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…
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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?
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.
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…
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.
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.
INFLUENCER MEETINGS OF THE MINDS
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…
CONFERENCES, SPEACHES, SESSIONS
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!
BABYMOON, PAMPERING, PLEASE!!!
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!
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!
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….
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?
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 – . www.momgenerations.com
Sarah Evans -Social Media Expert – UNDERSTATEMENT. Sara is excited to be pregnant with her first child. www.sevansstrategy.com
Samantha Ettus – Bestselling author, media personality and personal branding expert. Author of Forbes Personal Branding Blog. Mother of three beautiful children. www.samanthaettus.com and www.expertsmedia.com
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 People.com in 2008. www.bravadodesigns.com
Nicole Feliciano- Founder and Editor of Momtrends.com. Super savvy and connected Mother of two equally stellar breastfed daughters. www.momtrends.com
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?