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Fair Follow-up to Proven Winners Fair Test?

(Read Time, approximately 2 minutes.)

There has been quite an interesting dialogue of comments following the post here on August 28, 2009 titled, Is THIS a Fair Test? Mark Broxon and Dave Konsoer from Proven Winners and Kip Creel from StandPoint reacted with more information and their views on the research conducted at Churchill’s Gardens and Rolling Green Nursery, both located in New Hampshire. The additional information they provided did not include additional photos of their research, however there are new pics of the researched displays on Garden Center Magazine’s website.

Proven Winners Test at Churchill's Gardens

Click Photo to See Tested Displays

Are we to always assume reported research is different than it appears? StandPoint’s Kip Creel said, “You cannot fairly judge the quality of the research from one photograph and a magazine article.” (That was the original point.) While this is now apparently true, it is exactly how research is judged when one photograph and an article are all you have to go on. (At the time of writing this I have not found any other stories on this particular research on the Internet.) It seems like judging the quality of the research from the information provided would be prudent.A blog provides the opportunity to comment on posts to “correct the record” so others who find it are not misled. At the time of writing this there were still no comments left by Proven Winners or StandPoint on the original Garden Center Magazine Blog post on the research.

What has been accomplished here so far?  There is still work to be done. A benefit of this use of the Internet and the intended benefit of this blog as a forum is to provide clarity and transparency. Now the Internet is gaining some real value. With the help of all of you who commented, Proven Winners, and StandPoint, we dissected the “news” and gave Proven Winners the opportunity to tell us what their research proved, and to correct what they feel was a misconception based on the limited information that was published.

Have you read through the comments on the original post?

Have you viewed the additional photos on Garden Center Magazine’s website?

In light of the new information, what do you think the Proven Winners research test proves? Please leave YOUR reply or comment below.

11 Responses

  1. Sid,

    You bring up a good point about blogs – but the same holds true for all digital media, because blogs, social media, ratings and reviews and local search are all woven together to make a web (example: I found this conversation on Twitter).

    Brands and retailers are just starting to embrace digital media and will quickly learn that ‘the customer’ has control – will set the tempo of the conversation.

    This is actually an opportunity for sellers to engage with buyers and establish a relationship that is much stronger than that developed in traditional media.

    Forrester Research printed the ‘Groundswell’ title that explains the above in detail. Dell, UPS and P&G case studies included.

    It is a new day that we must embrace.

    Steve Cissel
    10-20 Media

  2. After going back to the original post and reading all the responses to your Is it fair question, I am amazed from the retailer perspective versus the executive perspective.

    I would like to see the pictures from different aspects of both garden centers. Different plants perform differently in geographic regions, climate differences and also pocketbooks. What might work here, may not be a hit in Washington DC for instance. Thank you for letting us know about the trials and for all of the respondents, it is good for me as a new garden center to hear about what is working and not working.

  3. Dear Sid, For retailers it is about Gross margin dollars. This was not addressed in any of the replies. Perhaps that is what makes you pull your hair out. We can purchase POP material that is our brand and sell our branded plants. We make more money doing this. More Gross Margin Dollars. For grower retailers that merchandise well my concern is that for sake of convenience growers will purchase Proven Winners and pay the marketing fee for Proven Selections and then not use the POP materials.

    The comment the one person made about their being 1000 growers and thus 1000 different Proven Winners is so true. The geographical regions of this country are so different. If you go fifty miles from us you could be in sand, if you go 200 miles from us the pH is not a problem.

    The great thing is that it takes really good retailers to educate customers about these things. Growing plants is an art and a science and I think this is sometimes forgotten in our conversations..

    Proven winners will continue to market Proven Selections and the consumer will continue to believe they are similar. Wave and Easy wave will continue to be marketed and to the consumer they will be similar. Fiesta and Fiesta Ole will be marketed together. I call it deceptive marketing others may call it something else but the purpose is to get the consumer to buy more of the similar branded product using similar names even though the products are different.

  4. Natural Art Garden it is good to have you leave a very interesting comment. What is working is often very dependent on who you ask and on what they tell you. I’m not sure what you meant by “I would like to see the pictures from different aspects of both garden centers.” Here is the link to more photos of the test displays in each of the garden centers. http://www.gardencentermagazine.com/PhotoLib.aspx. Both are very nice garden centers. I hope everyone visits their websites and also visits their stores when there is an opportunity.

  5. Ed, I find your comment that “my concern is that for sake of convenience growers will purchase Proven Winners and pay the marketing fee for Proven Selections and then not use the POP materials” is something I can agree with. Why not go the distance to get the full value of the entire package?

    Some people may have mistaken my position on selling non-store brands in the independent garden center, particularly those that are sold in mess merchant stores. While I do not at all like or agree with brands being sold in both independent and discount mass merchant stores I have never counseled a client or anyone else to drop, or to stock any particular brand other than their own – Scott’s, MiracleGro, Wave Petunia, Monrovia, or Proven Winners. What I would like them to do is to first carefully consider how they position their own brand, and then choose to create brand-partnerships to add value to their total package. This would include taking full advantage of any available POP at the very least.

    If there is anything I am not 100% behind it is store-brand containers. My reason is that there is ALWAYS much more the garden center should be doing FIRST to add value to the products they sell before spending the extra money on that particular endeavor.

  6. Steve, I don’t want to belabor your point about digital media but I do feel it is worth repeating. The key is that all of it is new MEDIA, and like any of our OLD media it now has a place in our society. There is a learning curve and it will take effort and time to figure out how to appropriately use it. The biggest change is perhaps a change of mindset to allow us to think about the possible ramifications – to our competitors – the other guys who may have something to hide in a new spotlight upon them. And there are also great opportunities to be seen in a new and refreshing light of openness and honesty that many consumers would love to bond with. This is what true loyalty always was about.

  7. Sid: I’m loving the back and forth this generates. I’ve had several LONG private conversationss with Dave Konsoer from PW, who I respect tremendously. I’ve had the experience of having Kip Kreel present an experiment and the data for a large project as a part of the Novalis group. All are outstanding folks with high skill levels and integrity.

  8. OOPS, just got bumped out of reply—looks like PW has a button that detects any nice comment and automatically posts it before any disclaimers. LOL, Dave and Marshall. You know I love you guys.
    ANYWAY, the data would seem to indicate that the ‘decorated’ bench outsold the bench next to it by 5:1 times!!! This strains reasonable belief, especially in light of the new pictures posted. A few signs, a flip book, branded pots—right next to a bench with a mixture of branded and unbranded but no POP.
    5 TIMES the sales–just from the miraculous effect of some signs and logo pots? NO WAY. If this were true, should we believe that virtually every retailer is totally brain-dead and cannot see the hordes clustering around the PW display and the Death Valley of the rest of their GC? Why, after MILLIONS of advertising dollars (a fair amount of it MY money!!) do so few people know this brand? Yeah, the numbers are going up re: recognition, but come on. 5 times?
    Why do ZERO retailers demand that we carry and sell PW for them? Why do they DEMAND that we find something else to sell–because they don’t want to look like Home Depot? Why isn’t the program exploding in Home Depot in my area, grown, suppled and merchandised by Bell Nursery—only the BEST HD supplier in the whole country? (No disrespect to Rick or Bart intended here.)
    These retailers are sharp, savvy top shelf people, many highly visible members and award winning retailers, and not one of them has ever seen this type of response. Where is the disconnect here? Why don’t WE see this same drop in sales now that WE have stopped branding PW but instead growing it as another product in the mix?
    5:1 is so incredible to inspire disbelief. Why, it’s a landslide–you must join or get out of the way!!!!

  9. Thanks for chiming in again Lloyd. Although Kip Creel has assured us the test was all on the up and up and everything such bold claims as 5:1 that are not backed up with specifics such as 500 plants to 100 plants sound more sensational and move our critical thinking and perception from credible results to something else. I’m not questioning StandPoint’s capability, integrity, or standing in the market research world, or that the actual data they gathered doesn’t support the “marketing” claim. It would however be more believable if it were substantiated with a little bit of specifics and details – not an overwhelming or confusing amount, but some. Truth and perception go hand in hand. In other words, if I perceive something to be true then to me it is true. Please help my perception. The actual data is probably proprietary to PW as the financial sponsor of the test so it is up to them what they do with it and up to all the outsiders what we believe (and how we respond to it) based on what we’re told and shown.

    Upon looking at the additional photographs we see that as a customer approaches the two benches in question the “eye candy” appeal of the PW decorating attracts curiosity and I can easily imagine customers bypassing the adjacent non-decorated bench, particularly if there were one or more customers creating a buzz around the decorated bench. The top of the non-decorated bench at Rolling Green Nursery is filled with a mass of the same plants – what appears to be hanging baskets sitting practically pot to pot. I suppose that in theory the customer might extrapolate that they can buy the smaller plants and make up a hanging basket of their own, but let’s get real – how many are going to do that? Meanwhile the PW decorated bench has plants in attractive containers on the eye-level top shelf showing the potential of how the plants on the bench on the lower shelf can be used. There is good basic merchandising technique applied to one bench and not the other and it is no surprise that one would outperform the other.

    The main takeaway on this research even with limited information is that merchandising MATTERS in terms of measured sales increase. We know it but do we do it consistently? I hope some people have responded to this by taking a walk through their own garden center through their customers eyes and decided that they needed to step it up on merchandising to inspire higher sales and to earn higher margins. And I’m sure the superbly wonderful folks (according to you Lloyd because I don’t know them) at PW hope that they do this with PW merchandising materials and plants. Fair enough, because they paid for the research to prove what many of us already know and believe. But again, do we do it?

  10. I would NEVER imply that Kip Creel, nor the PW folks would fabricate this data. As I have always said, these people are some of the very best our industry has to offer. PW has clearly set the standard to which we all SHOULD aspire, and has revolutionized an industry. They should be roundly applauded for this, and they are WAY AHEAD of everyone else. Their theories are sound, but the real world data (ie my customers’ customers’ purchases) shows a different reality to just how much people are affected by logos and signs at retail.
    We have run a side-by-side as well, at a prominent New Jersey garden center—side by side endcaps with IDENTICAL material except for the pots. One was in a PW branded pot, the other was in our biodegradable pot—both had signs, explaining the benefits of each. Both sold well, but the biodegradable pot OUTSOLD the PW braded line, by a ‘statistically significant’ percentage—that doesn’t mean anything like 5:1, though, just that according to scientific statistical analysis there was enough difference that it was unlikely due to randomness. Is it a conclusive test? No, it would need repetition and analysis. But for either end cap to have outperformed the other by 5:1 simply defies credulity. I would have to believe that pretty much any retailer would have seen this by now. I’d also think that every other SUPPLIER would either be out of business or would be doing EXACTLY the same type and level of marketing, although clearly the committment and coffers at PW are larger. 5:1? Who could even care about what the cost and RMT costs were if that were happening?
    I’m totally behind the idea that we need to SELL our product and we have to do a far better job of display and merchandising. We have to set ourselves apart CLEARLY from the masses, but I just don’t see how using exactly the same pot, logo, look, sign, combination, and product as everyone else does that.
    Coke will be thrown up as an example, Campbell’s Soup too. They miss the point–those are commodities, too, sold at a discount to get you in the store. They’ll tell you that people pay more for them than the generic brand, but so what? What’s the margin to the STORE, not the munufacturer? Isn’t that what we should think about? Tiffany is where we want to try go. Nobody walked around with the fabled BLUE BOX and had some ask whether they got that at Walmart.

  11. Dear Loyld,

    I mentioned it on ANLA connect. I lke you have compared our America’s Best branded pots with PW and the results were in our favor. Since the plugs and pots cost less I make more gross margin dollars selling our branded material than PW material. Folks may want to get a quote from Janor or Poppleman and see how inexpensive colored logo pots can be. Grower retailers need only order 50,000 of one size.

    I agree with what you say in the last post. PW has helped our industry.

    Everyone may want to give the following a little thought. I have been in many garden centers across this country. I have been at places a few weeks before or after the tour arrives and then see something completely different the day of the tour. There are many garden centers that do not use POP material and do not build great displays. They may hear about the 5 to 1 but they never follow through with the merchandising to see it. Perhaps that is why PW pulls their hair out at times also.

    We see it at the Ohio Short Course but lets be honest with each other how many of us have seen those beautiful displays at garden centers week after week. I am sure there are a few like the Garden Corner in Portland but most only last a few weeks if they have anything at all other than long rows of plants with a few end caps.

    One final note. Spend some time waiting TV the next few weeks. Watch the commercials and the shows. There are many that have flowers in them. The country knows the value of flowers as they see it everyday on TV by other advertisers. I believe we do a fairly poor job in general here in the US of merchandising the flowers in a retail setting. The flowers in a Cub Foods store are merchandised like a can of peas.

    The solution is the merchandising must match what plants are expected to do for the individual. They provide comfort, joy, passion, peace, happiness, etc – when we begin to create a garden center that shows the above we finally will have broken through to the customer. I have only seen this in one garden center in the US. Now if we can provide the above the purse strings are a little looser. We may not sell as much as we did in 2007 but it should not be the 21% drop in retail sales we saw this year across this country

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