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Guest Mommy Blogger: Nicole - "Striving for Oxygen"

We're introducing some new members to the AMP Agency team: Frequency Guest Bloggers. Each month we'll reach out to two consumer demographics or mindsets. This month we reached out to Nicole, who is 36, a mom of three beautiful children and lives in Plainville, Massachusetts. Here are her responses to some of our questions. What kind of shopper am I? In three words, creative, frugal and selfless (to a fault). Ok, that's more than three. I tend to forget or forgo my wants and head straight to the children's section of any store I am in. I can talk myself out of a purchase for me, but into a purchase for any of my three children. However, when I do indulge for myself, I still try to be frugal. As for the creative part, I love to peruse designer ads for home or fashion, see the insane couture sticker price and create a similar design for a fraction. It's a rush and a notch in my proverbial thrifty belt. I look for eye catching, pretty items for me and my daughters. Not necessarily trendy, just enough to stop me in my tracks-online or in person. For my husband and son, I look for designer labels on sale or even cosigned. As for home décor, I seek beautiful indulgence - think Dom Perignon on a Bud Light budget. And for staples and groceries, coupons and online deals all the way. The item that I own that most defines me would have to be my wedding dress. It is the most classic, tailored, beautiful and timeless piece of my history and I treasure it. It could have been worn 60 years ago and could be worn again by my daughters (Fingers crossed). The most defining part about it, however, is it cost $600. An amazing, quality, designer gown for well under $1,000. That, I am proud of, and I love it to this day. The qualities that make me a good (dare I say great) mom'?¦are. Oh, man, I got stuck. Isn't that awful? The very thing that I have given most of my time to and sacrificed so much for and when I attempt to choose one quality, I go blank. Ok, here it is. I strive. I strive to achieve balance. Balancing a teenage son, a preschool daughter and a 17 month old baby girl. I strive for balance with discipline and fun, balance with housework, cooking and play dates. Making sure to leave time for my husband and oh, yes, myself. Striving to create beautiful memories for my family, instill morals, keep the fridge close to full and maybe squeeze in a movie night with friends or a yoga class. I may fail, but I surely strive. The advice I would give to a new mom, or soon to be'?¦write the great moments down. It passes so darn fast and if you don't keep a journal of the super cute or quirky moments, you'll forget. Write it on a napkin if you have to and put it in the junk drawer, as long as you record it somewhere. Also, make time for you ' you may have been told after boarding a plane that in the unlikely case of emergency, you should put the oxygen mask on first; that way you are better equipped to care for your kiddos if you do'?¦ well same goes while on the ground, moms. You have to don that oxygen mask so you can breathe deeper and not run on empty. Be it in the form of a small xenical order online retail indulgence, a spa trip, a five minute meditation, or a salted margarita with your 'besties', take that break and you'll be a better mom. Oh, and there's no guilt in bottle feeding! If I had a million dollars what would I buy? The boring portion of my response? Three $100,000 college educations, and a $500,000 4 bedroom home. Then for joy, I'd buy a well in Africa, a convertible for my mom and a boat for my dad. I'd pay our church bills for a year and then the right hand mother's ring I've been dreaming of, a killer swing set and one of those robot vacuums for my endlessly messy floors! Um, do I have enough left for a trip to Italy? The most important thing I have ever done in my life would be to take a chance on my husband. Without him, I would not have these three miraculous children. Because of him, I also have the ability to raise them from home and work per diem as a teacher, actress and writer.  My children don't define me, but they enhance my life so ridiculously much every day. They challenge me, teach me and make me laugh at least hourly. I would say two close seconds, are writing my first children's book and maintaining faith in God through various life challenges.

I'm a Hauler, Baby, I Just Want You To Know

Should I get the matte taupe eye shadow or the shimmery plum eye shadow? Decisions like these make life so difficult'?¦ Well, perhaps they don't make life difficult, but they certainly interest a lot of people. And who would've guessed? Hauls are the latest phenomenon in marketing ' in fact, so revolutionizing that our own CEO Gary Colen recently chatted with The Boston Globe about hauls and their influence (and no, I'm not being sarcastic ' you can read the article here). So what exactly is a haul and what makes them influential? Hauls are videos created by fashionistas in which they discuss their recent fashion and beauty purchases, and ongoing shopping bargains, to enthusiastic viewers in search of shopping advice. Such self-made videos have been sweeping YouTube for more than a year and some have been garnering views of nearly 48,000 per video. That's right, 48,000 views. Want more numbers? You got it: more than 200,000 hauls have been uploaded to YouTube this year, and posts are expected to rise as the holiday season ramps up. Needless to say, retailers are seeing the potential in hauls and persuading vloggers (or 'haulers'?) to pitch their products through seeding, gift cards and other goodies. The amount of money each hauler makes depends on the number of views their videos have. More views = more money. Some haulers disclose their earnings in sponsored posts, while others discreetly accept. And now for the fun FTC part: FTC guidelines that took effect in December 2008 state that haulers must disclose if they received free products. However, many of them are unaware of this; so when working with haulers, make sure to inform (or remind) them about open disclosure. Haulers also earn money through YouTube's Partners Program, which gives them a share of profits from ads that run prior to, and appear alongside, their videos. MakeupByMel, for instance, earns $12,000 a year through the program. Regardless of the kinks that haulers are encountering, they are quickly making headway in the world of marketing. Some have appeared on morning shows ' and one set of hauler sisters even have their own reality show. This frenzy makes me wonder, though, how long will this movement last? Or is it just another passing fad? Anyways, back to the important stuff'?¦ matte taupe or shimmery purple?

Millennials are Looking for the 'Shop-erience'? this Holiday Season

I'm a Millennial and I like to shop, both on- and offline. Of course, marketers and advertisers already know this simple fact. They also know that I have attended university and am just starting out my career, live in an urban-setting with a moderate household income, like to feel good about donating to philanthropic causes, and spend a large amount of time pilfering away on social networking sites. However, do marketers really know why I like to shop? It's all about the experience. Over this last week, I came across not one ' but two ' unique shopping experiences that provided value above-and-beyond the traditional mall excursion or product search online. Last week, Google launched Boutiques.com, a 'personalized shopping experience that lets you find and discover fashion goods through a collection of boutiques curated by taste-makers ' celebrities, stylists, designers, and fashion bloggers.'? The website is built with technology-software that 'learns'? about your style and trend preferences to be able to provide more relevant search results and recommendations over time. The user has the option to create their own boutique, share outfit ideas with friends, leave comments for other fashionistas, and source similar looks within a variety of price ranges. Prior to the launch of Boutiques.com, online shopping could seem like a chore. This is not to say that Google completely revolutionized the online shopping realm; rather the search giant combined the search for and purchasing activities into one, cohesive website. Everyone wins: retailers are able to advertise their products directly to consumers and shoppers have all the necessary tools at their fingertips to stay ahead of the fashion-game. The experience is convenient, easy, and customizable and as a millennial, I appreciate that. My second shopping example is more experiential in the traditional sense, bringing the high-brow fashion of Cynthia Rowley to neighborhoods throughout the United States via a mobile boutique. The fashion truck contains Rowley's entire fall 2010 collection, as well as select pieces from her spring and summer lines. Shoppers have the opportunity to learn of the truck's whereabouts via a live Twitter feed, and can visit the 'shop on wheels'? in their local market for a fun, fashion splurge. With a limited number of stores across the US, the Cynthia Rowley mobile boutique provides shoppers with the opportunity to experience the look-and-feel of the brand. The experience is fun, conversational, and out-of-the-ordinary, enhancing the brand image and helping to establish a positive association in the minds of consumers. As the holiday shopping season is fast-approaching and I'm looking to buy gifts for family and friends ' and to take advantage of those sales to update my own winter wardrobe ' I will be looking for the brands that provide an engaging and memorable shopping experience. I hypothesize that these brands will come out on top in the New Year.  After all, it's all about the 'shop-erience.'?

You Can Like Whatever You Like

I'm thinking about purchasing my mom an e-reader for Christmas. From what I've heard, the Nook and the Kindle are the top two choices. They're both small, handy devices, have cute names, and I assume will let her download more books and newspaper articles than she'll ever read. Evidently I don't know that much about these products, so I decided to do some online research. I'm not alone, 58 percent of my fellow adult American consumers research products they are considering purchasing online. I consider myself a master googler, so it's no problem locating favorable reviews for both the Kindle and the Nook. In an effort to evaluate the gadgets, I make a list of considerations: price point, content availability, and accessories. It's easy to find reviews that favor one over the other, and evaluate the two based on everything from content to ease of grip (one has a rubber back the other is metal). Many of these articles include recommendations of various lengths; from a thumbs up, to a detailed 5-page analysis. This online community of consumers and fellow prospective purchasers has been growing steadily since the dawn of the Internet. In 2010, 24 percent of Americans posted a review online, and 70 percent of Americans trusted the reviews their fellow consumers had penned. Seventy percent is a lot of trust, especially when you consider the countless ways someone can review your brand. Websites based solely on consumer reviews have gained popularity in recent years; take Yelp, and Angie's List. Yelp recently received its 11 millionth review, and Angie's list boasts over 600,000 subscribers. There is even Consumersearch, which compiles reviews about everything from diet pills to cat food.  And don't forget Facebook with over 500 million active users posting links to their walls and statuses. When a brand's popularity can be gauged by its "likes" on Facebook, how can a company ensure that it receives a favorable review? From the brands we use to the sports we play offline, what we publicly 'like'? online defines us.  For now, one of the easiest ways to gain a favorable 'review'? online is to get a consumer to 'like'? your product or brand. And in the words of T.I. you can like whatever you like (on Facebook at least). This brings me back to the decision at hand; Kindle or Nook? A couple of reviews would be great!

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