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Mary Mastroeni
mmastroeni@remax.net
Mary Mastroeni
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Blue Bell  PA 19422
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O: 215-643-3200
C: 610-213-4878
F: 267-354-6212 
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Mary's Blog

Growing up Tech: Digital Kids and Their Families Hold Key to Bright Future

June 16, 2011 2:27 pm

Consumer technology is in a constant state of evolution, but the adoption rate varies and the role it plays in families' lives has become a controversial topic. 

Recently, Ogilvy & Mather, in partnership with leading consumer insights company Communispace, released findings from its new joint research study, 'Tech Fast Forward: Plug in to see the brighter side of life,' which takes a deep dive into the role technology plays in families' lives today, exploring the mindset of tech-savvy kids and their families, as they pave the way for what lies ahead for consumers and brands alike. 

The report uncovers insights from the "Tech Fast Forward" (TFF) family segment (defined as households who use more sophisticated technology than the average person, with children ages 3-12) and seeks to understand how parents and children embracing technology differ from their less tech-savvy counterparts. Following this group helps brands and marketers alike understand the mindset and experiences that companies need to stay engaged and relevant in today's rapidly changing world. 

"You don't need to be a futurist to know that today's world is changing rapidly and technology is driving this evolution—continually creating possibilities, broadening our horizons and opening new doors," says Graceann Bennett, Managing Partner and Director of Strategic Planning at Ogilvy & Mather Chicago. "We assumed as a starting point that technology is our future, but what we did not know—and what we sought to uncover—was whether the outlook would be limitless or limiting, awesome or overwhelming." 

According to Manila Austin, Ph.D., Communispace's Vice President of Research, "The brands that effectively speak to the Tech Fast Forward consumer today link products, services, and even corporate social responsibility together to showcase the brighter future Americans and the world hope to see." 

A Tech Future is a Surprisingly Bright Future
Among the study's key findings, TFF Families have a more positive mindset overall and express less anxiety about the future. Parents believe technology is helping their children develop critical skills that will empower them to navigate—and even save—the world in the years and decades to come. According to the research, the TFF segment is twice as likely to say their children's generation is better off than prior generations and three times more likely than the rest of the population to strongly agree that when their kids' generation comes into power, they will "save the planet," "the world will be better off because of how they will lead the way" and "there will be global peace." 

So What Does this Mean for Brands?
Through the research findings, Communispace and Ogilvy were able to identify the following 12 implications that will help marketers stay ahead of the curve and connect, literally and emotionally, with today and tomorrow's tech forward consumer.
1. Mobilize tech optimism: Brands have the opportunity to capitalize on today's tech optimism by helping consumers create the brighter world they want to see.
2. Generation bending: Nobody really acts their age anymore: market to kids as adults, adults as kids.
3. Mine the family mindset: As intergenerational attitudes converge, opportunities to market to the family as a unit increase. Purchase decisions are family decisions.
4. Be nice: Mean pretty much stinks; speaking to values of kindness and tolerance will increase acceptance and "liked-ness" of your brand.
5. Curate unexpected connections: Brands have the opportunity to bring unimagined access to consumers across the globe and should harness the power of connections in more interesting ways.
6. Put the world to work for you: Technology has unleashed the wisdom of the crowd and brands can build on tech optimism to channel their customers' creativity.
7. Turn up the intensity of shared experiences: Brands can leverage technology to expand and elevate shared experiences; look beyond the ordinary and consider partnering with artists to enhance and deepen brand involvement.
8. Respect the mode: Consumers today switch between modes of separation and integration, and seek service and product solutions to help them feel in control. Brands will benefit by providing a flexible feature set that speaks to the multi-modal life.
9. Un-connect the dots: Consumers want to interpret your brand—to make your brand's story their own. So give them the building blocks and let them put the pieces together.
10. Build gated communities: Safety and privacy create major barriers for self-expression online; private communities help consumers feel secure and confident when engaging with your brand online.
11. Get serious about game play: Game play is no longer relegated to the domain of kids—as technology makes brands more interactive, consumers expect to engage with brands in ways that mimic "play." Be it betting, competing, constructing or solving puzzles, consumers look for ways to take time out and have a little fun with your brand.
12. Let people mess with your brand: The creative impulse abounds, and today, any and all content is fair game for experimentation, adaptation and reinterpretation. This includes your brand! Companies need to embrace this trend and enable consumers to reimagine and remix brand assets.

How the Research Was Conducted
A nationally representative sample was conducted with 1200 tech savvy kids and their families across America with at least one child between the ages of 3 and 12. The first round of data collection occurred in 2010, and a second round was conducted in April 2011. Ogilvy Chicago also conducted in-home ethnographies with tech savvy kids and their families. Communispace conducted a series of qualitative studies including interactive conversations, image galleries, and other dynamic and exploratory activities with its proprietary online community members, which involved some 100 technology-savvy families with children between the age of 3 and 12. 

The full research paper can be found online at www.ogilvy.com/techfastforward and www.communispace.com/techfastforward.
For more information, visit www.ogilvy.com.

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Question of the Day

June 16, 2011 2:27 pm

Q: Is it possible to save on closing costs?

A: Certainly, once you get pass the sticker shock. Closing costs are expensive. They can average between 2 to 3 percent of the total home purchase price. But here are a few ways to save:

• Haggle with the seller. He may pay all or part of the closing costs.
• Nab a no-point loan. You may have to pay a higher interest rate, but if you are strapped for cash and can qualify for a higher interest rate, you may find this type of loan can significantly reduce your closing costs.
• Grab a no-fee loan. Although the fee is usually wrapped into a higher rate loan, it does offer one advantage—you get to save on the amount of cash you would need up-front.
• Secure seller financing. These loans typically avoid the traditional fees or charges imposed by lenders. • Shop ‘til you drop for the best deal. Every lender has its own unique fee structure; you are bound to find one that works for you.

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Word of the Day

June 16, 2011 2:27 pm

Balloon loan. Mortgage loan in which a larger final payment becomes due because the loan amount was not fully amortized.


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Take 13 Steps Toward Safer Lawn Mowing

June 16, 2011 2:27 pm

‘Tis the season that many of us practice our weekly ritual of lawn mowing. But it’s also the season that accidents with lawn mowers send people to the emergency room. Each year, lawn mowers are associated with an estimated 86,000 hospital-treated injuries and about 100 deaths. Here are 13 steps you can take to avoid becoming one of those statistics. 

1. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instruction before using your mower for the first time. Insist that anyone else who uses your mower reads the instructions first. 
2. Never circumvent a safety device such as the “deadman” control or discharge chute.
3. Before starting your mower, make sure there are no missing or loose parts. If there is any sign of leaking fuel, don’t use the mower until it’s fixed. Many lawn mowers have been recalled because of fuel leaks. Check www.recalls.gov.
4. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, never start your mower in a garage or shed.
5. Wear sturdy work shoes with good traction and hearing protection while mowing. Long term exposure to noisy mowers could lead to hearing loss.
6. Check your lawn for debris such as rocks, sticks, or toys that could become dangerous projectiles if you run over them.
7. Keep kids and pets well away from the mowing area.
8. Never let a child sit on your lap on a riding mower or tractor.
9. Never allow children younger than 14 to use a ride-on mower, and don’t allow children younger than 12 to use walk-behind mowers.
10. For walk-behind mowers, mow parallel with slopes; for tractors and riding mowers, mow up and down slopes.
11. Never mow wet grass where you or the mower could easily slip.
12. Always look behind you before reversing a ride-on mower but avoid mowing in reverse.
13. Never refuel a hot engine.

In Consumer Reports’ recent lawn-care poll, folks ‘fessed up to some hazardous mowing practices. In fact, 25 percent said they listened to music through headphones, 8 percent drink beer or other alcohol and 4 percent text or talk on the phone. 

For more information, please visit www.consumerreports.org

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9 Body Language Tips to Help You Win in Business World

June 16, 2011 2:27 pm

Today’s business world is more competitive than ever. As the economy continues to struggle, competition for jobs, clients, sales—you name it—continues to be tight. If you’re sure you’ve been saying all the right things, but you still can’t get ahead, author Sharon Sayler suggests you consider what you’ve really been saying to potential employers or customers—not just verbally, but nonverbally.

“True communication goes beyond words, and great communicators use every tool they have to deliver their message,” says Sayler. “When you have control of your nonverbal language, you can communicate confidence with passion, persuasion, credibility and candor—factors that will help you soar above your competition in the business world.”

Sayler offers the following nonverbal do’s and don’ts that will help you win in the business world:

Don’t fill the air with “um, ah, uh,” and “you know.” It is natural to pause when you speak—it gives you a chance to breathe. What’s not natural is to fill the silent pause with um, ah, uh, you know, and other sounds. Verbal pauses are distracting and muddle what you are trying to say, because the audience sees you searching for the next words. Meaningless extra syllables or words make you look less intelligent. Your message will be more effective once you eliminate them. This may take practice.

Don’t use the fig-leaf pose. “When you place your hands in the fig-leaf pose, your body says, ‘I’m harmless,’ or, ‘I’m afraid,’” explains Sayler. “Not exactly the way to convey the level of confidence that a new employer might want to see in a new hire or that a client wants to see in the genius he needs to help improve his business.”

Do use hand gestures systematically. When we use only words to convey our message, we make it necessary for our audience to pay very close attention to what we say. Using gestures systematically, especially when giving directions or teaching, makes the audience less dependent on the verbal part of the presentation. The visual reminder created by gestures allows the listener two ways to remember: auditory and visual. It thereby increases the likelihood of accurate recall.

Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Thumbs hanging off the pockets and hands deep in both pockets say something similar to the fig leaf hand gesture, “Geez, I hope you like me.” Hands deep in the pockets jingling change say one of two things, depending on context: “Geez, I’m nervous and hope you like me,” or, “Geez, I’m so bored. Is this ever going to be over?”

Don’t hide your hands behind your back. Depending on the situation, grasping your hands behind your back can be interpreted as meaning, “Geez, I hope you like me,” or, “You better fear me.” Neither interpretation leaves a very good impression of you, so avoid this position altogether.

Don’t cross your arms. This stance is most frequently understood to indicate that you’re upset or uncomfortable. In business, others often interpret it as, “I am not open to discussion,” or, “I am annoyed.”

Do know when to put your hands on your hips. This is a ready-to-take-action gesture. It makes most people appear bigger, because they are actually taking up more space. Yet, it is often given negative labels by others, such as meaning you are annoyed, closed, or won’t listen—similar to placing your arms across your chest.

Do remember the eyes have it. Of all the nonverbal messages one can use, the eyes are the most expressive and really are the window to thoughts and emotions. Little or no eye contact is often thought to be associated with lying, but this is not always true. Experienced liars will look you right in the eye every time. It might also indicate lack of self-esteem or interest.

Do stop fidgeting. Unintentional gestures are emotional reactions or the result of the body’s desire for physical comfort and are often lovingly called fidgets. Even though fidgets can calm us, those pesky, jerky movements or anxious behaviors often make others uneasy.

“When it comes to inspiring and influencing others, we can say all the right words, but if our nonverbal postures send a different message, that is what others will understand and take away,” says Sayler. “True communication goes beyond words, and great communicators use every tool they have to deliver their message. When you learn to communicate not only through what you say, but also through what your body says, you can build stronger relationships, become a more influential leader, and receive enthusiastic responses from potential employers, clients and colleagues.

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Summer Fun on a Budget—Five Ways to Do More with Less

June 16, 2011 2:27 pm

For many families, times are tough, and the budget may not stretch far enough this year for a family vacation or summer camp. But, says life coach Valorie Burton, there are many ways to plan a summer of fun without spending a lot of money—even without a swimming pool in your own backyard.

Burton suggests starting with the following five questions, and plan your fun based on the results of your answers. 

• What gives me joy? Are you happiest at the seashore? At a picnic in the woods? Playing with the kids at the park? Make this the year to plan family outings at the places you enjoy.
• Who do we want to connect with? Are there cousins, friends, or grandparents you don’t see often enough, even though they don’t live far away? This might be the year to plan a car trip—or invite other people to your own home—for a few days of visiting fun.
• What do tourists do around here? Often, we travel long distances on vacation while passing on the local attractions other people come to see in our region. Is there a national park within easy driving distance? A state or county fair? A museum? Plan a few picnics or an overnight stay at a few of these local treasures.
• Who can we team up with? Plan a block party or barbecue with neighbors. Teaming up and sharing the cost can be more fun than planning a party on your own.
• What can we do for someone else? Volunteering is a great way to feel good about yourself while helping those in need. You can volunteer at a home improvement project, read to the elderly at a senior facility, or organize a school supplies donation project before school resumes. Have a family conference and let the kids help choose what projects they would like to do.

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Home Entertaining Tips

June 16, 2011 2:27 pm

A recent survey conducted by NPD Group, a leading market research company, showed a significant increase of consumers who are opting to bring the party home. 

One trend that is flashing back to grab the “retro” market, and the attention of hip hosts, is slipcovers. And these ain’t your mom’s slipcovers, either. 

The folks from SureFit, (www.SureFit.com), a leading provider of decorative and protective ideas for the home and office say slip covers are the perfect option for entertainers looking to upgrade their mismatched and worn-out furniture without breaking the bank. 

From your couch to your recliner and for under $200, SureFit says these machine-washable home solutions provide a smart and efficient way to create a well-designed, well-furnished venue for any gathering. Sure Fit also carries a wide variety of home-furnishing accessories, including decorative pillows, mood-setting window treatments and lamp shades that can spice up the drabbest décor.

Another source, best-slipcovers.com has some great ideas for using slip covers to create a fresh look with your existing furniture, or for simple and economic home staging. First, think like a home stager by looking at what design of slip cover would coordinate well with the color scheme in your home, or various rooms.
Going from a cool to a warm season, throw open the windows and don’t fret that your once cozy sofa and chairs look dark and heavy in the room. Go for a lighter look by dressing your upholstered furniture in slipcovers made of fabrics that are lighter or brighter. 

Change the texture from that nubby woven fabric or heavy velvet to a crisp linen fabric or vividly patterned cotton print. Not only will the change look fresher, the new fabric feels refreshing to the touch.
Then, toss on a colorful pillow or two and you've got a great new look in minutes. The folks at best-slipcovers.com have a lot more information and tips about the best ways to “go retro” with hip new slipcover designs and styles to make any piece of furniture, or your entire house, look brand new.

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Question of the Day

June 15, 2011 5:27 pm

Q: Does the seller take the furnishings once the home is sold?

A: Normally. This is because the fixtures—personal property that is permanently attached to a home, such as built-in bookcases or a furnace—automatically stay with the house unless noted otherwise in the sales contract. Anything that is not nailed down is negotiable, including appliances that are not built in, such as washers and dryers.


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Word of the Day

June 15, 2011 5:27 pm

Assessment. Tax or charge levied on property by a taxing authority to pay for local improvements such as sidewalks, streets, and sewers.

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Record Wildfire Season Impacting the U.S.

June 15, 2011 5:27 pm

As wildfires continue to rage in Arizona and Florida, every state in the country now has the potential for a wildfire. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, nearly every state in the U.S. has already experienced a wildfire this year. Wildfires during the first five months of this year have burned 3.2 million acres, due to soon surpass the 3.4 million acres of land and property that burned during all of last year.
Wildfires are a serious risk to life and property throughout the United States and Canada. As the weather becomes hot and dry, so is the increased potential for wildfires. State Farm® wants to remind you that the best way to reduce property loss due to wildfire is to plan ahead. 

One of the most important steps to reduce wildfire damage is to clear and maintain a defensible space around your home and structures. Clearing or trimming vegetation reduces the chance of fire damage and provides a safety zone for firefighters. Here are several easy and inexpensive ways to create a defensible space:
• Remove dead shrubs, dried grass, fallen branches and dried leaves 30 - 100 feet around your house.
• Keep trees and shrubs properly thinned and pruned within the defensible space. 

• Remove ladder fuels—plants, low branches, and fire wood that let a fire on the ground climb into the trees.
• Clear five feet around the base of the house and fill the space with fire resistant plants or materials such as rocks or gravel. 

• Take care of the clean, open space around your home on a regular basis by raking up pine needles and removing downed branches or trees.
• Keep your roof and gutters clear of debris and remove overhanging branches.
• Keep grass and weeds mowed at a low height. 

In addition to protecting your home, review your homeowner’s insurance coverage with your agent, especially if you have made recent changes to your property. Insuring your property to at least 100 percent of its estimated replacement cost affords the greatest protection to the policyholder in the event of a loss. Remember to document your belongings by creating a home inventory. An accurate inventory and proof of ownership can make your claim settlement easier and faster. 

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) provides regional information on wildfire risks and ways to reduce loss to your home and business. State Farm is a supporter and member company of IBHS.

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