Monday, June 23, 2008

Time, you needed time out of the mainstream

Front page article in today's WSJ (sub req) on an organization that's in the process of "rebranding" in hopes of appealing to more upscale female customers to grow the business. This makeover includes the facilities:

They feature touches such as muted lighting, hardwood floors and airy waiting rooms in colors selected by marketing experts...

...updating to a "contemporary, fun and lively look" with a new color palette that includes pink, orange and teal, said Mr. Greenberg, the regional executive.

And expanding their ability to reach customers:

...has also opened more than two dozen quick-service "express centers," many in suburban shopping malls. Some sell jewelry, candles, books and T-shirts...

Officials also aim to rally support with upbeat marketing: TV ads with perky voice-overs about love; a crass-and-sassy Web campaign aimed at teens...

Management seems to be on board:

"It is indeed a new look...a new branding, if you will," said Leslie Durgin, a senior vice president...

"It is high time we follow the population," said Sarah Stoesz, who heads XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX operations in three Midwest states. She recently opened three express centers in wealthy Minnesota suburbs, "in shopping centers and malls, places where women are already doing their grocery shopping, picking up their Starbucks, living their daily lives," Ms. Stoesz said.

However, it turns out that not everyone is happy with the new approach:

"This is not the XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX we all grew up with... they now have more of a business approach, much more aggressive," said Amy Hagstrom Miller...

"They're not unlike other big national chains," Ms. Hagstrom Miller said. "They put local independent businesses in a tough situation."

Another case of big business coming in and sucking the life out of mom and pop shops? Sounds like another Wal-mart. There also may be a class component at play:

"They've made a decision to go after the young and the hip and the affluent, and they're leaving poor women behind," said Claire Keyes...

Leaving poor women behind? I'm surprised our progressive brethren aren't up in arms over this.

Oh, that's right, the organization profiled in the article is Planned Parenthood. Nothing for a progressive to get upset about there.

Most people associate Planned Parenthood with abortion, Ms. Luby said, so "we're trying to reposition ourselves as caring about their health, about prevention, about a sustainable planet." Or, as she later put it: "So much more mainstream."

For all the fancy talk of airy waiting rooms, perky voice-overs about love, crassy-and-sassy Web campaigns, a "contemporary, fun and lively look" (pun intended?), and new branding, the bottom line is that no matter how you market it, the business of Planned Parenthood is abortion. A business that is already far too much a part of the American mainstream as it is.

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