McCain, Obama & A Kilt

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McCain, Obama & A Kilt

InstaKilt is driving its marketing message home–literally.
So why shouldn’t growers do the same to promote plants?

The trade shows seemed a tad quiet to me this year. I’m not sure about attendance, but higher gas prices and poor spring weather have dampened the mood as we get ready for 2009.

So, let me put you in a worse mood, and then offer a goofy solution connecting the presidential campaign and an item as simple as a beach towel.

Let’s start with the election. How many of you have factored your production grow plan down because of the election? And I mean way down. We are going to see shrinking demand, and it will all be because of John McCain and Barack Obama.

Why, you ask? For starters, we are going to have two straight months of TV commercials telling us how poor we are, how the economy is terrible, how unemployment is high and how it is all the fault of a bad Republican president or a bad Democratic Congress. What is the effect of non-stop negative TV commercials for three months telling you that you have no money? Less petunias in 2009.

I haven’t even mentioned the TV debates. But if the fall election is anything like the primaries, we will have weekly debates, if not daily ones among ourselves. It will be 24/7 about the poor, pitiful economy. We can all agree that the economy is not so good right now, but the real impact of non-stop TV commercials and debates will beat up on the poor consumer. And that will have some impact on spring sales. And yes, the production grow plan you are working on needs a factor built in for the election.

Here are a few ideas: Hope like heck the reality TV folks have taken over televised election coverage. I would be much less pessimistic about spring if all the TV debates were presented as reality TV. Think about ‘Fear Factor: Election 2008,’ where we see if John McCain can eat more worms than Barack Obama, or ‘Big Brother’ format where we lock them into a house for eight weeks and see which one gets voted off the island. My new favorite reality TV show is “I Survived a Japanese Game Show.” We could have the two candidates sticking themselves to a velcro-covered dartboard, and the closest to the center wins.

OK, so I’ve painted a picture of why the election is going to hurt–now to tie in why a towel can save us.
I spend a lot of my consulting time north of the border up in Ontario, and one of my crazy Canadian buddies is helping get a new product off the ground. It is a beach towel printed to look like a Scottish kilt. It is being sold at local Highland festivals throughout Ontario. The darn towel sells for $25, and the crazy friends have gone and bought a Mini Cooper. They also had it wrapped in advertising, and they’re going to drive the Mini to various festivals as a promotional effort.

Think about it: We’re talking about a towel, and they’ve added value to it. They are creating brand equity, all with a silly beach towel.

To combat the evil TV negative spin on the economy and the impact on petunia prices, I suggest that we all immediately shrink wrap our cars, trucks or Mini Coopers. Pick a message. Any will do: ‘Gardening Is Good’ or ‘Get Green’ or ‘Trees Save Lives.’

I’ll even go a step further: If any of you want to do this but don’t know how, I will help connect you to design companies that can help. I want to see us all driving our marketing message home and doing all we can to add value to crops. If they can market that darn towel, we can market our petunias.

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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