One nice thing about the GWA Symposium is that most of the meals are donated by various member businesses. But we all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, or a free breakfast, for that matter, so you probably already guessed that the business that pays for breakfast thereby procures the opportunity to speak to us while we are eating.
On Saturday morning this privilege went to Scotts Miracle Gro. (I can hear some of you booing and hissing already. Will it appease you any to learn that Bradfield Organics and SafeLawns.org got the floor for Sunday’s breakfast? The irony wasn’t lost on some of us. There’s room for all kinds in the GWA, especially if they’re paying for breakfast.) I was surprised at the level of conversation going on around me while the presentation was being conducted. Apparently just because someone gets up to talk, the members don’t feel obligated to listen. Some people claim the microphone wasn’t working. Perhaps the temptation to catch up with long lost friends was too great. Or maybe some people were remembering a certain lawsuit and were deliberately being rude.
Where Gardeners Hang Out Online
Too bad for them. It was an excellent presentation. The first part was a talk by Phil Gomes of Edelman (the title on his card reads Vice President, me2revolution), who I believe was hired by Scotts as a consultant to help them figure out how to use the internet to increase interest in gardening. Phil knows his stuff. He used various online research tools to demonstrate where gardeners were hanging out and what they were doing there, and he didn’t leave out garden blogs. As a matter of fact, he spent several minutes at This Garden Is Illegal explaining various aspects of Hannah’s site. Most importantly, he understood the strengths and weaknesses of the web as a communication medium, and he brought them out clearly. I especially liked the way he summarized his findings:
I agreed with him that “online media is not a replacement to traditional media. If properly embraced, it’s a complement.” I thought his presentation was a complement, as well, to the discussion on garden blogs I would help present the following day. For people who have been immersed in print media all their lives, it was a very good overview to what’s going on “out there.”
Can the web make gardeners out of non-gardeners?
In the second half of the breakfast talk Craig Humphries presented research Scotts had done to determine what kinds of obstacles kept people from getting started in gardening. They analyzed these findings to figure out how the web could help get non-gardeners into gardening. Long story short, they are going to launch a website next spring that is designed to address some of the reasons people give for not gardening.
I found the whole process of how a large business goes about finding new markets fascinating, but I wonder how well the website will achieve its objectives. First of all, several websites have beat them to the punch. We have Folia (hat tip to Colleen), The Mulch (hat tip to Elizabeth), and Blotanical (kudos to Stu!). (Let me know of others that I’ve missed.) Secondly, they also cited research indicating that the people most likely to turn to the internet for gardening information were already passionately interested in the subject–no surprise there, right? So, how do you get non-gardeners to go where they haven’t gone before?
Can marketers make gardeners out of non-gardeners?
I’m in favor of turning more people on to gardening, and I don’t care if a horticultural mega-business like Scotts is the one to do it. Certainly, if all it takes is enough money, Scotts should be up to the job. They also hired some brains when they brought Phil Gomes on board, but while he has his ways of finding things out online, he doesn’t think like a gardener. (Come to think of it, those of us who think like gardeners are already online, so maybe that’s actually an asset, not a liability.)
But I don’t trust the information from polls, surveys and the like. It’s too easy to ask questions that will give you the answers you want to hear, and to neglect the questions that really need to be asked. And those being queried don’t always understand your question, or they don’t want to admit to the true answer, or they don’t really even know what the truth is. If someone is asked, “Why don’t you garden?” and they respond, “Because I don’t have anyone to do it with,” what does that really mean? Does it mean they wish they had a friend by their side, potting pansies at the same table, or pulling weeds in the same bed? Or does it really mean, I don’t have anyone to do all the hard stuff for me? And do the pollster and the one being polled even have the same definition of gardening?
View the webinar and make up your own mind
I was impressed enough with Gomes’ part of the presentation that I went up to him right after the presentation and asked for his card, hoping to get a transcript of his talk. But apparently enough people wished they had heard it that the GWA and Scotts jointly sponsored a repeat of the presentation as a “webinar,” which was an opportunity to watch Power Point slides on my computer screen while listening to the presenters on the phone. If you are willing to devote an hour of your life to it, you, too, can watch the webinar by going to Scotts press release page, downloading the Webex viewer (which I had to do to view the webinar in the first place), and clicking the Playback button. On that same Scotts page there is also a small .pdf Social Media Glossary. There were a few things on it that I wasn’t already aware of, so it might be helpful for you, too.