Selling Cinderella to our daughters

I have an adorable little 5-year old in my life who has spent Fridays with me since she was a newborn. She calls me Baba, Ukrainian for grandmother. Her real grandmother is my friend, Gail, who has graciously let me share her granddaughter (and her 3-year old grandson!) And because my grown kidlets are slow in producing grandchildren for me, these two are ideal targets of my grandmotherly love.

Lately, my 5-year old has developed a compelling interest in what I call ‘princess stuff’. Other than some Disney storybooks, her daily exposure to princess marketing is restricted; her family home has no television. Yet my admittedly limited observations of her and her little friends tell me that she’s not alone; most very small girls are ga-ga-girly over All Things Princess.

Enter Peggy Orenstein‘s new book called Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Continue reading

The alcohol industry’s “alcopop” strategy hooks underage drinkers

I remember the first time I tried a chilled bottle of lemonade-and-vodka at a backyard barbecue for our running group many summers ago. Fantastic!  It was such a hot afternoon, I had another icy cold one immediately after the first.  I may have had a couple more, in fact – they were that good. And, best of all, they didn’t even taste like real alcohol! Now a recent study* published in the January 2012 issue of the American Journal of Public Health investigates the sophisticated public relations and marketing strategies that industry is using to re-make the image of distilled spirits like my lemonade-and-vodka to specifically target underage drinkers.   Continue reading

The Hummer House


Zak Stone is the Assistant Editor of GOOD, the unique media platform that produces “a quarterly magazine, online videos, and events for people who give a damn”, as their website claims.  When Stone heard that General Motors was planning to phase out its Hummer vehicle a few years ago, he noted that few tears were shed.  It felt, he wrote, like poetic justice for the gas-guzzling, military-turned-luxury vehicle favoured by a certain former governor of California.

So he cheered the news that a pair of Los Angeles architects may have found a way to redeem this environmentally disastrous vehicle:   Continue reading

Why men buy, but women shop

Men want to go to Sears, buy a specific tool and get out. That’s the message of a study called “Men Buy, Women Shop” in which researchers found that women react more strongly than men to personal interaction with retail sales staff. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to respond to more utilitarian aspects of the experience – such as ease in parking the car, whether the item they came for is in stock, and the length of the checkout line.

The study was undertaken by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business (Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative) and the Verde Group, a Toronto consulting firm. According to Wharton marketing professor Dr. Stephen J. Hoch, shopping behaviour mirrors gender differences throughout many aspects of life:

“Women think of shopping in an interpersonal, human fashion while men treat it as more instrumental. It’s a job to get done.”

Continue reading

Seven diseases Big Pharma hopes you get in 2012

Until recently, drug companies selling blockbuster drugs were the darlings of stock market investors. But of course, not all diseases are blockbusters, warns Martha Rosenberg in a recent AlterNet essay. Supply-driven marketing, also known as “Have Drug – Need Disease and Patients” – not only turns us into pill-popping hypochondriacs, she claims, but it distracts from Big Pharma’s drought of real drugs for real problems.

She reminds us that, in order to be considered a true blockbuster disease, a condition must:

  • really exist but have huge diagnostic “wiggle room” and no clear-cut tests
  • be potentially serious with “silent symptoms” said to “only get worse” if untreated
  • be “under-recognized,” “under-reported” with “barriers” to treatment
  • explain hitherto vague health problems that a patient has had
  • have a catchy name — ED, ADHD, RLS, Low T or IBS — and instant medical identity
  • need an expensive new drug that has no generic equivalent

Martha suggests the following conditions that just might turn into potential blockbuster diseases – the ones that Big Pharma hopes you get this year:   Continue reading