Inside View: April 2012

March 27, 2012
Written by Gary Jones
Merchandising: (noun) “the planning and promotion of sales by presenting a product to the right market at the proper time, by carrying out organized, skillful advertising, using attractive displays, etc.” (

We all know those iconic adverts. How about “Just do it!” Or whose product makes your mouth water with, “You know when it’s real!” And who would get you thinking, “I’m lovin’ it?”

Of course, you all know these three catchphrases. (Don’t kid yourself – you’re not immune.) Advertising works. OK, so it might take at least eight times for us to hear a jingle before we get the hang of it. But it still works.

Now according to the earlier definition, merchandising has elements of “the right market” at “the right time” and with clever, “organized, skillful advertising.”

Oh, and for companies like those above, lots of cash.

Oodles of cash. Given that the average cost just to produce a thirty-second TV spot runs around a half a million dollars1, (not including the $3.5 million to broadcast for 30 seconds during the Super Bowl!), few in our industry are in that league. If you hadn’t guessed the companies above, Nike has an annual advertising budget nearing $2.5 billion.1 Wendy’s “media budget” for 2009-10 was around $200 million.2 And according to McDonald’s annual report, their advertising budget was about $750 million for 2009.3

Companies are hardly going to spend this amount of cash if they don’t know it sells more product and helps their bottom line.

Not many in the horticultural realm have that kind of advertising budget. A few of the larger seed and chemical companies, maybe. But even for those, how many of us can instantly recognize their advertising “hooks?” (Indeed, do they have them?)

So, how do we work our merchandising in the retail greenhouse business? Well, let’s take another look at our definition: “right market at the proper time, by carrying out organized, skillful advertising, using attractive displays.”

So, it’s not just how much money you can throw at advertising, it’s also finding the right timing for smart adverts and attractive displays.
Perhaps you can remember an advert that caught your attention. Ask yourself what it was that made you stop (even if just briefly) and think about the product? Did you remember the product later or on another occasion when in a similar situation? What was it that made the ad or display stick out as different from others for similar products?

Oftentimes, we relate to adverts or product displays because we make a “connection.” My wife likes the idea of a husband booking a surprise wedding anniversary vacation for his wife (and remembers which company the ad was for). Clearly, that’s advertising targeted to a certain demographic!

There are a number of methods available for advertising, including the most commonly used traditional ones: newspaper advertising, roadside bill boards, radio commercials and (funds permitting!) TV commercials. Of course, there are always competitions, flyers and vouchers to attract people, and customer loyalty rewards to help convert those new customers into “regulars.”

Newer methods are, however, taking over, in particular social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter.

Whatever method you choose, remember to be innovative, skillful and use attractive presentations. Interestingly, many of us remember ads that make us laugh. And since it’s often said that smell causes our longest-lasting memory, perhaps it’s no coincidence that perfume retailers have used “scratch-and-smell” ads. With our products, how about that as a way to be creative – imagine, hyacinth- or lily-scented flyers?

Some retailers and advertising agencies are now building better sustainability into their advertising. How do they do this? Well, they can reuse content (archive material is another way to target an age-focused population and help them to make a “connection” with products) or use stock content1. And talking of being “sustainable,” social media advertising does away almost entirely with resources such as paper.

Don’t forget, though, that the point of advertising is not to simply get people to know your product, but as retail consultant John Stanley says, it’s ultimately about “converting lookers into buyers.”

Oh, and that reminds me, in case you’re wondering, no, sadly I haven’t booked a surprise wedding anniversary vacation.


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