She's Connected 2010: So, I'm connected, eh? (1/2)

About three or four weeks ago, a lot of buzz was going around on twitter about the very first She’s Connected Conference in Toronto. I did apply, not anticipating that I had even the remotest chance of getting an invitation. To my utter shock, I was issued an invitation and, after doing a happy dance, I did what I had to do to make sure I could go!

So, last Tuesday that I left work early in anticipation of picking up a car provided by GM Canada’s Media Relations Manager, Adria MacKenzie. I contacted Adria on behalf of the group of women I was going to be travelling to the She’s Connected Conference with to see if they would be willing to provide a sponsored vehicle for our drive down. We were given a Chevy Traverse without hesitation and with surprising ease.

When I heard we would be in a crossover that seated 7, I thought we’d have plenty of room. On our way down to the conference, this held true. However, after adding our She’s Connected swag, it was a tight squeeze for the ride home. That’s more indicative of the amount of stuff we received than it is a complaint about the amount of room in the vehicle. It was a very nice car loaded with just about every option - from satellite radio to GPS to a rearview camera for backing up. We really rode in style to and from the conference.

On Wednesday morning, I was wide awake at 5:00am, ready for the day to begin. Our group suffered a couple of mishaps due to my bleary-eyed directional errors, but we eventually all made it to the conference around 8:15ish - hungry and ready for coffee. We were greeted with hugs at the coat check by an enthusiastic Donna Marie Antoniadis; it was an unexpected surprise that she was passing that way as we came in. Her excitement was infectious and I began to look forward to the day even more.

We started off the morning by receiving our Kobo e-book readers and then having a presentation from Marina Glogovac, Chief Marketing Officer at Kobo, Inc. She told us about this “little Canadian company that could” compete against the big boys - like Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader. Having used the Kobo for a few days, I’m not so sure their product has the potential to beat the more established e-book readers that are on the market right now. I’m a fairly technologically experienced and proficient user and I find the interface and setup are not terribly intuitive.

I really want to like this product, because it is Canadian-made and the spirit of the company is so positive. I genuinely enjoyed the presentation and found myself getting excited about using the Kobo from it. The Kobo is quite a simple device and I’m really trying to like it, but when I had to type in my email address to connect to my account to sync my books over wi-fi, it took me about 5 minutes since it doesn’t have a qwerty keyboard. So far it just hasn’t met my expectations of what I want from a really good e-reader. I’m curious to know what Kindle, Sony Reader and other e-reader users would say about their devices. Perhaps they have similar issues. Personally, I happen to be ultra-picky about single-use devices because it’s a large expense to incur for one purpose. That’s one reason why I haven’t purchased an e-reader to date.

When Kobo finished, we got to hear from Dianne McComb, an Egg Farmer. I was really pleasantly surprised to hear the answer to a question I’d been discussing with my mother-in-law just a couple weeks before during our Thanksgiving dinner. I learned that when you boil eggs and go to peel them and the egg white comes of with the shell, that means the egg is quite fresh. The older the egg, the better the peel separates from the white of the egg. I’d always thought it meant they were underdone.

I have to admit that my initial reaction to the Egg Farmers being at the conference was a big “Huh?” However, after the presentation and thinking it through a bit, I realized it was a really good match. Most of us in the room were moms and as such, we’re concerned about feeding our children a healthy, balanced diet. One that doesn’t include too much cholesterol. And, according to a nutritionist at the conference, eggs don’t affect your cholesterol. Sure, many would debate that, but let’s put it this way: If I eat 2 eggs every day, it’s going to have a lot less effect on my cholesterol (if any) than if I ate an 8oz. steak every day. I love eggs and I do eat them nearly every day. Brandon gets them several times a week and I feel good about that. (Also, I’ve never had high cholesterol.)

The keynote address by Joanne Thomas Yaccato, President and Founder of The Thomas Yaccato Group really struck a chord with me. The title was “What marketers need to know about marketing to women, and getting women to embrace their brand”. Her opening remarks pointed to who makes decisions in households. She quoted the statistic that 25-30% of women say they decide jointly what products to purchase. However, upon further discussion, even that 25-30% admit that the woman independently researches and presents her case to her partner. “It’s a joint decision. I find it and I convince him he loves it.”

She showed us fabulous examples of ad campaigns gone horribly wrong when companies “feminize” rather than “humanize” their brand. Then she gave examples of gender-targeted ad campaigns that hit the mark and succeeded. The best example was the Toyota Sienna ads from a few years ago. Remember the commercial with the sporty car our in the desert doing stunt driving? Then the camera changes the angle and you see it’s actually a minivan? Yeah, that ad made my husband want a minivan. (FTR, I said no.) The corresponding ad geared to women highlighted all of the safety and kid-friendly features, as told by a mom - although it still didn’t make me want to take the minivan plunge. :)

The quote of the day for many was, “Humanizing does not mean feminizing. It’s about making it real, not making it pink.” I’ve been bothered for a long time by some of the gender-based campaigns that “feminize” by dumbing down products, or by making them fashionable accessories. I’m a woman and I do like pretty things, but I find it insulting that marketers think I’d sooner buy from a site that’s pink and has a focus on women than be able to find what I want on their main site.

Sidneyeve Matrix’s presentation was a really fascinating discussion of broad generational traits among moms in particular, their online activities and how they buy: 

If I had any criticism at all about this presentation, it would be that it could have included GenXers as well since there were quite a few of us in the room. There were some who disagreed with some of the information that was shared, but that’s bound to happen with generalizations. Overall, the statistics that Sidneyeve quoted were eye-opening to us as bloggers and should be factored in by brands when they are doing their marketing. Women (moms) are a very fast-growing group online. We influence each other daily through Twitter, Facebook, our blogs and other online tools as well. Companies who are willing to work with us and recognize the value we provide can benefit from the communities we’re building. But first, the need to have a plan.

*****

As you can see, I have a lot to say about this conference. In my next post, I’m going to talk about the brands and I have a few thoughts about how the conference went as well! If you’ve done a post about She’s Connected, please leave the link!