Friday, July 15, 2011

A pantyliner just for you. And you. And you.

Before I get into my latest incrankulous marketing moment, let’s get a brief refresher on 21st century western civilization. Specifically, we have the following television programs assaulting us on a regular basis, in the name of entertainment:

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

Real Housewives of Everywhere You Can Think Of

Holly’s World

My Super Sweet Sixteen

Teen Mom

16 and Pregnant

Jersey Shore


Bad Girls Club

The Girls Next Door

If I wanted to label these very generously, I could put them all in the “isn’t giving everyone a chance to express themselves a wonderful thing?” bucket. I could put them in the enlightened and forgiving “no barriers, no rules, no judgments” bucket. Or I could add them to the “Lighten up, Francis” bucket.

On the other hand, I could use my fallback, overused phrase that too often captures my feelings: we’re doomed.

If you aren’t familiar with most of these shows, congratulations and hope you’re enjoying C-SPAN, Rick Steves and the Nat Geo channel. I’ll admit I’ve never watched a single episode of any of these programs but I know enough about them to know they’re base and juvenile. They’re mindless distractions full of caricatures masquerading as real people.

But that’s not really what this post is about. I’ve listed some of cable’s most offensive, lurid, unprincipled (and most popular!!) shows to put some context around a recent marketing program from Kotex. It's built around something called U by Kotex Tween line, products that are no doubt an attempt to encourage proper spelling among adolescent girls. Kidding. The pads and liners are designed to fit a young girl’s smaller shape comfortably. Got it. As a woman who remembers the “belt” required in the old days (How hideous and dark-ages were they?), I applaud the good sense that resulted in these products. Unfortunately, the good sense may end there.

The pads also include “tween-inspired” designs and the package has glitter on it. I don’t know what tween inspired designs are. Perhaps they’ve added a silhouette of Justin Bieber to the pad itself. Or a shimmering Edward Cullen. Turns out they’re colorful hearts and flowers and swirls. I’ve always believed that getting your period isn’t exactly a designer moment and not one bit of glitter will make it more festive. But I’m not in marketing at Kotex and maybe this initiative will add more fun to the entire experience, at least for tweens.

Brief aside 1: I want Kotex to introduce “woman-of-a-certain-age” inspired designs on pantyliners. (They can skip the package glitter.) I’m thinking a Colin Firth / Hugh Jackman / Josh Holloway / Hugh Grant / Brad Pitt combo pack would do it.

Brief aside 2: And as long as they’re adding a design, they can add a little microchip, similar to the kind that get embedded in greeting cards these days. You can imagine this, right? Believe me, there were times in my life where I would have celebrated the arrival of my period by opening up a pad that played “Happy Days Are Here Again.” Right? You would have, too, admit it.

Back to Kotex and their tween products. Here’s the part of the marketing story that really startled me. Keeping in mind the list of programs that introduced this post, programs that reach everyone who has basic cable or a satellite dish, you may be surprised to learn the following statistics, courtesy of the Kotex research:

One in three young girls has no idea what’s happening when she gets her first period. One in three. Has NO IDEA. Disturbing.

Four out of five Moms feel “only somewhat or not at all” prepared to talk to their daughter about her changing body. Four out of five. That’s 80%. “Only somewhat.” Or “NOT AT ALL.”

What? How is this possible? I can’t figure out what’s so complex or confounding about being “prepared” to talk with your daughter. How could it be that when we had exactly twelve channels on our television sets and no Google, no “Real World” and no daycare centers in the local high schools, our mothers found a way to inform themselves – and us - about our changing bodies? They handed over that belt, that enormous pad, designed very specifically to fit every woman on the planet, and then explained that we were growing up. I don’t think my mother felt over-prepared or under-prepared to discuss this rite of passage with her three daughters. As I remember it, she was calm, pragmatic and factual. Very little drama, with just the right amount of “you’re growing up!!” emotion on her part.

I can only assume that about 30% of the tween girls who watch “16 and Pregnant” don’t learn one thing about menstruation and conception and pregnancy. Isn’t there at least one moment in every episode where the young mother explains the failure of her birth control, the absence of her period and the confirmation of her pregnancy? Certainly this chain of events would prompt a question or two from the audience. Then again, maybe that explains “16 and Pregnant.” Maybe no one is asking, nor answering, questions.

In typical 21st century fashion, Kotex has turned to the web to refresh their message and help inform and yes, empower, mom to “pick her day to talk to her daughter about her first period.” God forbid moms didn’t feel empowered to do so. The press release I read included this nugget: “…Kimberly Clark believes informing moms and tweens on the topic is the right thing to do because so many are unprepared for menstruation and reaching tweens at this age can mean building strong relationships for life.”

Translation: “We want young girls to use Kotex products from day one so they use them for the next forty years.” Fair enough. Product loyalty is key and every marketer wants a customer for life. But the part about “so many” being unprepared is confusing. Then again, their research and statistics seem to indicate everyone is confused: the girls, one third of whom are uninformed at best and terrified at worst when they get their first period; and their moms, 80% of whom are “somewhat” or “not at all” prepared to discuss menstruation with their daughters.

The only good news I found in this story was that no experts or advisors used the phrase “teachable moment.”

I can only wonder if Trojan has been watching this product launch with interest. What’s next? Condoms with "ink" on them? Condoms covered with team logos? I can’t wait to read about that campaign.

Oh, and P.S. Kotex just wrapped up a “design your own pad” contest. More on this in another post. Honestly, it’s just too nonsensical to add this discussion.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Six months in. Six to go.

This post is overdue and apologies to anyone who may have wondered about my whereabouts. (Thanks to those who sent a note! Very kind of you.)

No, I haven’t given up on the run, and no one is more surprised than I. In fact, I found myself more than on track as I hit the six-month mark. We’ll see what the next six months bring in terms of time, health and stamina.

I’m somewhere near Dansville, NY, which as far as I can tell from Google, is the nation’s number one spot near something else. And if I were more of an “outdoor” girl, I’d be delighted to find myself living there on a year round basis. From the town’s Chamber of Commerce, I learned the following (bold my own):

Just five minutes south of the Village is Stony Brook State Park with 130 trailer and tent sites. Letchworth State Park—the “Grand Canyon of the East”—with its breathtaking waterfalls, can be found 15 minutes to the west. Dansville also has three other major campgrounds in the immediate area.

Fishing, boating and hunting, and snowmobiling are in ample supply in the surrounding hillsides and nearby lakes and streams. Swain and Bristol ski & snowboard centers are both within 30 minutes of Dansville offering ample winter recreational activities.

Dansville is surrounded by fertile farmland, rolling wooded hillsides, lakes, streams and is adjacent to the southern part of Livingston County. With a population of around 6,000 Dansville offers small town charm, yet is near some of New York State's largest cities. [Rochester - 45 miles north; Buffalo - 65 miles to the northwest, Corning - 60 miles to the south. Let’s face it, when you’re in upstate NY, an hour plus drive to somewhere else is around the corner.]

Located near the scenic Finger Lakes, Dansville offers numerous attractions year round. Nearby are Letchworth (The Grand Canyon of the East) and Stony Brook State Parks, SUNY-Geneseo, SUNY Alfred, Alfred University, Wineries and Ski resorts.

Brief aside: Just as when I "ran" near Clark's Summit, PA, my past beckons. I had clients near Alfred, NY about twenty three years ago and drove here to see them and spent time in the area. I remember stopping into a drugstore / coffee shop at the time. [In the dark ages, there were no Starbucks in every hamlet in America and almost every store or restaurant was by default, "local."] There were coffee cups of all kinds hanging on hooks behind the counter and I asked about them. The woman there told me her customers - the people in the town - just leave their own mugs in the restaurant so when they come in, they each use their own over and over again. Makes everything easier on everyone. The staff knows everyone by name and by coffee mug. I kind of love that. [If anyone knows if this place is still around, in or near Alfred, NY, I'd love to hear about it.]

So here it is by the numbers as of July 1:

239+ miles complete

210+ to go to reach

Goal: 450(ish) from Allentown to Toronto(ish).

I’m ahead of my pace by about 14 miles, which I still can’t quite explain. And July has started out strong. If my back, knees and hips hold out, I’ll be in good shape to finish on time and reach my numbers.

And what have I learned? That I’m not a “natural” runner. Every mile, while not torturous, isn’t entirely enjoyable. Shouldn't it get easier? Or more fun? (I'm really asking. If anyone has any wisdom here, I'd appreciate hearing it.) My timing has picked up and I’m mostly back to my regular pace – running 3.25 miles in about 34 minutes. At my age, and given my lifelong history of non-athletic pursuits, I think that's respectable. Reminded myself this month a few times that running with music results in a longer and faster run. Added The Princess Bride and Toy Story 3 to my TV running playlist. Acknowledged once again the relentlessly sentimental Irish genes in me (thank you, Dad) when I teared up at the end of The Natural and Everybody’s Fine, after catching only the last fifteen or twenty minutes of each.

And on that note, I think I’m being too hard on Dansville. The town hosts the New York State Festival of Balloons every fall, which sounds lovely. It may even have a coffee shop with mugs for everyone in town.

I should have run slower.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Well, I know I'll feel safer in the air, now.

“We are conducting a top to bottom review of the way we operate our air traffic control system. We are all responsible and accountable for safety–from senior FAA leadership to the controller in the tower. Employees at the FAA work diligently every day to run the safest air transportation system in the world. But I will continue to make whatever changes are necessary to ensure we concentrate on keeping the traveling public safe.” FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, April 16, 2011

“…the agency and the controllers association said they are also working on developing new work schedule "principles" aimed at reducing fatigue. They said those principles will be ready in 14 months if not sooner…”
USA Today, July 1, 2011

Clearly, this is getting top priority in terms of research and a plan of action.

In a display of uncommon common sense rarely found in a government agency, the FAA has gone on record with some new rules: air traffic controllers may now listen to music and read "appropriate" materials in order to remain awake and alert during their shifts.

Let’s face it. We have nothing but government agencies in DC. If I had to fix the “sleeping on the job” problems in control towers from coast to coast, I’d turn to at least one of them for some help. Why not try?

From the ‘Glass Is Half-Full’ department: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will fund a multi-million dollar study to conduct preliminary, exploratory research to begin to get a rudimentary understanding of the sleep / wake cycles of air traffic controllers. Since they appear to be the only adults in America able to sleep easily and soundly without medical assistance, mimicking the conditions found in air traffic control towers in bedrooms across the country may bring an end to insomnia, or at least teach the rest of us how to grab a nap anytime, anywhere. The researchers expect to publish an abstract of the study sometime in the fall of 2019.

From ‘The Answer Is Right Under Your Nose’ department: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will sponsor a photo contest, where controller’s can post creative, hilarious images of co-workers asleep on the job. Citizens can vote on their favorites on the NEA / ATC fan page on Facebook. Prizes include a year’s supply of Perfect Liquid Protein, plus two gadgets that may help keep the winner alert and responsive: Light Relief Light Therapy and the Sunlight 365, all courtesy of, coincidentally enough, Skymall. The runner-up gets a choice between a packable walking stick and a genuine Handmade Irish Shillelagh, both perfect for awakening a dozing colleague.

From the ‘Turning Lemons Into Lemonade’ department: To keep people awake and alert, and to add some “fun” to the job, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will sponsor 24/7 Texas Hold’em Tournament, open only to FAA ATC employees. Players log in and then ante up at the beginning of each shift. If and when an aircraft demands their attention, they sit out a hand or two. Winnings get deposited into PayPal accounts and five percent of each evening’s proceeds will be paid toward reducing the deficit. A CBO spokesperson claims this alone will get the budget into the black in about eleven weeks.

Finally, from the ‘Silver Lining’ department
: the White House has expanded its “Let’s Move” initiative into control towers from coast to coast. Controllers can now use a Sit-N Stroll Deluxe, a Spring Flex UB and an ePulse Heart Rate Monitor band to make sure no one overdoes it while they log miles on a stepper and build upper body strength, all while never leaving their desks.

The FAA itself continues to address the problem in that special way only a government agency can: by throwing more money and people at the problem. Now we have two people doing the job of one by adding more personnel to the towers where controllers have fallen asleep. This not only creates more wakefulness, it creates more jobs.

If only the private sector would follow suit – and hire two people to do a one-person job - we’d have everyone back to work in no time.