Instead Of Flowers [Opinion]

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Webinar: Top Performing Annuals With Allan Armitage

The other night, while watching TV, I was working the remote like a sound mixer at a concert. Volume up, volume down, hit recall channel during commercials … and otherwise driving my wife crazy. As a rule, I mute the most inane commercials; why is driving a truck in the mud so appealing; who buys prescription drugs from a TV ad; how many male enhancement pills are there anyway? However, that evening a Valentine’s Day ad came on blatantly attacking our products. I turned it up.
The ad was for a company called InsteadOfFlowers.com and essentially stated that our product is superfluous, does nothing but die and there are far better ways to spend our money than on flowers.   

I am so tired of our industry being the fall guy. Every time a drought occurs or might occur, it is our fault for making it worse, and boom, politicians bring back draconian water restrictions. I am not sure how many more restrictions we can take, but I have inured myself to them by now.  

A number of years ago, I wrote a column about the words “in lieu of flowers,” now so common  in obituary columns. I understand the desire to support agencies and foundations, but flowers have always been a cherished reminder of beauty and good. Feeling guilty about giving flowers does not seem right, and it takes another bite out of the value of our products.

This latest ad continues a trend in marketing; don’t show the value of your product, devalue the competition. We see such tactics in politics, cars and medicines. These guys are selling take-out meals and gift certificates for Valentine’s Day — impersonal, objective rubbish. And while doing so, they are asking, “Why would anyone spend money on flowers that die?” I am tired of being a convenient punching bag.
This is not a problem only for cut flower growers — we are all under assault.  Landscapers have become maintenance people, designers are only for the rich, bedding plants are commodities, and independent garden centers sell more hard goods than plants.

Of course, this is not new. The only way it will be reversed is if we as an industry fight back with our own advertising program, one in which we show how important our plants are to the health, wealth and well-being of every person in this country. However, having suggested many times that we actually do something as an industry — to perpetual deaf ears, I have no optimism we will fight back.

We will survive, as we always do, but there may simply be a few less survivors.  GG

Allan Armitage was a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia for 30 years. He recently retired and remains an active consultant, author and lecturer.

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One comment on “Instead Of Flowers [Opinion]

  1. Mason Day

    I agree completely. As we move forward we must do so carefully because it seems that a lot of people are out there to get us, and as if that weren't enough we have to deal with policy, a crumbling economy, and mother nature (who can be the cruelest of all). That is why we must come together as an industry and communicate with each other at all levels. We must figure out a way to reach these new consumers who now see plants/flowers as a luxury or something unimportant. We have to show people that there are reasons their ancestors gardened. Somehow we as a population are beginning to lose that knowledge. There are too many benefits to count of gardening. The challenge is how to we get that message to stick in the brains of these "new" consumers?