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9 posts from April 2007

April 30, 2007

30 years with Kellogg Raisin Bran and I switched to something new

Organic_raisen_brand After decades of eating either Kellogg Raisin Bran or oatmeal every morning, I've switched to something better - Kellogg ORGANIC Raisin Bran. I saw it offered for the first time at my local Market this weekend. I looked at the price (yep, higher) but it had the USDA Organic seal and that's all the further I had to go to know that it was walking the walk.

I'm one of those people that could eat cereal morning, noon and night.  I locked into Kellogg's Raisen Bran in my 20s, probably because I was living near Kellogg's hometown of Battle Creek. It's been my main bran and brand every since. I tried others and always went back. With 30 year's of taste testing experience, here's what I found:

For me, it was better. It seemed like I was eating something instead of munching down Raisin Bran lite. Yes, that also meant that it was less sugary. I can live with that, as can my expanding midlife waistline. What about the slightly higher price? I can't argue about pennies on cereal when I'm willing to pay $3 for a cup of coffee on the road. If my money's that tight, I'll forgo the coffee.

For those who don't know, there are two kinds of USDA Organic according to the list on page 60 of GRUB:

1. USDA 100% Organic is just that, 100% "certified" organic materials excluding water and salt.

2. USDA Organic, which is what the new Kellogg Organic Raisin Bran is, means that 95% of it is certified organic and the remaining 5% must be non-organic ingredients approved by the National Organic Standards Boards or non-organically produced agricultural products not commercially available in organic form.

For the record there are also "Made with Organic Materials" which is 70% or they can "list" organic materials on the list of ingredients, but that's sort of organic greenwash. Listing ONE organic product that's only in 8% of the product, isn't helping the cause very much.

Going "organic" doesn't mean I'll be 100% pesticide free, we have way too many decades of dumb farming techniques to overcome before that will happen, but the pesticide levels will be substantially lower.

Diane_maceachem Then there is Diane MacEachern's challenge on Big Green Purse - to swap out $1000 of consumer brown spending for $1000 of consumer green spending. Given my consumption level, I just switched out $160 during breakfast. I need to consistenly buy free trade/organic coffee and I could add $365 in just coffee. Then my cousin just told me that by eating more soy, her hot flashes are going away. Humm, time to add organic soy milk to the cereal and rack up another $100.

That's $625 and I haven't even started my day. This is going to be really easy, Diane. Are you such we shouldn't go for $2000 this year?

Thank you Kellogg, for making the swap out choice easier. Having such products INSIDE mainline stores where they are easier to buy, is what did it for me. (Bloggy disclosure: Kellogg didn't pay me to post this. I really do like the stuff.)

April 26, 2007

"900 Car Dealers ASK PATTY How to Become More Female-Friendly

Jody_devere I first met Jody DeVere, the President of Ask Patty, a year ago. I joked that I'll know when this "Marketing to Women" thing is working if car sales people become female-friendly. Thanks to Jody and thousands of her new best friends, the car industry is turning in the right direction. Over 900 dealers are interested in learning how to better serve women customers. Thank YOU "Patty"! (Patty, by the way, is a persona for all women)
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If anyone knows cars and women, it's Jody. She is the President of the Woman’s Automotive Association International, the premier women’s organization for women automotive professionals, a member of the Car Care Council Women's Board, a member of the California State Advisory Board for SkillsUSA, Chairperson of the United Spinal Motor Sports Committee, and a member of the SEMA Businesswomen's Networking Association
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Askpatty_logo She launched Ask Patty  May 21, 2006 as a way to help  women through their car buying and servicing angst.  The site started as a blog with a few links to experts who could answer questions. It's gone from a handful of women logging onto the site, to thousands coming through daily. Traffic has been increasing by 40% each month.
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Some of the new traffic comes from word of mouth or promotions, but most of it comes from having excellent user-friendly and useful content. If you haven't visited recently, besides answers to your most car challenging questions, you'll find:
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My Car Page. Log in your car and Ask Patty will send you reminders on when to get your car serviced based on manufacturer recommendations.  Jody told me, "Those recommendations really are mandatory for the car. Even if you don't drive it often, oil still breaks down, parts dry out and wheels start going flat."

Find Your Dream Car (without the pain and suffering shopping clause) Women can configure exactly what they want in a car and send out a Request For Quote. That puts them in the purchasing driver's seat.

• A $50,000 automotive Shopping spree. Is a new car out of your price range? Until July, you can take a chance at being able to pay cash for that dream car. [Did I fill out the form? You bet!]

• Ask Patty has a Second Life. If you're not one of the 5 million people who are already part of Second Life's virtual world, click here to be teleported inside. (You'll have to create your own fake version of yourself before being able to virtually walk around, but that's the fun of it.)
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Out of all the offerings, what has the most traffic?
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"About 80% of our questions are on repair and service issues," say Jody. "Women are coming in for reassurance that they are doing the right thing. We're more of a third base coach in that respect.  The second most popular spot are the Frequently Asked Questions section. We're not a complaint site," she stressed, " we're a problem solving site. Dealers need to grow in how they in how to better serve women, but women need to learn how to take better care of their cars as well. They can't ignore regular maintenance and then blame the dealership when things break down."
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What about the green issues. Is Ask Patty tracking them? "I'm impressed with what GM is doing," Jody responded, "They just brought in Beth Lowery as the VP of Environment and Energy.  She's responsible for everything up and down the food chain and GM's dedicated a whole site to the sustainable movement." [That means that not only is the car "green" but they are working at making the entire system for producing that car sustainable.]
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What's down the road for Ask Patty?
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"This summer we're  launching a feature for employment in the Auto industry. We've partnered with auto schools and universities and also dealerships," says Jody. "Jobs in the car industry are good, high paying jobs and with the increase in women buying car related service, women are also sought after as new hires." [73% of the people going through Service are women] 
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She continued, "These 2-year, vocational programs are a great place to start an automotive career, whether it's on the tech side, sales or management. A master tech in LA can make over $100,000 without doing the heavy lifting. Cars are getting less greasy and more computerized."
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Jody’s been a busy women. All that in less than a year because she knows how to leverage the power of women sincerely helping women in the marketplace. With her leadership, she is helping women, change products, change services and literally change the world.
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What are the take aways from this?
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1. If you're a women getting ready to buy a car, everything you will ever need to know going in and going forward is available to you on Ask Patty. You'll never have to wonder if you made the right decision.
2. If you're a marketer in a traditional field and wondering how to break into Social Media, follow Jody's lead. Get out there and mix with women's groups. Never dismiss any individual woman as being too "small" to talk to, you’ll never know who they know or what they'll write on their blog.
3. If car sales people are throwing away the plaid suit coat stigma, what is your company's sales force willing to do to earn the trust of their women customers?

In Jody We Trust!

April 23, 2007

I will if you will...

There's a new green theme in town. People are willing to make changes, but they are questioning the sanity of doing anything given that companies can undo months of carbon savings in a manufacturing minute. People are changing because their neighbor's are changing. Now they expect and demand that corporatations change as well.

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One of those questioning minds Is Faith, a 30-something mom who wants to do right by the environment, but wants her "right" to stick, too. Her blog "hippycrite" summarizes the frustration. To her I can say "Help is on the way." In the form of sustainable standards.

What's a sustainable standard? That's a question that even the most green can't quite answer. It you'd like a 10 minute lunch and learn, however, click here and watch the video. Granted it's a video to help CEO's learn why they should care about such things, but it will also help consumers. Give it a shot, and tell me what you think.

April 20, 2007

One Issue Campaign and Edward's One Corp

Who am I going to vote for this year? The person who shows the most leadership in preventing global warming. It's a one issue campaign as far as I'm concerned. Right now, I'm leaning towards John Edwards (and you thought I'd say Hilliary).

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Why Edwards? Because he has already put together a green core (called One Corp) to start working on the Global Warming problem BEFORE he is elected. That's great for saving the planet and also great for building a big base of supporters with their hearts and minds first. It's what leaders should do, bring people together for altruistic reasons other than just to "get them elected." That's leadership in action.

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I can see One Core cementing together the global warming action of millions of individuals - which is very cool. Global warming will take decades to fix. Keeping up the motivation will be the hardest part. Having a group of friends to share the experience with is critical. Magazines, websites, even other programs can provide ideas, but it's the "GROUPS" and good old peer pressure that will be the driving force to pull this off and change the direction of global warming. Ultimately, whomever is elected will be the commander and chief of those groups. If Edwards is elected, those who supported him and the global cause will already by organized and re-energized to put his plans into faster action.

Earth Day is upon us - Sunday, April 22 - it's time to get personally involved hugging trees and each other as we prepare for the ultimate test of our humanity.

April 19, 2007

Tapping into the Web's Power Influencers - WOMEN

Jory_des_jardins While I was taking some Unplugged R&R on the North Shore coast of Minnesota, Jory Des Jardins of BlogHer.org was carrying the message forward - Women rock as power influencers on the web and BlogHer is "The TV Guide" of women bloggers with 10,000 members telling millions of their "friends" what they like and don't like. (Simply Recipes has 1.5 million readers a month)

Jory presented her message and case study at WOMMA's spring conference to 300 attendees who wanted to learn how to do a better job creating "effective" word of mouth campaigns. Josh Hallett provided a great recap of a case study BlogHer did with The Find and Doctors Without Borders at the Word of Mouth conference yesterday.

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Do you have a sustainable product or service that you want women to champion to each other? This is where it can start.

April 16, 2007

CASE STUDY: Which rep would you buy from?

Once upon a time I lived in Minnesota. My first winter had a night so cold that ice formed on the inside of my dining room walls. That means I had an R factor of zip. On the other side of town, my gal pals offset their cold windows with plastic and blankets. I moved to OC, and this year they decided to end their winter chills by replacing 14 windows and two doors on their first floor. They ended up buying from the woman sales rep from Company B vs. the guy installer from Company A. Was it because of gender? You tell me.

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They went to the Minnesota fall home show and checked out Companies "A" and "B" because they both had wood frames that fit their needs. "Company A's" female show host didn't talk to them at all, but quickly introduced them to one of their installation subcontractors. After a short visit, they set up a time for him to come out and do measurements and provide a quote.

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Next they went to Company "B's" booth  and met another woman who talked with them at length at the show and later, she came to their home. She was there for 2-3 hours showing them samples of styles and frames and walking them through the energy and tax rebate savings. (They settled on the maple sills due to the two house cats that might catch a claw in soft pine. ) She also knew all the codes and told them how any window near a drain requires glass that shatters, like a car window, as it safer.  They felt safer knowing that.

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Then she went over the pros and cons of doors and how if they bought the screen doors at the local Lowes, instead of directly from the factory, that they could save some money. Later she worked tirelessly on the best financial package possible.

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As questions came up, she called in and got answers while they were talking. Finally she took out her wireless computer and printer and handed them a quote along with brochures.  The next day, she returned with paint samples for the front door that would later have to match the garage.

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When they  accepted the quote Company B sent out someone to do the final measurements. He noticed that the sills were a true 1 inch thick and not 3/4" like newer windows. No problem, they would custom make the sills to fit at no additional charge and match them to the trim of the other windows on the second floor. He also noticed that they didn't have fire alarms in two of the rooms and offered to put them in at no extra charge as well. And by the way, if the windows ever need readjusting, they'll come out and do it at no charge. The entire project would take 5 days.

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The other company? The subcontractor came at the appointed time,  took about an hour measuring windows and walking around the outside of the house. He talked very little and then mailed them an estimate. The price was $1500 less than the first bid. It was very fast, and very efficient and  less expensive.  Men might appreciate that kind of service, but for the women it didn't leave them feeling very good about this major upgrade.  The trust factor in the company and the product was lower.

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In the end, the sales rep who invested time in them is the one they invested in. Was it because of gender that she spent more time and went the extra steps with paint samples? You tell me.

April 09, 2007

Big Green Purse with CEO, Diane MacEachern

Diane_maceachem What would happen if a million women shifted $1000 a year to "green" products? Diane MacEachern, the founder and CEO of Big Green Purse wants to find out. She's looking for 1 million women to take the pledge and start researching and buying "green" when they need new products. 

Diane is passionate about empowering women to use their marketplace clout to protect the environment. Her best-selling book Save Our Planet: 750 Everyday Ways You Can Help Clean Up the Earth has been featured on national television programs ranging from CNN Headline News to Live with Regis and Kathie Lee to The ABC Network Television Earth Day Special and reprinted in Italy and Japan.

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Diane doesn't want women spending new money to change the world. She hopes they'll shift money they were going to spend anyway to buy products and services that are more "green." Her new site, BigGreenPurse.com is designed to take the confusion out of what's green versus what's being "greenwashed" for marketing purposes.

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"It's product selection with education," said Diane, " If I can help women change the way they buy,  then I've done my job. I want to make it easier for women to get the world they want by making their money matter. One way to do that is by simplifying environmental information.  BigGreenPurse.com translates the scientific mumbo jumbo into something that's accurate and useful to the average consumer."

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For example, she went on to explain,"Every woman should know that what's in her cosmetics could be linked to breast cancer. The Cosmetics industry is totally self-regulated.  They are only required to put a warning label on their products; it's up to consumers to determine the risks and results. 

We put 9-15 products on our skin each day, which equals about 126 chemicals. Think about how skin patches work, only now you have 126 different chemicals that you didn't approve of soaking into your skin."

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"It goes beyond breast cancer," she continued. "One cosmetic ingredient is phthalate, the chemical that makes plastic soft. Research is linking that chemical to why baby boys are ending up with feminized genitals.  Women would be stunned if they knew." [I'm guessing so would men.]

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The Million Women Pledge to shift $1000 is her mission.  "Women buy 80% of consumer products," she quoted. "If 1 million women intentionally started buying green products, companies would follow their lead. Not only is our health and the health of our kids at stake. Women's buying habits could help stop global warming."

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I asked her, why not just wait for the government to do something, isn't that what we're paying them to do?

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"I live in Washington D.C. People around here aren't talking seriously about climate change and how to get CO2 emissions down or how to subsidize solar energy development. They're mostly arguing about the war in Iraq," she responded.

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"There's also  the chance that the person you back will lose," she went on. "Millions of environmental action group dollars were put into Kerry's campaign. When he lost, we lost not only the investment, but time.  While we need to keep pressure on the politicians, it seems to me that keeping pressure on the market will provide a faster result."

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What about sustainable products, the ones that not only are energy efficient, but leave no carbon footprint in the making and recycling of them later?

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"As much as possible, I recommend companies whose environmental claims have been verified by a non-biased third-party like Green Seal. That's the only way to know if they're telling the truth or not. Companies have to prove that their claims to be eco-friendly and good for the planet are genuine," she said. [Green Seal is one of a dozen sustainable standards that companies can use.] 

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"Luckily, we have more choices today than we did even five years ago, " she continued. "Who would have thought Delmonte would be offering organic tomato sauce? Buying organic food is one way women could shift $1000 of their buying dollars. Purchasing compact fluorescent lightbulbs is another - and that will help reduce CO2 emissions, too. Green buying is a real win-win situation."

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I'm in. I've already made many changes to embrace sustainable products, but I'll be watching Diane's site for more suggestions to shift another $1000.

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She left me with this visual -- "Think of manufacturing as a big black bull. Your purse is like a bright green ring. Before you go shopping, reach into your purse and grab that big green ring - then, based on how you spend your money, slip the ring into the bull's nose. You'll be surprised how easily you can lead manufacturers in any direction you want!"

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One_in_a_million_module_2 Anyone want to give the ring a try? Sign up here.

For more Green Purse info:

Go to www.TheBigGreenPurse.com, www.TheWorldWomenWant.com or contact Diane at Diane@BigGreenPurse.com

Congrats to BlogHer's founders Elisa, Lisa and Jory

Lisa, Elisa and Jory are women we trust. They started it by putting up Blogging Community Guidelines for members of BlogHer back in January of 2006. As a new blogger, I was really grateful. It was scary enough to post a blog without knowing if I was committing some big faux pas out of stupidity. With guidelines, I knew where the lines were even if they were gray.

The NY Times gave the women top billing via a picture in the a recent article titled, A Call for Manners in the Nasty World of Blogs. As the first to publicize the concept, they deserve the recognition.

Do you have an opinion on the subject? Now's the time to give it, but please be civil.

April 02, 2007

March 26 - The Day Blogger Civility Pervailed

K_sierra2 Last week ,a moment in Social Media history happened. A key blogger, Kathy Sierra, publicly admitted to receiving  online death threats and consequently was afraid to leave her house. She canceled a public speaking engagement because of it. Over 1000 people who read Kathy's insightful ideas on Headrush sent messages of concern.

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Then the thing exploded. Type in Kathy Sierra on Topix.net and you'll get the latest info and see visually how the event generated talk all over the web.

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Kathy was afraid of death threats on line. Not good, but I would be MORE afraid if the world just let it slip by as another "oh well… boys will be boys (or girls)…" That didn't happen.

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Whew! Men and women everywhere jumped in and gave their opinions. NO ONE SAID "Stone the woman, she had it coming." Which in another place and time might have been the case. Group think would have taken over and one by one the crowd would have picked up their rocks out of fear that they would be the next victim.

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Not today and hopefully not ever again -- on the web anyway.

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The Wisdom of the Crowds, per se  took action and that action provided a higher intelligence and outcome that would not have happened in a closed system.  It gives me great hope for all things going forward, women's issues, global warming issues, mega company issues…  It proved to me  that the human heart, when left to beat on it's own, is basically good.  AND, that goodness is what will become the benchmark to follow. It didn't take a corporate policy nor a political one, only good people taking action.

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Think about it, a few thousand bloggers with opinions, have honored doing the right thing over going to the dark side. The unwritten rules are still being discussed, but the important message is that "good" has prevailed and a good benchmark will come out of it. March 26 should be celebrated as the day that civility ruled in an unstructured system.

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Kathy is ready to move on, no doubt a changed woman. I don't know her, but I'd like to extend my sincere thanks.  By exposing the bad in society Kathy, you also exposed the good.