Why are we marketing pot sizes when we should be simplifying consumer purchasing?
June 15, 2011
I was driving down the road recently when I heard a radio ad from one of the box stores - Lowe's, I think - and its newly arrived shipment of colorful hibiscus. The ad was the same old, same old, but what struck me as particularly ludicrous was the come-on: "Come into Lowe's garden store, where we just received a delivery of 10-inch hibiscus plants with colorful blooms ... the greatest thing since sliced bread ... yada, yada."
Personally, I understand the message. But I wondered if others listening would be a little perplexed. So I asked my daughter Laura what she thought about the ad. She hit on the confusion right away. "Dad, are they annual or perennial?" She had seen many perennial hibiscus in landscapes, as well as beautiful gift hibiscus in hospital shops and florists. I told her I didn't know, but I expect they were the gift ones.
Then she asked: "And they're only 10 inches tall? I don't want to spend my money on something that will take all summer to get some size."
Therein lies the rub: What in God's green earth are consumers supposed to think about a 10-inch hibiscus? We know the suppliers are referring to the size of the pot (at least I think they are), but what gardener or homeowner envisions a tall, healthy hibiscus when all she hears is "10 inch?" Wouldn't Laura have been turned on a lot more by hearing about the plant's vigor? Wouldn't "in a jumbo-sized pot" have been better - if the stupid pot size even had to be mentioned at all?
I don't know if the pot was black, green or stenciled, but I sure know nobody is going to rush into the store to see a 10-inch pot - or 10-inch-tall plants. The annual/perennial thing will work itself out as long as the tag (or salesperson) states its hardiness features. Between tags that still read "4-inch annual" to regional ads that read "10-inch plants," we are not exactly progressing quickly.
Color Of The Year Confusion
Because I was having such an enlightening conversation with my wonderful daughter, I decided to ask her about something I saw at the California Spring Trials about which I felt very uninformed. "Laura," I asked, "do you know what the Color of the Year for 2011 is?" She hesitated and then said, "I didn't know there was a Color of the Year."
"Well, Laura, at Spring Trials I was told the Color of the Year is honeysuckle. Would you like your dad to buy you a blouse or something in honeysuckle?" Another pause, then a: "What does honeysuckle even look like?"
I felt much better, because when I was told about this at Spring Trials, I envisioned red, coral, yellow and pink. I couldn't grasp honeysuckle. So I went to Pantone.com and found out honeysuckle is: "Courageous. Confident. Vital. A brave new color, for a brave new world. Let the bold spirit of honeysuckle infuse you, lift you and carry you through the year. It's a color for every day - with nothing 'everyday' about it."
Wow, and I thought a 10-inch hibiscus was mystifying.
I am told we should pay attention to these colors, and I must say the Pantone website was fascinating. I bet you didn't know they also selected men's colors - no wonder men can't buy plants, we don't even know our colors.
Why do we in the plant industry make it so unnecessarily confusing for those who just want to buy our products? Why don't we simply say "In a 10-inch-wide pot?" Why don't we describe the Color of the Year as an actual color, not a string of meaningless allegories? Why make more work for ourselves?
All in all, it was an interesting day. And as Laura and I finished up she said, "Hey Dad, about that blouse ..."
Allan Armitage is a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga. You can eMail him at allan@greenhouse grower.com.