Tag Archives: Oprah

The Golden Rule of Marketing

December 20, 2016 by

There is no shortage of bad marketing to lampoon, nor is just a small amount of it targeted at women. When writing this column, I worried that some readers (not you, of course) might take my attempted satire seriously—seeing it at best as a middle-aged white guy mansplaining the finer points of selling to the gender that is not his own; or, at worst, a guide worth following. Besides, if I can’t end with the literary equivalent of Slim Pickens riding off into the nuclear sunset atop an H-bomb, what’s the point?

Nonetheless, as the Brand Brief is geared—however dubiously—towards offering helpful advice for my fellow marketers, I will attempt to shed some light on advertising to women. All I ask is that you please read the entire piece before tweeting me a stink eye GIF or Willy Wonka meme. Thank you.

The foundation of any successful advertising campaign, to women or otherwise, is what I call the Golden Rule of Marketing. I call it that because it’s a wholesale appropriation of the Golden Rule found in Matthew 7:12 and formerly taught in kindergarten before the New Math confused society’s collective moral compass or something. In this case, the Golden Rule of Marketing is defined as “market unto others as you would have them market unto you.”

The beauty of this purloined proverb is that, when followed, one avoids committing any number of marketing sins. Do you want to be shouted at? Then don’t shout at the consumer. Do you want to watch a boring ad? Then don’t create boring ads. Do you want more spam? Then go forth and spam not.

Applied to the specific task of marketing to women, the Golden Rule of Marketing actually keeps it more generalized, forcing you, the marketer, to consider your audience not as a collective group sporting double-X chromosomes, but as individual human beings. Like, I assume, you are. Treat women like the people they are and not the bottomless pool of profits you hope them to be.

Of course, we see painful violations of this spread throughout the advertising landscape. Often, this involves a headline that sounds like it came from Oprah’s third cousin thrice removed. And unless you really are The Oprah, calling someone “girlfriend” while marketing wrinkle-free business attire just doesn’t ring true. In fact, it signals that your brand isn’t strong enough to have a real personality of its own and, instead, is content to glom onto an individual’s or subgroup’s cultural cachet in hopes that it rubs off on your company in a lucrative way. Which it won’t.

Having written for companies whose target customers were either mainly women (Walmart) or almost exclusively women (Beauty Brands), I can guarantee you that no one ever gets upset at or tunes out from messages that are smart, interesting, and focused on solving a problem or fulfilling a desire. It’s the awkward, tone-deaf sucking up that does you in.

Today, we live in an increasingly fractious and fractured society. One in which, from a marketing perspective, it is easy to assume every sub-niche of an already divvied-up demographic demands a certain level of magic “ingratiation” dust to be successful. But while we should always strive to know our customers and relate to them on their own terms, we would be wise to always think of them as people first and purchasers 143rd.

Do that, and your marketing to women or men or millennials or boomers or Oprah groupies has a much, much better chance of being golden.

Jason Fox is the founder of AdSavior.net and the chin behind @leeclowsbeard.

Jason Fox is the founder of AdSavior.net and the chin behind @leeclowsbeard.

Melissa Stephens

March 12, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Melissa Stephens, owner of The Cordial Cherry, has hit a nerve in the sweet tooth of Omaha’s choosiest chocolate fiends. What began eight years ago as a way to pay for graduate school has evolved into national acclaim and a busy holiday season that kept her and her team of family elves making chocolates around the clock. It didn’t hurt that a little old icon from Chicago named Oprah listed Stephen’s nativity scene of chocolate-covered cordial cherries as one of her favorite things of 2013.

Her boutique on 180th and Pacific is like a “chocolate jewelry box.” Chandeliers twinkle like diamonds amid the smell of warm chocolate. Little glass boxes neatly  display mouth-melting morsels, and shiny cake domes of treats tempt at every turn. Upside-down lamps hang whimsically among repurposed furniture for a French country feel. In the center of it all stands a beautiful and petite Stephens, whose perfectly coiffed mane and flawless makeup belie the fact that she was running on a not atypical three hours of sleep.

“My vision was to have a beautiful place where people could take their time and really appreciate the experience,” says the detail-oriented mother of four. “I always have this tendency to doll things up and decorate them. It’s very therapeutic for me.”


Even the presentation of her delicious box of confections is schemingly “just so.” Each box is carefully bound in twine by her sons and topped with a sprig of evergreen and an adorable custom-made tag. She learned how to make the chocolate-covered cordial cherries from her Grandma Jacque, whose picture hangs prominently in the shop, almost as if to cast an approving gaze over the wonder her granddaughter created. Stephens says that while her grandfather was away serving in the military, her grandma would occupy her time by taking cooking classes. “Every Christmas her kitchen table would be covered with these cordial cherries. We would be walking by and would have to snag a couple. So the table would dwindle and dwindle. By the time we would go, they were all gone,” she says.

But life hasn’t always been a box of chocolates for Stephens. She used to be almost embarrassed of her chocolate business. “I started out in a career of science and research, and I thought I was going to change the world by curing diseases.” Stephens instead struck culinary gold by following her heart. “When I embrace the talent that I’ve been blessed with, and I share that with those around me, that’s when I see the real power in our talents.”

Urging women to discover their talents is important to this entrepreneur, so Stephens launched Stories Coffeehouse in the same shopping plaza last fall as a tool to help other women succeed in business.

But with the sweet often comes the bittersweet, she recalls in relating the story of a man who was only given a few days to live. His sister was sent to the store so that he could enjoy Stephen’s cordial cherries one last time.

“They’re just chocolates,” she says, “but they make people happy.”