Monday, October 29, 2012

Give Me Cookies For Breakfast Anyday.

Dear Belvita Brand Managers,

I couldn't find your delicious blueberry Belvita breakfast biscuits the other day.  My routine was off and instead of going to Target to load up on household staples, I had to head to Walmart.  No one really wants to be there, but, as you know,  the retailer is a necessary evil.  I was running errands, out of baby formula, and only 1/2 a mile from one of Sam Walton's megastores.  Uggg.

I decided to make the best of a bad situation and grab a few household necessities while there.  In the cereal aisle, planning to grab a box or five or your delicious breakfast morsels, I became quite distressed when I couldn't find you.  I walked up and down the aisle several times, stumped as to where you'd hidden.  Fairly confident you would not let this massive product launch slip through WM's retail clutches, I continued my search.

As I exited the breakfast aisle, I ran into a giant Belvita display that said something about breakfast being different forevermore and directing me to the cookie aisle.


My eyes went wide, my blood turned to ice, and I gasped loudly imagining what a nightmare the negotiations were that created this endcap.

I imagine the conversation was some variation of this:

You:  "Hey, are we good to go on the Belvita launch wtih WM?"

Jody in Customer Marketing:  "Wellll, not quite.  They won't let Belvita in the cereal aisle.  Something about the nutritional requirements.  It has to go with the cookies."

You:  "But it has 18g of whole grain!"

Jody in Customer Marketing:  "I'm sorry.  There's nothing I can do unless you change the formulation.  Have you thought about that?"

You:  "Jody.  Are you serious right now?  The raw materials are sourced and at the plant.  Come on, man, supply chain had to source that grain 8 months ago before it was even planted!  Don't go there with me today."

Jody in Customer Marketing:  Silence.

You:  "What about the whole grain stamp?  We devoted some serious organizational resources to getting that.  Cookies don't get that!"

Jody in Customer Marketing: "True, but it still doesn't meet their cereal requirements."

You grasping at straws and thinking about all the positioning work that went into setting this up as a BREAKFAST product:  "But it does in the UK!"

Jody in Customer Marketing:  "Unfortunately we are not in the UK."

You ignoring this Master of the Obvious, unhelpful comment:  "But the flavors are Blueberry, Golden Oat, and Apple Cinnamon!"

Jody in Customer Marketing: "Yes, but WM is saying it has more in common with a cookie than with cereal."

You: "Who do they think they are?  Uhh, nevermind.  What about Cookie Crisp?!?  "Cookie" is in it name and it gets to stay in the cereal aisle!"

Jody in Customer Marketing: "I don't handle cereal."

You with your head in your hands and/or banging it against your monitor: "K."


Well, at least you're near the Fig Newtons!
I am sure the polite war you waged trying to align your occasion and your product to avoid selling breakfast from the cookie aisle but not burning your WM bridges was glorious.  I have to say, despite not quite winning, you really turned lemons into lemonade by focusing your message on whole grain and sticking an endcap next to the cereal aisle.  Great communication and retail strategies!

I am sure when weekly sales come out the snickers about the breakfast cookies stop.  The Saltine Minis team may have thought they'd be the dark horses this quarter but nope, your launch has lived up to the hype!  

Don't worry Saltime Minis, you're next on my list.  I LOVE your little crackers.  Innovation genius!

Belvita, thank you for your brave, pioneer spirit.  If eating cookies for breakfast is wrong, I never want to be right again.  Like ever.

Yours Forever,
A Devoted Belvita Fan

Friday, October 26, 2012

Put Me In A Binder. The Same One The Men Are In, Please.

I was inspired to write this today after reading this, the results of a study showing that "a year after receiving their degrees a hypothetical pair of graduates - one man and one woman - from the same university who majored in the same field and work full time for the same number of hours per week in the exact same job won't earn the same salary.  The woman would earn roughly 7 percent less."

ARHAGSAEIOUYAHEAYOAIUYHAA!!!

That is me screaming, reliving my own battle with this, and feeling my blood start to boil.

There was a day, in what now seems like a former life, that I got a promotion that everyone thought I would just be thankful for because it was a bit unusual for someone without a pair of balls to get the job.

However, on that same day a male colleague got the same promotion so instead of signing my offer letter, I stormed over to HR with it and told my rep that I hoped I was being offered the same amount as my male colleague, who happened to be a complete douche with less experience than me.

His wide eyes and silence answered the question for me.  He told me he could not discuss another employee's compensation with me.  My response was one of my proudest moments at work:

"I'm not asking you to tell me what he's making.  I'm asking you to recognize that I am asking the question and see no reason why we should not be paid equally.  We are being promoted on the SAME day, to the SAME position, reporting to the SAME boss, with the SAME number of direct reports.  I don't see any reason for a discrepancy."  I smirked.  We both knew the reason for the discrepancy was my vag.  

It sounds badass and effortless right now, but my heart was racing and I was terrified as I rocked the boat and looked at them with eyes they saw flashing the word, "lawsuit."

They never did anything about it, I never signed my offer letter, and I vowed to be gone within a year. It took a year and two months, a baby, and some soul-searching to follow-through but I did.

So, here's the deal, ladies,(as I show my glorious cynical colors):  always assume you're being paid less than the men around you and ask why.  I was fairly confident this was the case and called them on it with my heart in my throat and boob sweat everywhere but the shocked looks and the inability to explain why there would be a discrepancy were priceless.

Put me in a binder, a Trapper Keeper, a shoebox or a file folder but don't pay me less than my male counterpart over in the boy's club binder.

*This Friday sponsored by hard-working women everywhere tired of the d-bag in the office down the hall earning more, doing less, and listening to himself talk all day long.*

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Getting In Way Over My Head with Facebook.

Welcome to 2007!  I made a blog facebook page!

I want to vomit because this hobby of mine is a secret to almost everyone in my real life.  My mom doesn't even know, which makes it weird when I'm home typing away and she asks who I've been emailing for the past two hours.

I'm pretty sure Zuckaberg won't betray me as long as I don't like my own page, which being a tad bit narcissistic and self-important, I find challenging.

I would like a "like" from you, though, fake internet friends, but I have some simple rules.

1.  DO NOT like this if you are friends with anyone in my family.  This includes in-laws.  You know who you are.

2.  DO NOT like this if you are friends with anyone I used to work with.  You, too, know who you are.

Someday, everyone can like me.  Huh.  I've been saying that for 33+ years.  This will be when you start seeing me in your friends feeds because I'm blowing up like some ecards.  Then, there will be no liking rules but for now, if I see one of my posts in my news feed, I will vomit.

Moving beyond the vomit.  To like me, go here. Easy-peasy.

I have no friends.  It's really sad.  Go like me.  As long as you're not a real friend.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

An Open Letter To The Graco Brand Team.

Dear Graco Brand Team,

Have you guys been reading my diary? One day I'm thinking about making the switch from our infant "straightjacket" carseat  and then -BAM!- I win the Graco Snugride Click Connect 40.

First things first.  I am basking in the glow of a free carseat.  Might this influence what I'm about to write?  I say no, but the advertising industry would crumble at our feet if there weren't some correlation between promotions and positive brand imagery.  Disclaimer done.

There's a lot that I appreciate about this weekend's blogger event and the hot new carseat you showed us.

I appreciate feeling like a winner even if there was no skill involved.

I appreciate that with this carseat I will not have to call my neighborhood engineer to rethread the straps thanks to the groundbreaking bordering on magical technology that does this for me with a simple clicking adjustment of the headrest.

Graco Snugride Click Connect 40 Carseat & Stroller.
Now let me throw my cards on the table.  Before my current stint as mom blogger, I was a brand marketing director and spent my days writing positioning statements, identifying marketplace needs, and making sure the world didn't spin off its axis.  You guys know what that's like.

So, knowing this, let me also share that I appreciate your unique, relevant and pounded into my head product positioning: "Graco's Snugride Click Connect 40 is the only newborn to two-year infant carseat on the market encouraging parents to keep babies safer longer."  Seriously, guys.  Very well written and meaningful.  If you worked for me, I'd be showing this to my peers as an example of my team's marketing prowess.

The name of the carseat, though, I do not appreciate so much.  Let's blame it on an outside vendor, but please don't tell me you paid a naming agency for that gem.  What do you want your consumers to call it for short?  The GSCC?  Not memorable.

Moving on.

I appreciate most that you guys launched a product that made me ask, "Why didn't someone do this sooner?" I'm going to guess it's because that second carseat purchase that happens around 20 pounds is a pretty big source of revenue for those in the biz, yes?

Nice job talking finance into this innovation!

Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves.  I am not suggesting that anyone rush out and buy this based on what I've written.  However, if it works the way you've promised, I might.  After I've had this in my clutches for 30-60 days I will post a full-blown user review.

So now, wizards of carseat innovation, I have a few questions and subsequent requests.

1.  Why is it that I need two hands to remove the carseat from the base?  Have you ever tried to do this with  
     six Target bags laced on your arms, a phone in your hand, and a wallet in your mouth?  One and done is
     what I say.  Please start that innovation brief

2.  Why is it that I have to be as strong as the Hulk and/or use two hands to open your stroller?  PLEASE
     make a stroller that a woman with no upper body strength can easily open AND close with
     one hand.  As Click Connect is now my baby is sitting on the ground at the end of the jetbridge
     licking up the extra jet fuel he's managed to sniff out while I open the stroller.  Save him.  

3.  Lastly, and this may not be your area but  new product lines broaden your appeal so consider it, why do
     all diaper pails make the nursery smell like a poo-bomb after less than one year of use?  Give me an
     option that lets me return the haz-mat suit I now wear in the nursery and I will deem $1500 a fair price
     point.

So thanks guys for the brave innovation, for the carseat, and for making me feel like a badass while in Babies R Us, a previously unimaginable location/feeling combination.  You've made me start to question why I don't own more of your products.  User review, and possibly a new loyal user, to come in the future.

Sincerely,
annie

PS - Babies R Us, we're over damask. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to Craft a Halloween Costume for your Baby .

Are you thinking about making your baby his or her Halloween costume?  Well, you're in the right spot.  I have a 12 step plan to quickly craft a costume for your baby no one will believe you made!

Before I get to it, some background.  Crafting Halloween costumes using items found at Target is sort of my jam.  In college one year, my roommates and I were the characters from the Wizard of Oz .  I was the Tin Man.  Yes, that's duck tape wrapped around me.



Before we were engaged, I whipped up these for my husband and I.  We confidently walked down the streets of Chicago clad in little more than tights and black underwear and he was only sorry about the whole thing when I showed him the Save the Date I crafted for our wedding.  There were many calls and texts from afar.

With my crafty Halloween tendency, I want to do my baby right!  I suggested a family Incredibles Halloween to which my husband replied, "I think those costumes were lost in the move," to which I replied, "no they weren't.  I MADE SURE we brought those with us," to which he replied, "I need at least a year's notice to get back in those tights."  So the Incredible Family won't happen until 2013.  Onto plan B and the 12 step program.

Step 1:  Accept that wrapping your baby in duct tape or hot gluing pipe cleaners to his onesie is not up to safety code.  Take your search for Halloween costume parts and pieces from Target to a fabric store.

Step 2.  Go to your fabric store of choice and flip through the pattern books.  Bring your baby so he or she can sign off on all the decisions being made and kick you while you flip through the pattern books.

Step 3:  Get completely overwhelmed by pattern books and fancy looking costumes they think YOU can make.  Who the hell are these people?

Step 4:  Leave fabric store.

Step 5:  Once home, google "no-sew baby Halloween costumes."

Step 6:  Go on a pinning bonanza with the results of the aforementioned google search.

Step 7:  Click through to the websites with all the easy-peasy no-sew Halloween costumes you've pinned on every available corner of your virtual board.

Step 8:  Become disenchanted with pinning when you realize each pin leads you to a website selling the so-called no-sew Halloween costumes.

Step 9:  Chuckle through your disappointment at the marketing genius in action here.  If you buy it,  it really is the ultimate no-sew costume.

Step 10:  On a random Target run during which you should be stocking up on household staples like Reduced Fat White Cheddar Cheez-Its and Twizzlers, spot cute dinosaur costume near the Halloween candy aisle which you should not be near in the first place.

Step 11: Succumb.  Place costume in cart.

Now ladies, this is where the crafting comes in.  

Step 12:  CRAFT YOUR STORY.

This is just as challenging as making the costume so plan it like you were going to plan that cute little monster get-up.

Make your talking points crisp and clear.  Incorporate enough detail to make it believable but not so much that it brings on questions.  Share a mistake in a conspiratorial manner and  for the love of God, stop talking early on.  If you babble, the pointed questions about your fabric draping technique will eventually be answered with a hysterical, "It's from Target, ok!?!"

I am happy to provide free story consults.  Mine is as follows:  "My mom was in town and she helped with the harder parts.   I had to velcro it together in a few places, but I just hid it under the fur!  Don't tell anyone that!"

Congratulations.  You have crafted your baby's Halloween costume and no one will really believe you did it.

Yes, I crafted that!




Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Surefire Way To Not Eat The Halloween Candy.

It's a problem we all have.  By Halloween, the candy you bought for your trick-or-treaters is gone leaving you to choose between the Mounds and Dots left at Target on the 31st.

You feel bad about eating two bags of candy and your trick-or-treaters feel so bad when they see that blue wrapper that your house is added to their egging list for later on.

I have a solution to keep you from eating the trick-or-treaters' booty AND make you the most popular, egg-free, house on the trick-or-treat block.

It's a little thing called a king-size candy bar.


Truth be told, this is my husband's strategy to convince our new neighbors and their kids that we are the coolest family on the street.  It's a cheap way to buy goodwill and buy our baby some future friends.

However, I like it because the king-size descriptor is a barrier to entry that fun-size lacks.  I will not open one of these with the casual demeanor I would apply to opening the bag of fun-size treats and vowing to eat only one.  And if I do, in a moment of weakness, eat a king-sized Twix, it will undoubtedly hold fewer calories than the 18 fun-size bars of the same moniker I would enjoy had we gone the traditional Halloween candy route.

In summary, Halloween king-size candy brings three benefits:

1.  A surefire way to keep you from eating all the Halloween candy.
2.  An iron-clad guarantee your house will not be egged.
3.  A coolness bordering on badass brand image for your house.

If you go with fun-size, just keep in mind that fun-size candy bars do not equate to a fun-size butt.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Does Anyone Know How To Play Bunco?

Bunco, that game that rests on the shelves of Bed, Bath & Beyond waiting to be purchased by people who  need a quick gift fix; bunco, that game played by women who delight in embodying a female stereotype by drinking wine, discussing shoes, and partaking in a game housed in a pink box; bunco, that game I will be playing tomorrow night.

Good God, Texas, I didn't see this one coming.

Cheryl, my friendly neighbor who I've never met, called me last week because she needed a Bunco sub for the community game.  Lucky for me, the neighborhood directory was freshly printed and my cell was listed with a pink asterisk that read, "fresh Bunco meat."

I thought I could easily get out of Bunco by telling her my husband wouldn't be home in time for me to make the game, but Cheryl had thought of everything.

"Well, you must have the wrong date.  I accidentally called your husband first and he said you'd LOVE to join us."

"Well now, did he?" I said my pitch rising as I catalogued ways to beat my husband.

Fearing a house egging by the drunk-o Bunco gals, I accepted.

Upon my husband's arrival at the homestead he assured me he only suggested Cheryl call me and told her I'd love to meet the neighbors.  She translated that into a rousing interest in Bunco.  Oh Cheryl, your call to him was no accident, was it?

I am playing Bunco tomorrow night.  Does anyone know how?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Writing A Great Resume.

If you're looking for a job, you need a resume.  To get a resume you have to force yourself to sit down and write the damn thing or plagiarize one from linkedin and change the name at the top.  Your choice.

Despite not being sure whether my next steps are a new corporate ladder or a cute etsy shop, I worked on my resume last week.

The side of me that is an unabashed corporate drone and professional seller of wares has an incredibly annoying habit of squeezing in what I used to do when I meet people.  "Oh, you know the [insert name of brand I used to work for here] ad on TV right now?  That's mine.  Well, it's my team's," I say like a complete JACKASS because my old office probably already smells like the new guy in it who, yes, I looked up on linked in.

This girl needs to let go a little.

The drink coffee, write, spend your days playing with your baby and going to Target side of me was mildly rude to  Deanna, my assigned spousal relocation counselor when she suggested I update my resume but I did so nonetheless because I follow rules well.  While crafting bullet points about strategy, sales results, and inspirational coaching, though, I remembered that my office frequently felt like a jail cell and pitied the new guy in it.

The first draft of my resume captures my betwixt and between status.

High on caffeine during naptime and feeling inspired by the little man who was upstairs running plastic cups against his crib rails instead of napping, I chuckled and hit "send" with this included in my draft resume:

  • Expertise in product marketing, developing strategy, battling bullshit, fighting with R&D, ignoring Consumer Insights, and delivering positive same store sales.

My professional half made sure to include action words, buzzwords, and results but even her polished corporate poise couldn't keep the other half at bay.

Best. Resume. Ever.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Great Pumpkin Shortage.

I am worried about pumpkin supply.

Just a few short years ago, this wasn't something I lost sleep over.  After all, no one craves pumpkin in its raw form.  Difficult to cook and dangerous to carve, the pumpkin is best used for smashing.

But now, with the enormous selection of pumpkin sundries, I am convinced there will be a shortage before Halloween.

My concern took hold while perusing facebook the other night.  Half a dozen friends were swooning over pumpkin coffee, beer, bagels, muffins, and candles.  After a quick trip to the mall and a stop at Target, I knew the situation was dire.

In addition to the aforementioned pumpkin novelties, I saw pumpkin pretzels, pumpkin bars, pumpkin face cream, pumpkin tea, and pumpkin crunch.  When I spotted Pumpkin Poptarts I knew the Pumpkinication of America was complete.

With this proliferation of pumpkin, it's in the number one position on the endangered gourd list.

We have Starbucks to thank for the pumpkin-free state toward which we are headed.  With only steamed milk and spice they made women everywhere covet the previously innocuous vegetable.

Just a quick sidebar; what is it about pumpkin, anyway?  Do we think romance and babies come in the box of Pumpkin Poptarts or are mixed in our $4 latte? The pumpkin crave so primal, we must.

This Halloween, like, you, I will sip a pumpkin beer and burn a pumpkin candle but will sadly be in a pumpkin-free house.  Unless I count my brain.  That has turned to pumpkin and so, my dear, has yours.