skincare products) to Amy DeCamillis several years ago. Jennifer introduced me to Amy who had big and excitingplans for her acquisition and for the expectant and new parent category in general. In phone calls and later in the Forty Weeks showroom, Amy and her associates shared the details of the launch of a new trade show she called Mom2Be. It was going to be all things for pregnancy and baby (it started off as a trade show, moved to a hydrid). I took a meeting with one of her team in my showroom in New York and listened with a bit of confusion. Why would you start a new show – shop, brand and sell in both vendors  and attendees when you could buy into an existing show, own the category and take advantage of existing traffic and brand equity?  They rolled their eyes and let me know how much much I was missing. We agreed to disagree. I went to the show one year. I was not sold.

Mom2Be announced they were shutting down today. At the same time – the show I suggested they join forces with  -ABC has grown in leaps and bounds. The show now is the comprehensive source and show-place for the category. I build launches,time  product announcements and certainly introduce new innovations on behalf of my clients at that show. It is not perfect – but really they did (on their own) what I had advised Mom2Be to do for themselves – build the category within an existing, branded and well attended show  and maximize within that space. Nothing radical – everything practical….

It is unfortunate that so many emerging brands (trade shows included) are fooled into into thinking that collaboration is a mistake. The notion that you need to come in and “take over the category” is ill-advised and adversarial in stance. It misses so many obvious opportunities and frankly, short-cuts.  Finding  well-chosen and vetted  partnerships that advance all partners not only eliminates the myriad of  challenges that can overwhelm start-ups (so much to figure out) – they increase the bottom line – leading to profits in less time. The idea that “owning it all” will create more income only works if the business model has the resources (money, time, brains) to push it all the way through. I think that there is a lot to be learned here. Some key considerations:

*Who else does any version of what I plan to do?

*Go back to marketing 101  – do a S W O T (strength, opportunity weakness and threat analysis) – in reverse!

*How can build my model around both my strengths and their weaknesses?

*What new technology, relationships, intellectual property do I have access to that advances me to the next level?

*How can I build that in a capsule and connect with a partner as a growth model?

These are just a few questions. You should be asking a lot more, and often.  Really the idea is the thought process.As your business plan evolves don’t be fooled into thinking that your commitment and focus to your idea will be the secret sauce.   Begin to look outside of your big idea — start to look for the big partner!


Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Bringing like minded people together is really one of  best party tricks (after showing off my Gumby-like flexibility and encyclopedic knowledge of song lyrics that is) – connecting the dots well is just what I do.  And I consider it a day well spent when a connection I’ve made works well,  makes a difference and in the best case, makes the world a better place – benefiting all involved.

Friday promises to set a new standard for connection for good. I will be with my bloggy friends, my business friends and my beloved R Baby Foundation. We will join together to raise funds and awareness for improved pediatric emergency care.  We will share in a roundtable focused on passions, priorities and community - examining how these there elements lead to success for women. It is my hope that all who participate in the roundtable will walk away with not only inspiration and connection but also a clear vision as to how they will step up and make a difference.

What I know is that each one of you has the power (and the goods) to ignite your passions, set your priorities and engage your communities in what is important to you. So tune in (webcast details are below), tweet in (#RBabyLive) and get ready — the world is about to change – for good!

R Baby Foundation Live Event March 5, 2010

Pitching Notes

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Earlier today I was working on an internal memo – it was specifically to the pitching team here at Forty Weeks. The crux of this note was about being heard.

There is so much going on with our clients; we are busy pitching  maternity fashion, nursing tanks (oh the amazing new colors for spring), a few exciting events including a Mompreneur Round table in March, and even a few new totally hush hush projects.

We are busy and there is a lot of pitching to be done. The point of my memo was not to be a “pitch away  and until you are blue in the face” cheering section, but rather to remind all that with so much exciting to talk about it was important to be heard. In other words, don’t become white noise.  Here are the rules to keep in mind:

Avoid being:

Too chatty – be friendly but get to the chase

Too familiar – be aware of the level of relationship and err on the side of too formal v. too familiar

Too much fluff – avoid the constant use EXPLANATION POINTS!!!!!!!

Too much overkill – stay away from hyperbole

Consider this:

Be an asset not an ask – make yourself a partner and real plus not another person pitching and selling

Be clear about what you offer – do not burry the lead

Be concise – like all of us, people are reading things on the fly – keep your messaging in that zone and give them ways to get more if needed

Be authoritative and helpful – establish yourself and your expertise

Be informed and use that information well – what does this person’s site or pub look like? What do they cover? What is their voice?

So nothing radical or new here – and certainly important  core concepts to keep in mind…happy pitching!

Back in the Day

Friday, December 11th, 2009

In Style June 2005

In Style June 2005

Oh, nostalgia – how you creep up on me. Here is one of my favorite moments of my career — the final product of what was one of the most powerful projects I’ve been assigned. We were with InStyle magazine shooting for the June 2005 issue (take note, it had a happily single Katie Holmes on the cover) and it was one of greatest days of girl power I’ve ever experienced. Asked to profile the women who had redefined pregnancy and baby – I brought together the best and the brightest of the field. And what followed:  the fun, the conversation, the confessions and even the deals that were made stand out as one of the most singularly exciting and powerful days I’ve had before or since.

 Old friends like Emilia Fabricant, Shannon DiPadova, Amy Coe and  Debbie Ohanian joined with (then) relatively new ones like Ellen Diamant and Skye Hoppus in a star-studded photo shoot. Take a look and tell me it doesn’t warm your heart a bit (though feeling a little sad for those who are pictured but no longer in the industry). Please share your stories about these women and their extraordinary companies/careers….and we can all feel warm and nostalgic together.

Case Study – A Low Budget Launch

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

HELLO NEW YORK – Capturing the Imagination & allegiance of parents and retailers


With limited budget and high expectations, Forty Weeks was challenged with the task of introducing teutonia in the most influencer rich, consumer savvy and trend-setting market in the country. A formable target, New York, offered the potential for high gains both in sales and in brand awareness but also required great care, market knowledge and attention to detail.

The core of the geocentric launch focused on three key New York City populations: Parents, Influencers and Retailers. The work in NY then served as a template for a series of other geo-launches and also to create a solid and exciting national brand platform and foundation for continued growth and expansion.

Media Partner:

Cookie Magazine’s NYC circulation specific to a high-end, early adapter and aspirational female psychographic was selected as a media partner (NYC buy only). The readership profile in tandem with the self-identified trend-setting definition of the publication provided a solid core partnership through which to grow the brand.


Based on shifts in the economic climate and national psyche, we quickly added to our agenda, the identification of new language/focal points for teuntonia. Our objective was to communicate the true value of teutonia to the uninitiated while taking care not to exclude based on any overt or accidental insensitivity to shifts caused by the dramatic economic downturn. Our extensive exploration/research led us away from a fashion message to a conversation about choice. The new concept was that each of us places a different value on different things – our priorities were not the same – however, what we felt was important – our priorities were what we were willing to invest in with passion. Our message- freedom of choice was a powerful and ultimate luxury. And being able to make choices and manage your life around your personal priorities and passions was paramount to NYC parents.


To illustrate and bring to life this key concept of choice and priorities we set out to honor a targeted group of NYC mothers who where shining examples of personal priorities in motion. We built a panel of 12 women who have chosen to live their passions through their NYC based businesses that touch other parents. The selected women all had unique POVs, successful businesses and were very real and aspirational NYC mothers. Also, each had a powerful following, ability to promote teutonia and an interest in fully engaging in our program. We centered our campaign around R Baby (a foundation focused on improving the quality of pediatric emergency care in the US) and in specific their Mother’s Day Run/Walk Family Fun Day (expected attendance 6-10,000) in Central Park. We would use this event as our launch, at which we would provide teutonia branded stroller parking, display a tuetonia, seed tuetonia’s to participating celebrities, and gather names via a tuetonia stroller giveaway. We would further create awareness by having celebrities sign and be shot with a teutonia on the event step and repeat, create a myriad of teutonia branded materials in the park and drive traffic to our post mother’s day events via promotional materials.

Mother’s Day in Central Park to benefit R Baby then dovetailed into an exciting series of “meet, greet and design” personal appearances with the Mother’s of Note – the 12 women who though their personal priorities and passions have built businesses that touch women in NY and around the world.

Integrated Communications Strategy:

The entire, HELLO NEW YORK promotion was supported by an integrated, layered communications strategy including:

Cookie in-book campaign

Cookie Advertorial

Cookie online campaign

Cookie dedicated emails

Teutonia microsite

Teutoinia POS materials

RBaby event materials

Rbaby website

Rbaby PR efforts

Rbaby Celebrity wrangling

Social Media outreach

Influencer level PR

Additional partnerships (Belly Bars, various authors)


Sales 35% Increase

Web traffic 400% increase

Brand Awareness:  Significant increase (focus group data)

Retailer Awareness: Significant increase (informal polling)