Kernels of Truth About Marketing to Women: Knowledge@Wharton (


Kernels of Truth About Marketing to Women
Published : August 30, 2000 in Knowledge@Wharton

In EVEolution: The Eight Truths of Marketing to Women, trend maven Faith Popcorn discusses what women want…from on-site tailoring service at women’s clothing stores (yes!) to being asked for their opinion by the companies they deal with. "Women and men are as different shop-ologically as they are biologically," says Popcorn. And given the importance of women in the marketplace - Popcorn claims they "control or influence 80% of all consumer spending" – surely, this is a worthy topic for a book. But for our money ($26.70 including tax), we’d like a worthier book than this one.

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The problem is that Popcorn (whose narrative has been set down in first-person format by colleague and co-author Lys Marigold) is a lot better at pronouncing her "Marketing Truths" than providing evidence for them. For example, Popcorn describes how Jiffy Lube, a client of her BrainReserve consulting firm, has taken her advice on connecting with female car owners. "Guns and Ammo is not preferred reading in the waiting room," Popcorn notes. She reports that, today, when a woman drives in to a Jiffy Lube, an employee introduces himself to her. And, if the woman wants to stay in her car while it’s being serviced (say, because her child is sleeping in the back seat), that’s fine. Sounds like sensible marketing. But don’t you want to know whether following this advice has increased the number of Jiffy Lube’s female customers? Improved its bottom line? Improved the morale of employees? Anything? Popcorn doesn’t say. In another chapter, Popcorn describes how Nabisco came to her firm for help after sales of its Snackwell’s brand of cookies slid from $270 million to $200 million in just two years. Why had the cookie crumbled? As Popcorn explains it, women who are not as skinny as Ally McBeal were dismissing fat-free cookies as the answer to their "body issues." What was needed, she advised, was an effort to "nourish women’s self esteem." And because moms are associated with cookies (as well as apple pie), the best way to do this was for Snackwell’s to sponsor mother-daughter workshops on self-esteem. These were successful, she says, without quantifying exactly how successful. As it happens, Promo magazine hailed these workshops, as executed in 27 markets by WatersMolitor of Minneapolis, as one of the 10 best promotions of 1999. Snackwell’s sales, which had slipped 25% in 1998, rose by 3% in 1999. But articles elsewhere last year reported that Snackwell’s sales had declined because consumers didn’t like the taste. Cookie buyers finally balked at sacrificing good taste to get fat-free, especially since Snackwell’s still had lots of calories. Nabisco responded by adding back some grams of fat (even if not as much as in Oreos) to restore taste. Shouldn’t that have been mentioned? A book about marketing should point out that what Nabisco really did was to tie a savvy promotion with a reformulation of the product. Such an explanation would only be recognizing that (to use the title of one of EVEolution’s chapters) Everything Matters. In a book on how women are "different" from men, it matters that many of its examples are in areas in which men and women do not differ at all. To cite just one: Popcorn drops the statistic that less than 10% of women-owned businesses with fewer than 25 employees offer disability insurance as a benefit. You might conclude from this that insurance companies are ignoring the potential of women business owners. But just one call to the Health Insurance Association of America reveals that the statistic is true for all
  All materials copyright of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.                    Page 1 of 2 

nanospan. could become Life Depot.’" Fugazy Limousine Service. that the book even starts out with a five-page glossary. This is a single/personal use copy of Knowledge@Wharton. Popcorn pops many kernels of ideas on what Revlon could do to regain its old glamour. Department stores." she asks. but even the magazine admits it was Popcorn (in The Popcorn Report) who gave the trend its identifying name: Cocooning. and TrendProbe). Ron Perelman should buy this book. She just lets loose. The Popcorn Report and Clicking were best-sellers. Popcorn points out. a computer repair person. In every chapter. and uses one cutesy catch phrase after the other.wharton. please contact PARS International: reprints@parsintl. posters or plaques.upenn. e-mail access in the dressing rooms. e-prints. "Why can’t Revlon become the facilitator of women’s support groups?" Why not sell Revlon products from a cart that is wheeled right into offices? Why not put Revlon advertising on the side of a tampon? If only because of its notion that Revlon needs to do something. Popcorn addresses herself directly to corporate titan Ron Perelman. baby sitting services run by trained professionals. What Popcorn does best in EVEolution is to brainstorm ideas. Office Depot. In the best chapter in the book. she offers a bunch of ideas she thinks would win over women. opines Popcorn.Kernels of Truth About Marketing to Women: Knowledge@Wharton (http://knowledge. She does this in that best-of-brainstorming tradition that says nothing is too way out or too silly to suggest because you never know where a good idea will come from. to ferry its employees’ children home from school or to a friend’s house. says This seems like overdoing it. drops in a plug for a company her co-author owns on the side. For multiple copies. could make use of "dead time" that falls between taking an executive to and from a meeting. ‘Besides the ream of fax paper … send me a case of Coke … and a chili dinner for four.cfm?articleid=234) firms with fewer than 25 employees. Popcorn includes a pitch for a line of home office furniture she helped develop.   All materials copyright of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. thereby pleasing female employees. custom reprints. You may not mind that. but there’s no denying that Popcorn’s fascination with word play (starting with changing her last name from the much less catchy Plotkin in 1969) has served her well. if you are a Faith Popcorn fan (and her two previous books. "offering a selection of last-minute items for the hard-pressed female small-business owner. (212) 221-9595 x407. Really now. American Demographics magazine may claim to have been first (in 1985) in noticing that baby-boomers were turning into homebodies. owner of Revlon. But first. each targeted to a type of company or even a specific company. after all) you will consider the comments above to be minor quibbles. has taken "one of the great global brands" and moved it just this side of oblivion. There are so many Popcornisms in EVEolution (like blamestorming. lavishly praises her own company. offers kudos to her clients. she suggests. should offer shuttle buses from the far reaches of their parking lots or free valet parking. in serving up her latest message. Perelman. and P. among other companies.                    Page 2 of 2  . child psychologists in the toy department. She doesn’t get into cost-benefit ratios or other dull stuff. "Why can’t Revlon sponsor a new kind of beauty pageant – focusing on beauty from within. we’re not so sure. Possibly. For others. brand-me-down.

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