Popcorn, Faith

Faith Popcorn, best-selling author of Clicking and The Popcorn Report, is founder of BrainReserve, the futurist marketing consultancy she established in 1974. Recognized as America's foremost Trend expert, she has identified such sweeping societal concepts as "Cocooning," "Cashing Out," "Anchoring," and "Pleasure Revenge."

Faith's latest book is EVEolution: The Eight Truths of Marketing to Women (with Lys Marigold, Hyperion, 2000). In it she discusses what she believes to be the most powerful marketing opportunity for the next decade—women. Faith declares it's time for marketers at all levels to listen, to understand the differences between women and men, both shop-ologically and biologically. "If men and women are essentially different, why do we market to them the same way," she asks. EVEolution is the tool that will provide marketers with the key insights about how women think so that they can leverage this marketing transition successfully.

Faith predicts: Within a decade, the companies that do the best job of marketing to women will dominate every significant product and service category. These are the eight Truths that will take us into our best futures:

1. Connecting Your Female Consumers to Each Other Connects Them to Your Brand.
2. If You're Marketing to One of Her Lives, You're Missing All the Others.
3. If She Has to Ask, It's Too Late.
4. Market to Her Peripheral Vision and She will See You in a Whole New Light.
5. Walk, Run, Go to Her, Secure Her Loyalty Forever.
6. This Generation of Women Consumers will Lead You to the Next.
7. Co-Parenting is the Best Way to Raise a Brand.
8. Everything Matters—You Can't Hide Behind Your Logo.

EVEolution book cover

tompeters.com asks Faith Popcorn …

What is the evolution of EVEolution?

FP: It was just the idea, you know I looked around and there’s all this stuff about the difference between men and women, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, by John Gray, You Just Don’t Understand, by Deborah Tannen, and web sites such as women.com and oxygen.com that are catering to women. I thought about the fact that we work with all these Fortune 500 companies and they think they’re marketing to women—who buy 80 percent of the products and control 80 percent of the money—but they’re not. They’re not talking to women. They don’t know how to talk to women. Just like they have no clue what to give their wives for their birthdays. They really don’t realize that women have a separate language and a separate way of being. And the problem has been that it’s been so politically incorrect to say that. I started to really study it. I met with Natalie Angier who wrote Woman: An Intimate Geography and also with Helen Fisher, author of The First Sex: The Natural Talents of Women and How They Are Changing the World. Helen Fisher talks about how women think. Helen calls women’s thinking process web thinking, which came from the cave days when women had to watch the baby and watch the mountain lion and cook and everything else, their peripheral vision got very strong. That’s how women receive messages, peripherally. And women’s brains actually fire off left/right, left/right. Men, on the other hand, went out and walked straight ahead, went straight ahead, hunted for something and dragged it back. Men’s brains fire off AAAAA, and I don’t mean to make this simplistic but they run the world this way. Men’s brains actually fire off left/left/left/left, right/right/right. Men’s brains and women’s brains work differently. It’s a fact.

Who responds to your Eight Truths, to this model?

FP: This only works with women and men under 40. That’s a generalization, of course, but Hispanics, blacks, men under 40, and women are the similar ones. They’re the ones who respond to this model. There are smart guys, of course. But the guys who respond to this view do not run Fortune 500 companies, yet. I got a message from the chairman of a multi, multi, multibillion dollar global company, and I know him really well. He said, “Dear Faith, I distributed this book to my female executives. Thank you.” I wrote to him, “Dear X, this book is not about marketing FOR women, it’s about marketing TO women.” And he wrote me back about how ungrateful I was. He’d bought 14 copies at full price! Can you believe it? This is what I’m talking about.

As I was reading through this book I kept thinking about my mother. When I was a child, I’d go to the grocery store with her so I could get the cereal I wanted. But there’s nothing in your eight Truths that you couldn’t apply to my mother shopping in the early ’60s. Why has it taken so long?

FP: And it’s still not happening, by the way. It’s not like people fall down at my feet about all this. It’s not like people are saying, “You’re so right, we’ve got to do this.” We had to sell this thing so hard. We shoved these case histories down the throats of corporate America. It’s tough. And the most successful case history in that book is Jiffy Lube. We went in, studied the situation. We realized that women are driving their cars in, they’re the ones who are taking care of the car and changing the oil. Women take care of this maintenance. We told the Jiffy Lube people to stop screaming at these women when they drive in, it scares them. You know how these guys come out from under the hood of the car yelling about “Change this, replace that!” It’s scary because these guys are so loud.

Our suggestions: Escort her out of her car, put her in a clean waiting room, put some toys in there for her kids, put some music in there, let her have access to email if she wants, let her read some magazines—current ones, please!—and give her a clean bathroom with the seat down and a changing table. Add some low-fat snacks and you’ve got her for life. Duh!

And they said, huh! And I have to say, this is my friend Jim Postl, he’s chairman now, he is different. He’s rolling this right out to 100 shops. There are three in Chicago, a couple in San Francisco that are made over now.

We’re working with McDonald’s and you’re going to see some of this work there. Alan Feldman said this could really help. It’s the right way to be. McDonald’s is female sensitive. We’ve done some beautiful initial work there.

Not long ago I saw a tractor trailer go by and it said in huge letters, “Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day.” That was always a memorable ad campaign for me and I used to buy Prince spaghetti. What happened to them?

FP: The trouble with Prince is—it’s charming and memorable, certainly—but they haven’t updated it. It’s still nostalgic. It’s a trend we call Down Aging. It’s just a nostalgic trend. Prince should branch out into products. They should be line extending like crazy. They should be creating clubs for women where they can exchange family recipes. They need a spokesperson; Prince would have been great, but then he changed his name to that symbol—but now his name is Prince again. They have the essence of a brand. They did have a nice brand essence. But they haven’t done anything since …

I buy fresh pasta at my local bakery now …

FP: You see, someone could brand that. Like Purdue did with chicken. Somebody could brand all that fresh stuff. For instance, branding fresh cereal, where’s that? You can’t buy fresh cereal except for a few small places here and there. Why isn’t there a concept called fresh granola. It doesn’t have to come out of a box! If you go into some gourmet stores, you can get it. Fresh baked, dated. Where you look at this beautiful glass container and say, “Give me a half pound of granola.” There are so many concepts out there. I’ll give you another: How come there are no drinks for women? Why isn’t there a soft drink for women? It does not exist. There’s Diet Coke but it doesn’t sell for women. A drink really designed for women, not just positioned. Something that has minerals, vitamins, or a strategy in it intrinsic to the brand that’s really for women, not just a cute, hot commercial. Does not exist. So many opportunities waiting out there.

I don’t know if you know about this, I wrote about it very quickly in my book, because it’s not really what I’m pushing, but one morning I got up and thought, “Ohmigod, look at all these women working at home.” We had done this GE Capital study and we helped them put together a program where they help women grow their own small businesses. So I get thinking about the fact that women work at home a lot and the places they work in are kind of messy. So we sent out a couple of thousand cameras and we said, “Take a picture of your home office and send it back to us.” And it was a mess, but all the home offices had flowers, all the home offices had a place for an earring because women take off their earrings when they talk on the phone. I noticed that all the women working behind their desks crossed their legs. They had pictures of their kids on a corkboard. And I decided to make Faith Popcorn’s Home Office Cocoon. I went to Hooker furniture and I licensed it. They sold $5 million worth the first day at High Point Furniture Market in North Carolina.

That’s a lot of furniture.

FP: Just hitting it right. It’s not brain surgery. I’m not in the furniture business. But I thought, let’s see if I can license this. Boom!

I noticed the furniture at your web site and I was wondering …

FP: … what is she doing?

Yeah, what’s this all about, but now to hear the success you’ve had …

FP: … and I’m going to do Faith Popcorn’s Cocoon Chair. A recliner, heated, with a baby seat, a shorter seat because a woman gets up and down more …

I want that chair!

FP: Okay, I’m going to have it within the year. But that’s how easy it is to read EVEolution and say, “Okay, what do women need?” Easy. But it’s amazing the resistance there is to this whole idea.

What kind of resistance?

FP: I went to Detroit. I went to this big car company. I said, “Look at these Eight Truths, come on.” So the top guy sends me to the director of marketing saying he’s going to want you to do this. I go in there and he says, “What? Blacks, Hispanics, gays, now women? Another advocacy group? I don’t need this. We sell enough Explorers to women. We don’t need to sell anymore.” And I say to him, “You’re missing the point, you can retain these women forever, for generations.” And he says, “Oh, come on.” That was it: end of meeting. I went to a Japanese car company and they said “We don’t thread the needle that way.” I said, “What?” “We just don’t thread it that way.” That’s the thinking out there. It’s very typical.

They just dismissed you?

FP: Yeah, even at package goods companies people say, “Yeah, we sell to women.” And I say, “But you don’t retain them, you don’t hold them, you don’t understand them, you don’t talk to them.”

There’s a story in your book about a Mercedes Benz dealership in New York. They’ve got an ad that initially seems to cater to women by telling them they won’t have to haggle over the price of a new car. But the reason they give for this is so the woman can spend more time thinking about the color of the car she wants. It seems like it’s a company that’s getting the idea of marketing to women, but the next line belies the old bias of women just concerned about decoration. Is this something you see regularly, some marketer who knows there’s a female buying population out there and is halfway there but just doesn’t totally get it?

FP: The dealership is male. Right? You got a male car company, and their customer is the dealership or the supermarket, all male run. They never get as far as the end customer, the real consumer. So that’s where the buck stops.

I’m not going to ask you how you spot trends, I know you’re interviewing thousands of people each year, you’re reading every periodical that exists. Let’s just say you’ve managed to figure out how to distill ferocious amounts of data and information into what you call Trends. In fact, you probably couldn’t even explain exactly how that happens, but my question is, do you have a favorite source for the unexpected that you see socially, culturally, consumerally?

FP: It’s usually a bottle of Belvedere. You know, we’ll be sitting around with some friends, sometimes drinking, relaxed, and somebody will say something, and it’s a matter of being tuned in to hear these things, and you could let it go by, or you can say, “What did you say!?” and you’ll realize they’ve said something wild, like a guy saying, “I don’t want to go to work anymore.” Not retirement age, either. Just done with it. And then I’ll ask 10,000 more people about that statement. Are these other people thinking that same way? See, you’ll hear something when people are really comfortable. They’ll really tell you how they’re feeling. It usually isn’t an interview, but a bottle of Belvedere.

Speaking of women talking to men, a lot of what you discuss in your book is the kind of stuff that men and women deal with on a joke level because of the discomfort of dealing with these differences, like when they’re out shopping together?

FP: It’s really Men are from Mars for marketing. That’s what this is. It’s like when I discuss in the book about anticipating women’s needs … it’s like a woman saying to a guy, “How come you didn’t know what to get me for my birthday?” And he says, “How am I supposed to know?” and she says “I left the catalog on the bed.” A guy would just brush the catalog right off the bed. A woman if she saw a catalog on the bed, would think, “That wasn’t there this morning. What’s that?”

You write about grocery stores becoming very creative in their attempts to attract shoppers. They’ve got singles nights, putting in day care centers, yet you say that industries in their decline often get very creative.

FP: First of all, there are very few grocery stores that are doing this. Most stores are not doing anything much, except buying more stuff. That again is a male marketer marketing to the male supermarket owners telling us—and I’ve heard this in meetings no less than ten times—that they believe that women socialize at the supermarket. Every time I hear this I have to ask, “Do you know any women?” These guys imagine a world in which women take their two kids to the supermarket, the kids meet each other and the women socialize. Who ever heard of such a thing? These men have some Stepford Wives vision of the world. It’s absolutely insane. I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t been in a rush to get out of the supermarket. It’s all over with. As soon as somebody really nails the home delivery model, supermarkets will be outta here.

The fundamental problem seems to be that the people selling haven’t actually bothered to listen to people who are actually buying.

FP: Exactly. Or haven’t really gone through the experience themselves. They need to do this themselves.

If a large grocery store chain called you in, would you work with them?

FP: Sure I would. I would help them. I would help them get on the web and I would help them set up home delivery and I would make it a center for people to shop and set it up the way women want to shop. Do they want to buy by the meal? Do they want to be able to buy according to what diet they’re on? How about the kids? What do you do with them while the mother is shopping? Suppose she gets stuck in traffic and can’t make it to the grocery store before it closes, will the store bring something home for her? There are so many things that can be done. So many things. It’s not a long-term solution. I don’t think you’ll ever hear women say, “I just love going to the supermarket,” because they don’t have the time.

Your final chapter is a case study about Revlon and what you would do to revive the brand. Why is that?

FP: I tried to find a company that could use all Eight Truths.

Do you want to get a consulting gig with Revlon?

FP: I would love to.

So part of your strategy here is to give him some answers …

FP: Actually, after I’d included this material in the book, I taught EVEolution at Harvard Business School. Somebody from the audience said I shouldn’t have done a study of Revlon, but that instead I should have done the electronics stores. Because they are the worst. You know, you go into a Wiz … talk about scary. These stores could learn a lot from these Eight Truths.

Have you heard anything from anyone at Revlon?

FP: Actually, someone from Revlon called today. But they wouldn’t be able to do it. You really need to go through the pain. I don’t know if the answers are all right. I know the Truths are right because we’ve done a lot of research around those, but I don’t know if the way I’ve applied them in that chapter is exactly right. Is Ellen Barkin really the perfect spokesperson? I’d really want to fiddle around with it.

And then there is the expense of implementing those ideas?

FP: How much would it cost to do these things? It wouldn’t cost that much. Women would love Ron Perelman, he’s the perfect spokesperson. He’s adorable. He just has to do ten right things this year. He’s very generous about breast cancer, but I don’t mean in that way. He’s just gotta show up in the right places, do the right things, say the right things, get in a commercial. He’d be charming. He’d be wonderful. Get rid of the models, get rid of that whole image, get rid of the cigar. He’s cute. Very cute. He’s a very Orthodox Jew. Nobody knows that. There’s a lot to him. I think women would love him.

I also like your section on Procter & Gamble. You write about exposing the consumer to everything that goes on at a company, about getting to know the whole brand.

FP: Nobody knows about them, either.

All people know is that old rumor about something in their logo that represents some cult following …

FP: And now their stock price is down. But people don’t know that P&G supports health initiatives at various hospitals, all sorts of studies. They train younger women. They’re not perfect. I still think they could leverage their Tide strategy much more.

That was the only detergent my mother ever used.

FP: You see, that’s Number Six [of the Eight Truths], This Generation of Women Consumers will Lead You to the Next. They could leverage that 10,000 times more.

One of your new Trends is FutureTENSE. Will that be the subject of a book?

FP: FutureTENSE is a trend and it’s about everyone being nervous about everything that is coming up: cloning, time travel, telepathy, all this new stuff. It makes us nervous. But I won’t write a book about that. My next book is Dictionary of the Future. That will be a dictionary of future terms. I’m going to credit everyone with their terms. If you read this whole dictionary, it will describe the future. Like terms and expressions, such as “I’ve been DNA’d,” meaning I’ve been dumped because our DNA wasn’t compatible. I’m writing that book with Adam Hanft. After that will be the EVEolution update, softcover, in a year, and the book after that will be Popcorn Report 2002.

What’s the first thing someone has to do to get woman centered, to sell to a woman?

FP: Hang out with a woman, all day and all night, 24 hours with a woman. Could be fun.

But preferably not one you’re married to?

FP: Yeah, because you’re too close. You need to hang out with a woman you’re not going to have an argument with. In the book we say over and over again, “Have you ever taken your female employees out for a drink? Have you ever said it’s okay for them to tell you what’s the matter, what’s going on, what they feel?” Hang out with a woman. If the supermarket manager actually bothered to shop with a woman, he’d understand her issues. Just follow her and watch her roll the cart out to the parking lot, see the struggle of rolling the cart next to the car, the cart bumps into the car and scratches it. And then dealing with the bags of groceries. They’re heavy. She lifts them out of the cart and into the back of the car. Then the kids. They’re not light, and they’ve got to be put into the safety seat. And they don’t want to get in their seats. And then there’s the ethical dilemma of “Should I bring the cart back to the store or do I just leave it out here in the middle of the parking lot?” And it’s hell. By the time this woman is in her car, she’s dead. And she’s not even home yet … where you gotta take everything out again that she just put in. Who wants it? Hang out with your subjects. Hang out with the people you’re trying to market to. And not in a fake environment like a focus group room.

Faith’s favorite web sites:

www.petfinders.com [currently undergoing a redesign] national web site for abandoned dogs. Shows you dogs in different shelters. I have a dog, but I’m always looking for dogs. There should be an orphans online site that lists every orphan in the world. Bill Gates should do that. And help match people up with orphans. So easy.

www.urbanfetch.com—an amazing EVEolutionary model for home delivery [Editor’s note August 2005: no longer active].

www.iVillage.com—high-voltage women’s community on the web. Provocative and informative.

www.journeywoman.com—tips, advice and stories for women travelers.

(see more links in Appendix of EVEolution)

Faith’s favorite book:

FP: Good Night, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann. For 2-4 year olds. I adopted a Chinese girl and she’s two now and this is my favorite book.

Faith’s favorite fast food:

FP: I love Big Macs.