I got a great question the other day from a former student. I thought I would post both the question and my response here…but looking for more opinions!

Questionnaires & Sex (yes, this was the question)

In recent years, it has become apparent that gender is not as easy as “male” and “female,” but rather as a spectrum, with transgender people and those who identify as male or female even thought their genitalia may not match to what we’ve traditionally associated with boys and girls.
Has the marketing community agreed upon any appropriate way to ask the sex question on surveys?
Should it be?
– identify as male
– identify as female
– neither
– prefer not to say
Have you seen any better categories that make more sense?
Perhaps a related question is “does it matter?” and whether we should be asking it at all. It’s good news that Toys ‘R Us no longer segregates their stores based on sex, and perhaps the rest of the marketing world should follow suit?
In all questionnaires, the first question should be “what would I do with this data if I got it?”  And if the answer is “don’t know” or “I’ll figure it out later” then drop that collection of data.  A related and equally important evaluation should be “really? Are we sure we’re not using outdated thinking here or hanging on to outdated models?” Then reconsider whether or not the data needs to be collected.
This is best explained as an example.  We will consider marketing books and bras.
Is gender information necessary in research concerning books?  The general answer will be yes.  Books fall into genres which often align with gender – romance with women, business with men…but wait.  Business with men?  On what planet is that an appropriate way to think books?   So maybe I’m back to romance and women?  But wait there too.  Arguably if a few more “lovers of women” read “how women imagine being loved well looks like” books, the world might be a better place.  Conclusion:  helpful perhaps, essential no.
Is gender information necessary in research concerning bras?  More likely this is helpful here.  Its an anatomical issue.  And an association issue. If you are a male biologically at this point but identify as a women, you likely use a bra or dream about using a bra.  So you’re part of the target for “identify as”.  An “identify as” solution doesn’t work for men who identify as men but enjoy cross-dressing.  It is possible that target may be small enough to not mess up the research in a meaningful way.
My conclusion:
Most traditional media sources are purchased in part by gender.  This is the most compelling reason today to collect gender data.  As we move to more one-on-one and social communication, the need for gender identification is reduced.
Most historical research has asked gender identification.  To the extent that trended data assists in building the brand, this data may make some sense for now to collect.
Therefore, it is likely short/mid term important to collect.
As to how, I think my student’s recommendation is pretty sound. I’d make one minor change, below:
Gender identification:

  • identify as male
  • identify as female
  • neither of those terms works well for me
  • prefer not to answer this question
There is an additional consideration: how about those who will find this framing of the question offensive, off-putting or concerning?  Only the marketer knows the flexibility of the audience for their brand.  If that new approach has a high likelihood of damaging the brand or responses to the survey, revert for now back to a more conventional approach.  An example is provided below:

  • Male
  • Female
  • Conventional terms don’t work for me
  • Prefer not to answer the question

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My Dad’s Story, shared on #wehatetowaste

by Ann on November 20, 2013

That’s my dad, in his empty basement.  I know that basement well – I’m the one who got 30+ years of “stuff” out of it!  I shared the story of my dad’s powerful thinking about downsizing here.  Have a read!forOttmanBlog


Much of what is written about SEO is with the breathless air of “its relatively new” and “only the young can truly understand this”.


aaa-improvedHere is the  online version of the top of the AAA section of the Bellingham, WA Yellow Pages. It is a fine example of the original Search Engine Optimization.

The original “Search Engine” was our brain. We alphabetized.

So the original way to “get to people fast and easy” was to start the name of your service/company with lots of Aaa’s since then it would be at the front of the Yellow Pages.

Today isn’t any harder. The new “Search Engine” is our algorithm instead of alphabetizing.

The algorithm doesn’t care about the name of your business. This is a total bummer for places like AAA Carpet Repairs since their name in today’s world looks goofy!

What the algorithm looks for are words used in your website that link to what you do.  So instead of lots of Aaa’s to get to the top of the list, you need to use lots of words that explain in the terms consumers use about what you do.

So for AAA Carpet Repairs, we’d likely advise them to use the words “carpet” plus “rug/rugs” and “floor coverings” to describe their work, since those are words potential customers might use.

Its the same idea: come of the top of the list, now Google or Bing or whomever instead of being the first page of the Yellow Pages.

Its simple. And once you know it, everyone can do it!


Seriously goofy Dairy Queen PR moment

by Ann on June 26, 2013

Dairy Queen’s corporate headquarters was featured by KARE 11 news as having installed treadmills in their offices for people to work out while they’re working.

What’s goofy is this: there are two types of people to whom this message is going to be much weirder than “your employees are getting fit”. Let’s explore them:

First group:  franchisees of the Dairy Queen restaurants.  Imagine you’re a franchisee working 80 hour weeks serving customers so you can pay your franchising fees.  You don’t need a treadmill – your “work” is “work!”  You’d likely be a little bent out of shape to see your franchising fees being used to buy the head office staff treadmills because as the video says, they sit all day. It might make you want to invite them out to work in a store and see how the income that pays their salaries gets made, huh?

Second group: just about anyone.  Think about it: Dairy Queen serves the Blizzard ice cream treat as its signature branded item. A small Oreo Blizzard weighs in at 620 calories with 210 of those coming from fat.  If you ever wanted to prove to the listening public that Blizzards make you fat, its the fact that Dairy Queen headquarters had to install treadmills for their workers.

Yes, this is an extreme case of taking a story and putting it into a different light.  But these are not unreasonable conclusions.  This situation serves as a good reminder to look at any potential PR story from through the eyes of a lot of different target audiences to make sure they’ll see it the way you do!


Employee Recognition delivers Brand Values

June 23, 2013

Tweet My favorite two words in marketing are Everything Communicates. Starbucks is doing a fine job of this effort with their recently initiated (or perhaps just recently awarded to a store I stop at!) Inspired Moments Awards. As I waited for my beverage this small piece up by the espresso machine caught my eye. Its […]

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Pay your bills, advertisers

June 20, 2013

Tweet Disgusted. The way to prosperity for “big brands” like P&G is to extend payments , says Advertising Age amongst many writing of this phenomenon. Watch out, investors.  Any large organization who begins to extend their payments is an organization in trouble.  Would I be investing in PG (NYSE stock trading symbol of Proctor & Gamble)? […]

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Sampling works – and its not about buzz!

June 20, 2013

Tweet A silly comment in Business Week online today had me giggling.  The memorable quote (and the one that came with the synopsis that originally took me to the article, from SmartBrief) said: “These days, if you do something cool that’s tweet-worthy, you can get more bang for your buck,” says Goldsmith. “Thirty years ago, […]

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The power of public recognition – and a thanks to some former students

April 9, 2013

Tweet I watched the Economist’s competition for the best business Professor a few weeks back, in large part because one of the 4 finalists was Dr. Darren Dahl, an amazing researcher, Professor, and all-around nice guy who also hired me to teach at the University of British Columbia. Darren did a great job teaching in […]

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Freshbooks Rocks Off the CHARTS customer service

March 15, 2013

Tweet No one paid me to do this, I found Freshbooks on my own.  This is true honest unpaid endorsement. This small cloud computing company is simply one of the best customer service groups I’ve ever worked with. And it should be noted – I’m a free customer (at least now!) I found Freshbooks to […]

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Livestrong missing the most important branding moment

March 7, 2013

Tweet Livestrong is missing their most important branding moment. Their name. Live. Strong. For someone facing cancer, the notion of “living strong” has a wealth of connotation.  It means staying strong through treatments that while they may cure, also dehumanize. It means believing that each day is not your last. It means that each day […]

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Costco communicates revisions to their AmEx card benefits

February 22, 2013

Tweet The Costco AmEx co-branded card is popular for good reason: it provides excellent cash back rewards at no annual fee for Costco members. As a study in marketing communications their recent significant changes to their program, announced in a virtually stealth manner in the back of their February statement, make for interesting learning.  Let’s […]

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The human side of well-targeted marketing campaigns

January 26, 2013

Tweet I heard this story recently from a source that makes me think the situation is true. The truthfulness of the situation is not relevant to the marketing learning.  Here we go: Woman goes to Target. Buys pregnancy test, uses Target card. Woman goes home, stressed about possible pregnancy. Test is positive, more stress. Decides […]

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Example: bad interview

January 16, 2013

Tweet I’m a fan of Julia Stewart’s. She has made some fascinating choices as the CEO of DineEquity, and most have been great moves.  She’s a woman running a major restaurant company – a big deal when she first did it, and still a big deal now. That’s why I read this morning’s Fast Company […]

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Hats off to the Vancouver Sun!

December 31, 2012

Tweet The December 29 issue was a delight!  The front page focused on a 17 year old photographer who is gaining a global reputation as a wildlife photographer. Page 2 included a story about how to have family events on New Year’s Eve, followed by a story about reevaluating “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard) […]

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This is BRILLIANT – help others

October 27, 2012

Tweet For US folks, this is a truly brilliant way to get new ideas into the chartiable sector. for Canadian readers, this is a group of people wanting to help Canada. And in such a smart way. For Canadian readers who are students THE PRIZE IS $50,000 IF YOU FIGURE IT OUT. This is enobling […]

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Updated IMC (really marketing) resources

September 9, 2012

Tweet I found some new links I thought were worthy of adding. Here you go:

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