Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall in Love (Again)

I have fallen in love.  Again.  Thank goodness!  I feel as if I have awoken from a deep, Sleeping Beauty trance that left me feeling bland, old.  This month's issue of Green Profit, a trade magazine for the retail end of the horticulture industry, features an article that recaps the brilliantly successful pop-up retail outlet my friend Carmen and her company Nectar & Company created this spring.  Carmen had told me about the event's success back in July but reading the article yesterday refreshed my excitement to the point I had to visit the gym for two hours to calm down.  Carmen and her team created a gardening wonderland with different vignettes throughout the greenhouse that appealed to numerous audiences in their Georgia town.  The catch though was these vignettes were not just 'mini departments' within a larger 'store' - each had a story to tell through its strategically picked plant offerings, color scheme, and staging.  At every turn you didn't know what you would discover next; cleverness and creativity was oozing from every inch of the greenhouse.  I remember telling Carmen with excitement "I WISH I had BEEN there!!!".  The creative, stylish, and gardening-made-easy nature of the event energized and engaged customers to return two, three times throughout the weekend, making the event a complete sell-out.

Excitement is the exact feeling missing in the gardening industry right now.  Granted there are some of use with lots of spunk who are making a commotion, but the majority of growers, garden centers, and landscaping companies are one in the same.  Regardless of whether they are locally owned or part of a box store chain, everyone is offering the exact same lifeless plants.  Everywhere you go in the spring it's the same Filler-Spiller-Thriller combination planter, the same purple petunia, the same sweet basil, the same over growth-regulated mum and ornamental kale in the fall - like that Greek yogurt commercial: "plainly plain and samely same."  Makes you want to buy plants, right?  It's a poor business model if you ask me, when the gardening industry is vying for the same dollars we spend on our Starbuck's lattes, music from iTunes, Pandora bracelet charms, PlayStation video games, and annual batch of Titleist golf balls, ALL of whom have marketing campaigns exciting and praising the individuality of their customers.

So what does it take for consumers to "fall in love again" with plants?  Thinking of other things in life I love, the answer lies many times with memories of amazing experiences:

Love for Food: Tojo Sushi Restaurant, Vancouver, BC: My husband Nick cannot visit or talk about another restaurant without mentioning our night at Tojo.  We visited during our honeymoon, were treated like family by Tojo, his wife, and an ensemble of waiters and waitresses, ate like royalty, and laughed the whole night.  An experience we would buy $1000 flight tickets just to eat at the restaurant.

Love for Music: Fifteen years of ballet classes, ownership of every Supergrass album, and attending a Girl Talk concert all revived my love for music at different points in my life.  Whether a song, musical chord, genius Jerome Robbins choreography, or Girl Talk's unexpected combination of vocals from Peter Gabriel with the guitar rip from Space Hog, music invokes memories and experiences that I want to relive again and again.

Love for Fashion: a pair of Steve Madden Herringbone Twill Heels: Countless walks up Libe Slope, a Valentine's Day with best friends, and a drunken walk through 3-ft of snow with Mike and Arnaub, I've worn these shoes so many times I've repaired the heels three times.  If a simple pair of shoes does not render memories for you, or if you can honestly deny your closet holds a dress you haven't fit in since freshman year in college but keep to see if one day you can, perhaps it's time for a life makeover.

Love for a Sports Team: Go Tribe! Go Red!: Reinstated every Sunday with Fantasy Football, every summer with the smell of beer and Nathans hotdogs, every winter with the crisp smell of ice, people will die for their beloved sports teams.  Why?  The thrill of watching the winning homerun/touchdown/goal at the last second, a memory that sports fans retell year after year.

We fall in love with songs we danced to in high school, sweatshirts from our boyfriends, with baristas who make our lattes perfectly every time, and lust over the next ipad.  It's time growers, garden centers, and landscapers evoke the excitement and memories of consumers to help them fall in love with plants.

Plant on,

Song for the Garden (Center): The Wise Guys - Start the Commotion