Scotts’ growing spring strategy

A foul-mouthed weed and emotional ads are part of a new plan to reach consumers who've previously ignored the category.

With the arrival of spring comes the most important selling season for the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, but this year it has shifted the way it’s attempting to connect with consumers.

The most obvious departure is in a new, “anti-pre-roll” video for Scotts Weed B Gon. Handled by Rethink, which was named the company’s agency of record last year, the video shows “Prickly,” a shouting, swearing weed that quickly multiplies across a lawn. The video is currently running as pre-roll but, if viewers click “Kill Prickly” instead of “Skip Ad,” they skip to the end of the video, where Prickly is sprayed with Weed B Gon and withers away. MEC handled the media buy.

Glenn Martin, director of marketing at Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Canada, says while the idea of a dandelion puppet that curses at people and bites their legs might be a far reach from its more traditional creative, it’s the kind of messaging and creative concept that will break through with “a new generation of lawn and garden enthusiasts,” a priority at the company.

“Those are people who haven’t participated in or even paid attention to the category,” Martin says. “Being invasive and in your face with Prickly ties to the desire for consumers to get rid of annoying ads as soon as possible. Getting rid of the weed is part of the action of the product, but it also might grab someone’s attention.”

Martin says that weeds represent the area of lawn and garden that cause consumers the most frustration, making it an easy experience to convey, but adds that weed control is typically the “first step” in lawn management – compared to more advanced work like growing or fertilizing a lawn – making it a good entry point to the brand for new consumers. Going forward, Prickly will also be used in online ads, social media and incorporated into its point-of-sale materials.

Martin says the Weed B Gon campaign is actually a relatively small one compared to some of the other, national TV campaigns it’s running for the spring lawn and garden season. In a pair of spots for Turf Builder seed and lawn food, also by Rethink, people using the products get a rich, green lawn fast, giving them more time for backyard activities with their families.

While more in line with the kind of ads consumers might expect to see from the lawn care company, Martin says the ads are still a fairly big departure from its typical marketing, which has been focused more on the functional benefits of its products.

“We’re trying to find a nice sense of emotion, because there’s so many good feelings that come with lawn care and gardening,” Martin says. “It’s not focusing on the act of caring for your lawn or garden, it’s focusing on the end result of that work, which gives you a place to play with your kids and have parties. Trying to capture some of that in the advertising gives people an extra reason to believe in a product’s message.”

Much of its online content will continue to be based around things like lawn care tips and tutorials, to maintain some functional purpose for consumers and continue to enforce Scott’s expertise in the category. But Martin says the company is also looking at ways to be more adventurous with that content, as in a recent video by Traffik that showed Scotts grass seed could still grow in a dank, hostile basement.

“We’re looking at the things we don’t have on our big national campaigns,” Martin says. “We’ve got tons of our typical educational content, but are there ways to do that content that’s also going to break through? Using products in ways people haven’t imagined is another way to get the attention of a person who might have brushed right past a typical lawn and garden message.”