Friday, July 22, 2005

The Time Is Now

Have you ever been moving along excitedly searching for the right people to help make your vision a reality? You have the concept for what may be a revolutionary event or product and all you need are the right partnerships to make it happen. Then your dream is momentarily blind sighted by a most unexpected series of blows. However, an idea with a solid foundation and driven by the best of intentions can not be deterred by temporary distractions.

It is not my aim to contribute to the illusion of power attributed to any “ism”, neither do I think anyone is served by the denial of its many faces. The clear segmentation of the marketplace speaks to the growing awareness that reaching women as consumers means engaging them as intelligent people. This is one of the main reasons that folks like Michele give me such hope.

Yet, at the same time other facts spur me onward seeking to advance the awareness of issues that cry for attention. For instance, did you know that since September 2, 2003 [according to The Well Project ] 3,481,440 women have been infected with HIV? Are you aware that as the global infection count threatens to surpass 40 million a new strand of treatment resistant HIV has been discovered? It was reported in the February 12, 2005 edition of The New York Times. This kind of information continues to be a vital part of what pushes me to explore what CAN be done and exactly how I can do it.

Instead of seeing this as a tale of tragedy or sexism, consider it as a story of determination and vision. To help you understand just where this began, I’ll elaborate on my proposed springboard for an original approach to event marketing and self-help program development. What defines this conceptual framework is that it’s slightly edgy and multifunctional. It does quadruple duty as a luxury vacation package, an HIV/AIDS benefit, prevention education for women, and a personal development solution.

Although it isn’t a therapeutic service from a mental health perspective, a trained professional and my former personal coaching client will act as a peer mentor. The Clarity
peer mentor has more than six years clinical experience as an MSW, but is not intended to replace your normal mental health provider. Anyone requiring psychological intervention or care needs to contact a licesensed mental health practitioner. The concept is obviously rooted in event marketing, but it is also informed by several established therapeutic models with the objective of offering a comprehensive self-help event series that will:

Assist women in living more fulfilled and meaningful lives rooted in self love and genuine appreciation. Using a four phase program that supports women in confronting romantic idealization to uncover false beliefs rooted in them so they can experience the liberation of falling in love with themselves. This is vital to any HIV prevention strategy that is to be effective. However, male models are used to staff one key component of the program during a three day luxury vacation event.

It was while interviewing event planners that I was stunned by the conclusions some of the people [men] jumped to, and that’s not to say that all of the men reacted this way. I found myself cringing as they went on with judgmental diatribes espousing some incredible presumptions-

“…middle aged women would loose their minds after leaving your event staffed by a bunch of good-looking young men and then having to go back to their real lives.”

“What will you do to ensure they won’t fall in love with the models at the end of the weekend? Business sponsors are going to be concerned about those kinds of liability issues.”

“…you can’t expect businesses to put their name on an event providing young men to middle aged women!”

Does anyone express these kinds of concerns when any number of industry events use young female models to staff them or circulate amongst the guest? Why did these men presume that women interested in personal development are so fragile and glued to denial that desperation threatens to push them over the cliff of sanity with the slightest (male) provocation? Why had these men focused on that aspect of the event to the exclusion of the others?

It was only after I became aware of the knot in my stomach that I felt I had to push past politeness to challenge the opinions being presented to me as facts. Interestingly, each time the response was similar; an account overflowing with fear and abdication, half of which were tales of men. Stepping back it became apparent that the comments revealed more about the people making them than illuminating any substantial truth. What had these men assumed to be true about the females recruited regularly as “visual enticement”?

The most illuminating aspect of the whole experience was that I was made aware of negative attitudes I’d previously not seriously considered. It underscored the need to continue my search for event partners. Though the comments may have been rooted in specific cultural norms, they hardly constitute an absolute truth. Instead in its proper context it is little more than the result of limited fear-based thinking, like most “isms”. Unfortunately, it still has a role in driving advertising and marketing that relies on false promises, perpetuation of self-loathing and victimization (in one guise or another). Exactly the kind of marketing that has led so many customers to shut down in response to the consistent barrage of misguided advertising messages. Naturally perhaps, old school decision makers might find an approach based on empowerment and honesty to be a threatening paradigm. After all, what does it mean for middle aged men if women find an exalted use of “eye candy” and can no longer be baited with the traditional carrots?

I propose that there is a definitive audience waiting for me to fill the gap created by fantasy vacations that focus primarily on couples. Likewise, business sponsors who’ve been waiting for a venue ideally suited for cultivating meaningful relationships with potential customers will be delighted with the enhanced branding opportunity it presents. In today’s marketplace where partnerships provide synergy for hybrid “best of” package offerings, marketing innovation benefiting a worthy cause holds special promise. I’m not only referring to the business implications, but the social aspects as well.

In closing I’d like to invite you to share your feedback and opinions on these topics and keep in mind…
In the past it has been uninformed beliefs used to inform products and campaigns for women that have created the niche for women-centric marketing and development. I sense that the trend will move increasingly towards marketing that engages women in meaningful dialogues about what matters to them. Along the same lines, as we become more empowered and gain increased clarity of perspective more of us will demand relationships (on all fronts) that support this. Companies hoping to have a chance at encouraging brand loyalty will be clamoring for events that offer distinctively targeted access. Now is the time to start planning such events.

Until Next time....

Make it a great day!

All the best,
Yvette Dubel

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