So, what do women see in the mirror?
The brains behind the Tesco Clubcard launches an online research project
Susie Mesure writes interviews, news and features for the Independent on Sunday, Independent and i, and has done for the last ten years or so give or take two lengthy maternity leaves. She is interested in just about any topic, especially anything Scandinavian, food, or consumer-orientated, and used to be the Independent’s Retail Correspondent
Sunday 24 February 2013
Her last venture revealed shoppers' secret habits, revolutionising the way companies target customers and defining the notion that we are what we buy.
Now Edwina Dunn, whose groundbreaking work on Tesco's Clubcard transformed the grocery store into a global retail behemoth, wants to reveal the mysteries that unite womankind by asking women what they see when they look in the mirror.
The online "What I See" project, which has already gathered 300 stories from woman in 11 countries around the world from Turkey to Chile, launches this week with an exhibition at the Science Museum that Ms Dunn hopes will encourage thousands more to get involved.
Ms Dunn, who made nearly £100m from selling the retail analysis business she ran with her husband, Clive Humby, to Tesco two years ago, hopes the initiative will "create more role models for young girls". She wants an "antidote" to people's obsession with visual impressions, which is why she hasn't resorted to using celebrities. "Being beautiful and famous is wonderful, but not all of us are made that way," she said.
Although the data would yield a potential commercial gold mine to companies keen to understand what makes their female customers tick, Ms Dunn insists she has no business goal. This is in direct contrast to her last company, dunnhumby, which made countless hundreds of millions of pounds for the businesses that used it around the world, from Tesco to consumer product giants Kraft and General Mills, through its analysis of what people bought.
"I'm spending money, not making it. I hope it will show there are some really interesting and deeper dimensions to women than those that are often used," Ms Dunn said. "We want to create a deeper perspective than the self-fulfilling market research usually used to create products for women."
Nor is she looking to create any sort of new social media platform. People will be able to comment on each video – and upload their own – but the website will not connect people directly.
A University of Cambridge psychologist, Dr Terri Apter, is among those who have already recorded a story. "Women often struggle with how they're seen and what that means about them," she said. "For decades, parents and politicians have been concerned about the impact of idealised images on girls and women. This project helps to shift the debate from 'what do I look like?' to 'what do I see?'. It's empowering because it's the woman herself who is being the judge, not the mirror."
Ms Dunn will look at the themes that connect women despite their different backgrounds. Happiness, for example, seems to hinge on being "distracted from anxieties, especially those caused from motherhood". She added: "Other patterns include strength, courage and humour."
After Wednesday's Science Museum launch, the exhibition will move to London's South Bank for the Women of the World festival to celebrate International Women's Day on 8 March.
Dame Athene Donald, professor of physics at the University of Cambridge who is also involved, said she hoped the initiative, which will run for 12 months, would "inspire the young, and not so young, women around the world who often can still feel isolated and alone".
Clive Humby is not involved with the project. Instead, his wife said, he is working with the Isaac Newton Institute on a project "to protect individuals' privacy with data". Some people might find this ironic because one criticism of Tesco's Clubcard and the countless imitation loyalty schemes that followed was that it turned the grocer into a retailing Big Brother, with critics worried about the potential abuse of the vast power of the information that it collected.
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