Let’s Sell Emotional Values!

Apr 27, 2016 6 Comments

The phrase “The Value Proposition” is marketing-speak for “In return for your money (or effort or time etc.), you get this” and is worth more than an academic glance. Just look how the “Mad Men” in advertising have used that simple premise to help us all to part with our money for decades:

–          Concerned about that daunting list of side effects in a medication ad? (Sure, but just the idea of not sneezing every five minutes in spring makes it that a deal you can accept.)

–          Excited to turn over all your home TV and internet to one giant cable company? (No but you DO like the idea of watching whatever you want, when you want.)

These types of ads carefully craft a message of emotional benefits (the outcomes of the purchase), while the garden industry mostly still features the technical details. From propagator/manufacturer to retailer we see garden product ads, signs, labels or training manuals that are heavy on product functions (“Spreader-sticker” anyone?).

We see “Takes partial shade” instead of “Fill that bare spot under a tree” or “soaker hose” rather than “Waters gently like Mother Nature”. Maybe THAT’S why Americans spend more per household on Pizza than on gardening!

Marketers realized years ago that consumers spend more easily on emotional benefits than on functional ones. That’s why people drive miles to save gas money, so they can spend it at their favorite restaurant!

With competition from the smartest marketers on the planet, the lawn & garden business should spice-up the (sometimes necessary) technical language with words that suggest the product benefit (outcomes!) in simple emotional terms. We have highly marketable products with infinite emotions from excitement and joy, through pride and accomplishment, to solace and peace. We have things that taste great, clean the air, increase property values, reduce utility bills, create privacy, enrich lives and save the planet. But we still talk or merchandise to the public in technical or hobbyists terms. Just look at what “Mad Men” do with soap, drugs or insurance and think of what you could do with gardening!

So instead of “quick grower, 6ft by 5ft, $99” how about “Hide the neighbors for under $100”? Or for “3 months continuous feeding” substitute “Feed and forget” (with a 90 day reminder to buy more).

Train to Think Like the Customer

Team training should focus on the end result, not the process, as employees make the emotional value proposition: emphasizing the cool style of succulents or the fun of a child measuring a sunflower.

In training meetings I have found employees so anxious to tell the customer every single fact, they miss the essential motivator – the emotions of the end result. Stressing “things they need to know” means that emotional values like the fragrance of lilac or tasting that first tomato are missed. I even heard one experienced manager telling a customer “I think you’ll find it worth the effort” when she balked at digging a big hole for a shrub!

So let’s see more emotional values from the entire supply chain:

  • Let’s read about “A green lawn for 90% less than a lawn-care service” (money-saving is a MAJOR emotional benefit!)
  • Let’s see plant labels spelling out nostalgia like “Grandma’s Lilac” or the fragrance of Old Roses
  • Let’s suggest the environmental satisfaction of creating a Monarch haven
  • Let’s see POP with “Basil on your balcony” for apartment dwellers and “Hops made easy” for home-brewers.
  • Let’s hear employees talking of “Relaxing sounds of wind chimes” or a fountain that “Hides the sound of the dog next door”!
  • Let’s see displays that call out “Best herb for grilling steak” in the myriad of herb choices.
  • Let’s focus on those emotions that entice consumers to save on gas and spend it in this industry!

… and finally, let me know what you come up with: happy propositioning!

Photo by Ian, on the road somewhere

  1. Mick gainan
    Apr 28, 2016 at 3:40 am

    Thanks for the reminder Ian.
    It seems every year at our place we train our seasonals on what we want them to know, rather than what we want them to share.
    We will use some of this, as we have a little break in our selling season with some late season weather events, we have a little more time to (re) evaluate the emotional value of what we do with the amazing product we have,

    1. Ian Baldwin
      Apr 29, 2016 at 4:11 am

      Mick, thanks for your note. In the rush to serve and keep up with a busy time of year, I think many team members miss the basics of what the consumer wants to hear. But I have found that those employees with the most “Product Knowledge” are the ones who find it more difficult to talk about “emotional values”, so you might widen your training to those who probably think they don’t need it. Hope you have a great few weeks in Montana!

  2. Jim Sullivan
    Apr 28, 2016 at 4:19 am

    You’re spot on Ian. A perfect example is Scott’s new TV campaign “It’s Good Out Here”. It promotes the emotional value of what a lawn brings to a family and friends. There’s not even any mention of specific products. This is a change from the ” Feed Your Lawn … Feed It” , which I know you didnt care for. A lawn is a place where family and friends gather and enjoy life…. Not something to feed, water and mow.

    1. Ian Baldwin
      May 3, 2016 at 12:37 pm

      Thanks Jim. I know Scotts has great research data showing so much opportunity for garden retail because the consumer really loves the end product but I think they are worried by the complexity and the “work” implied by traditional image of gardening.. Yet they ARE open to emotional values in every other aspect of their shopping. It’s ours to win!!

  3. Ron Vanderhoff
    Apr 28, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Seems that with the huge attention on issues like healthy food, butterflies, pesticide-free, etc. that we should be talking “the healthiest vegetables are the ones you just picked”, “this plant will attract beautiful butterflies”, and “It will feel great to have a chemical-free garden”.
    You’re right again Ian. When are you announcing your candidency?

    Ron, Roger’s Gardens

    1. Ian Baldwin
      May 3, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      Ron, thanks for taking the time in such a busy period for you. Rogers Gardens is of course a place built on emotional value but your suggestions open even more doors for the team.. I love your veggie comment though at the moment, my Fava Beans are so covered in black aphid they don’t look too appetizing! Thanks for the suggestion of candidacy but as an alien I can’t run; just glad I got here before the wall goes up…!

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