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Marketing 10 May 2018

‘You wouldn’t feed your kids just water…’

I have something to admit to you today, and it’s this... I sometimes enjoy watching television adverts. “WHAT?” I hear you say.

It may seem a strange thing to own up to, but please rest assured this isn’t some kind of self-punishment. I actually enjoy watching television adverts because of my keen interest in social psychology, marketing and influence; I’m interested in deconstructing the tricks and ideas that advertisers use to elicit the ‘click-whirr’ response in us consumers (‘I need this product!’). I should add a caveat to this statement – please don’t ask me to deconstruct a perfume ad…

Each and every advert we see, whether on television or any other media, is clearly trying to influence our thinking and decision making in one way or another. The marketing experts who create these adverts call upon decades of documented research, techniques and experience to get this process down to a fine art. Everything will be said in a certain way, or occur in a certain order, for a reason.

TV promotions graphic

It is usually the case that the more high profile the tv channel, the more clever the tricks are and the more difficult they are to spot. This is likely because those adverts have been created by larger media companies, with bigger budgets. This means that adverts on less-well-known channels can sometimes seem quite amateur and comical by comparison. They’ll often get straight to the point – buy X because it does Y.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, last night I was watching television with my wife and the programme went into an ad break. In the middle of the 5-minute block of ads, there was a particular advert that prompted my wife and me to engage in a synchronised shoulder shrug at one another. It was an ad for Miracle-Gro and the slogan of the ad went like this:

“You wouldn’t feed your kids just water. So, why starve your plants? Feed them Miracle-Gro and go from doom to bloom!”

Tenuous? Perhaps. However, they are of course correct – I wouldn’t feed my kids just water (that’s started off an ‘agreement frame’). I think it’s fair to say that, equally, I didn’t buy my family in a 3-for-2 offer at my local garden centre. Nor do I make them stand in a hole in the ground surrounded by compost and horse manure!

Perhaps I should thank Miracle-Gro for coming up with this nugget of parenting inspiration (and fear not, for my wife and I will be certain to ensure that our prized rhododendrons get their flu jabs this winter…)

Tomfoolery to one side, my quizzical mind finds itself wondering how this marketing idea came about. I realise we’re increasingly pampering our pets (25% of pet owners buy their pets birthday presents, for goodness sake). Indeed, this particular market has grown exponentially over recent years. So, maybe they’re trying to take it to the next level? We pamper our pets, so why not suggest pampering our plants?

Here’s the thing, though. Despite me considering it to be a rather tenuous link and premise, the advert got a reaction and has clearly stuck in my head. I’ve written this article about it. So, it has in many ways succeeded in its aim. And perhaps the next time I’m in the garden centre with my wife, we’ll be spotting the Miracle-Gro on the shelf because we’ve formed an unconscious link between it and our family, and will, therefore, feel the need to buy it. Or, maybe not?

It’s time to end this article here for today. It’s tea time and I need to feed the family. Now, where did I put that hose…

Alastair