Tag Archives: #Marketing

Sew What? Struggling with Gender Bias in Marketing

This morning’s coffee conversation with Linda was, not surprisingly, work related.  After all we are not only life partners, but business partners.

Linda is taking a foundation course in digital media marketing at the University of Toronto and was preparing an assignment, a digital brief for a marketing campaign.  As part of the process she was mapping a persona, and over the course of an hour the “client” had morphed into a 30/45-year-old male.

What she submitted was not that persona, but a gender neutral one.  She said “I don’t want to bias my efforts in a sexist way” or something like that.  I’m paraphrasing because her actual conversation is more vernacular, steered in part by my caffeine deprived grunts and urgency to be somewhere else.  But that’s the gist of it.

She concluded by saying “we both try to avoid sexism:  after all, you raised two daughters alone as a single parent.”

That left me remembering sewing sequins on a little pair of ballet briefs.  This is 1991; there were no YouTube videos to help me out or sequin sewing hacks (yes there are videos and hacks today).

You can’t imagine my horror after being handed two pieces of fabric, patterns and two little kits of ribbon and sequin for Cara and Shannon’s outfits.  To say that I was way out of my comfort zone is an understatement.  And changing my look from pleading to plaintive didn’t elicit any sympathy because I’m sure the women in the room were just as overwhelmed as I was.

After borrowing a sewing machine and practicing on scrap fabric I did a respectable job of putting together two little pairs of ballet shorts and two jumpers.  Stringing the gold and silver ribbon and tacking it on was a little more frustrating and I’m sure I left both the outfits overengineered and nothing short of a hurricane was going to lift the ribbon off.

But sequins …

I’m 6’2” and my hands are, um, largish.  It stands to reason that my fingers are just as proportionally large.  In fact, I could fit four sequins side by side along the width of my index finger.  I learned a few things along the way:

  1. Alcohol does not improve your disposition. After all scotch may having a calming effect it does little to improve fine motor skills;
  2. Sewing needles hurt. If you stab your forefinger and thumb enough it stops bleeding but just gets more and more sore and swollen;
  3. Taking an industrial approach to sewing with a long lead of thread lest I keep rethreading the blasted needle only means I will tangle everything up in it, or better yet, sew myself into the work. There is nothing more ignominious than standing up to discover four sequins ago your T-shirt became part of the project;
  4. Throwing the sequins across the room in a fit of temper only means that I must get on my hands and knees and pick each one up individually. Have you ever tried to pick up sequins with a swollen index finger and thumb devoid of any feeling?

I was justifiably proud of my effort and was beaming when I appeared at the girl’s recital.  I was looking for praise but ended up grousing when I didn’t get it.

A woman looked at me and mocked “oh poor baby.  I don’t know what your problem is.  When you go out to work in the morning, you put on a shirt and tie and don’t deal with half the shit we do.”

It took me a long time to get over my anger and come to terms with what she said.  She was right; whatever disadvantages I had being a man raising two daughters, they disappeared in other roles in my life.

I’m alert to sexism and double standards in the media.  I suppose because of that I can get more than a little self-righteously indignant when ads aimed at women pandering to a view that men are somehow more immature, childish and worthy of being mocked.  But then I stop myself.  It’s just wrong.  Any other comment I may make comes from the perspective of being a middle-aged white man of privilege.

I don’t know whether it is appropriate to segment a market according to any dimension that is inherently prejudicial – sexist or racist.  On the other hand, when contemplating a media spend it is obvious that in business you want to maximize the results with a dollar spent.

I find taking a business stand not to promulgate or reinforce a gender bias confusing.  I don’t think there is a rule book or set of standards that can help me hack the right way to be.  Out of respect for Linda’s decision, however, gender isn’t going to be part of our market segmentation.

I know that I am going to offend people from time to time.  But I continue to listen and adapt and do my best to be fair, egalitarian and open.  The rest is just sequins – just got to suck it up and get over myself.

#marketing #lifestyle #gender #equality #parenthood

David Chellew and Linda Odnokon have been life partners and in business together for almost 19 years.  During that time, they have mellowed into their respective roles and enjoy working with individual investment clients. Dave is a Portfolio Manager and Linda is an Investment Advisor with iAS and work out of the co-work space Brightlane on King West in downtown Toronto.

Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). iA Securities is a trademark and business name under which Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. operates.

This information has been prepared by David Chellew, Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of IAS. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the type of publication and are subject to change. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any the securities mentioned. For more information about IAS, please consult the official website at www.iasecurities.ca. David Chellew can open accounts only in the provinces where he is registered.

Value #5 Business and Digital Disruption: Perspective

Value #5 Business and Digital Disruption:  Perspective

Being a single parent when my daughters Cara and Shannon were toddlers meant keeping them on a schedule and providing for them.  Being too busy to enjoy some of the miracles of seeing through a young one’s eyes wasn’t all that unusual.  And being blinded by the stresses, trials and tribulations of everyday life meant that even when I wanted to, I couldn’t.

This past Friday I took the day off work and got to slow down a bit accompanying my oldest grandson, Alessio, on his adventures.  Going to see the dinosaurs at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) was as much about the journey there and back and giving him freedom to wander around the galleries that caught his interest.

I couldn’t help but notice that as much as we say that ‘childhood is wasted on children’ it was the parents who were rushing around ticking off the requisite destinations and once arriving rushing to and fro making sure to hit all the high points and exhibits.  Childhood is more often wasted on them.

As a grandparental I not only have the luxury of time if I wish to take it, but the great advantage of living close to many enriching opportunities, and can seek the opportunities to see the world through a two-year old’s eyes.

The fact that the ant crawling along the cracks of the sidewalk in Queen’s Park was more exciting than the prospect of seeing the dinosaurs at that one point shouldn’t have surprised me.  I was fascinated by Alessio’s focus on the insect struggling to climb up and around mountainous boulders in its path that to us were smaller than pebbles.  Only when he had satisfied himself by removing the “boulder” was he prepared to move on to his next adventure.

We all move about with blinders on.  I’m not sure we could cope with the constant bombardment of stimuli if we didn’t.  But if having perspective means having a broad vision, doing so from the tunnel of our own needs, experiences and expectations limits us to the often-heard refrain, “I should have seen that” or “I knew that!”

If there is one value that the advice-giving channel has as a competitive advantage, it is our ability to create and maintain perspective for our clients.  It doesn’t serve as a governor or limiter on actions or client behavior (in other words a conscience).   Instead we can provide a balance from which to make more informed decisions.  What a client does with their money is not my concern, but telling them the consequences of their decisions is.

Blowing past the blinders in social media can be difficult.  How far do I push provocation?  How blunt do I need to be?  What should my image be?  If I can’t get past people’s elaborate paradigms, particularly as wholesale change threatens the very foundation of those elaborate mental structures, how can I ask them to see my perspective as valid even though I resorted to some sort of shock approach?

Surfing through my morning social media take, I continue to be surprised by the depth and breadth of “sex, drugs and rock and roll” in messaging.  The seven deadly sins, or as a friend, mentor and supervisor from earlier in my career summed it up, “fear, greed and envy” are equally prominent.

My thirst for perspective, whether dealing with the sloppy commodity markets or with the specter of looming interest rate increases, is a combination of experience and an academic thirst for knowledge.  Communicating it and blowing past investor’s preconceptions is both a function of making bold statements and using bold imagery.

In fact, of the five values that forms our professional value proposition, it is this one that I work hardest at and yet the images we choose to use have the biggest impact.

But what I cannot do is rely on sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). iA Securities is a trademark and business name under which Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. operates.

This information has been prepared by David Chellew, Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of IAS. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the type of publication and are subject to change. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any the securities mentioned. For more information about IAS, please consult the official website at www.iasecurities.ca. David Chellew can open accounts only in the provinces where he is registered.

Value #3 Business and Digital Disruption: Simple Answers

If I can’t leave you with that “smack yourself in the head, why didn’t I think of that” feeling, then I’ve failed.

All too often in the past I took what was self-evident to me and dressed it up in ‘tails and top hat’.

If I look at my success as a university lecturer, it was that I could build a simple paradigm for my students and bolt on or take off the complexity as it was necessary.  Instead I have been altogether too prone to dress up my ideas in finery, but a pig in a gown is still a pig.  Too bad you’re now focused on the pig.

This past weekend I spent a lot of time surfing through videos and making notes on what moved me, what inspired me and what amused me.  In every case, the proposition being communicated to me was short, simple and direct.  Leaving aside classic videos of fails for which I have an infinite patience and morbid fascination, I found myself flipping to the next one if the video failed to stay within the tight boundaries.

Even the ‘crystal kid’ stuff I used to tease Linda mercilessly about was interesting.  In every case, and I twice typed the video scripts out to be sure, they averaged three minutes in length, had less than 250 words of dialogue and regardless of their production value stuck to three points.

Let me use early retirement as an example.

Our ability to retire is dependent on three things – how much will I need, how much I can save and how much I already have.

I can take any of those three things and break them down into three more, and those three, three more.

What doesn’t help is that all that extraneous data muddies the fact that the three most important variables must be answered before any active consideration of the rest.  And if in the interests of proving how smart I am if I write a thesis and try to introduce all those extraneous points all I’ve done is disquieted you, frustrated you or bored you.

If I’m reaching out to you in a digital world, I am altogether too conscious of how easy it is for you to click your mouse without ever having to say, “next”.

So, what are my three principals of simple answers:

  1. If you can’t provide simple communications you don’t know the issue;
  2. If you can’t frame simple communications you don’t know your audience;
  3. If you won’t speak simply you’re too busy trying to impress yourself.

Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund  (CIPF) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). iA Securities is a trademark and business name under which Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. operates.

This information has been prepared by David Chellew, Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of IAS. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the type of publication and are subject to change. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any the securities mentioned. For more information about IAS, please consult the official website at www.iasecurities.ca. David Chellew can open accounts only in the provinces where he is registered.