It’s Not The Product, Stupid

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It's Not The Product, Stupid

To anyone who has been in Texas during November, you may have had the fortune to visit Brenham, a cute, small city/big town sort of between Houston and Austin. And if you were really lucky, you had a chance to visit the amazing celebration held every fall at Ellison’s Greenhouses.

The staff at Ellison’s turns themselves inside-out to open the greenhouse to consumers, who walk through a poinsettia production house–a literal sea of red.

Ah, you say. What is so special about that? We all grow those %^&%#& poinsettias. (Sorry, Paul.) We hate them. Too much work, too little money, just summer/fall stress, poinsettias, humbug!

And that, gentle reader, is the theme of this rant. All we see is product. It is what we produce. It is our widget. To us, it is no different than a row of corn or an assembly line at Ford.

Let me share some of what PJ Ellison–AKA queen of amazing ideas and one of the most amazing people I have ever met–wrote to me after this year’s celebration made national news on the Today show. PJ writes about the Today show being at the greenhouses to film:

“Wow! Talk about humbling! I was reminded once again of just how amazing the blessing of our industry is! I truly saw in the faces of the TV crew the beauty and joy that surrounds us daily. The comments they made about how great it was to do a happy, feel-good story never stopped. May you and I truly remember how blessed we are to be in agriculture and in the green industry!”

OK, boys and girls, let’s break down this note from Ms. Ellison.

First, she can not possibly be in the business, as she is writing in positive tone! Does PJ not know that energy prices are up and retailers hate us? How can she be positive? Clearly, PJ is an alien from another dimension and not a real grower. Quick–someone take her OFA membership card away!

Second, she is talking about a TV crew in her greenhouse. What? Now she is delusional. We never ever tell people about what we do. We are farmers, darn it! Step away from the camera. Do not promote our products.

Third, she is talking about beauty and joy. What is that about? Does she not know that poinsettias are vile and horrible and we are forced to grow these products? (See above comment about delusional.)

What PJ did not mention in her note is she had just had over 5,000 consumers in her greenhouse, as well as the major local press in Houston and Austin, plus press from around Texas, Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas Monthly magazine, etc. After the poinsettia tour, folks enjoyed local vendors, live music, food and drink, saw amazing Christmas-related crafts for sale. Some even bought some poinsettias. It was quite a party.

While this was going on, the staff at Ellison’s got a chance to interact with live consumers (gasp!) It was at Ellison’s that consumers first saw goofy poinsettias like ‘Winter Rose’ and ‘Carousel’ and those pesky painted poinsettias. And PJ and her team heard first-hand what consumers thought, liked, hated and had to have.

Talk to consumers? Are you mad? We are farmers. We grow (fill in blank). You are not only talking but you are looking at their faces! Call for the men in white coats!

PJ’s note hit me as she saw a jaded, war-weary, been there, done that TV news crew walk into her greenhouse and they lit up. In her words, “I truly saw in the faces of the TV crew the beauty and joy that surrounds us daily… comments they made about how great it was to do a happy, feel-good story never stopped.”

And she is right–not just that promoting product to media is a good idea, but that people emote to our product.

My take away from all of this is:

1. Thank PJ again for talking in public about how great our stuff is. If you see her at trade shows, say hi and thank her. We need more PJs (although some of you who know her well might suggest that one PJ is all we can handle at any one time–but that is another story).

2. Share her experience with all of you–check.

3. I will personally try to stop talking about product. We do not sell product. We grow flowers and plants. We make the world a nicer place. We are helping the environment with trees and shrubs and flowers and all things green. No more widgets, only flowers. This will not be easy. I have talked product for 30 years, and old dogs do not easily learn new tricks.

4. I will try to remember that real folks have an emotional reaction to our flowers and we should all share that. And as PJ mentioned, be thankful for the blessing that is our industry!

So repeat after me, we grow flowers and plants, and we help bring smiles and good to our customers. Now go out there and start talking.

Laurie Scullin is a marketing consultant helping get new ideas to the consumer marketplace. For more information, contact him at or 352-495-3375.

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