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A gnome, a fox and a Scot walk into a bar

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Scotts Miracle-Gro is spending $135 million this year to promote its Groundskeeper Willie-cum-lawn care expert to homeowners around the country.

And while my extraction is Irish, I still like this campaign, which launched this spring. It’s just hokey enough to be entertaining.

And, more importantly, it shows that Scotts actually listens to its customers:

The campaign is based on “one huge insight” from research among more than 4,000 consumers, Mr. Lyski said, that “people would change their behavior if an expert spoke to them about lawn care.”

“They said, ‘If I knew more, I’d do more,’ ” he added.

In the research, people also talked about how there is usually “somebody on your street” knowledgeable about lawn care, Mr. Lyski said.

The brand character Scott “marries the two” concepts, he added, and “we made him Scottish because of the mnemonic.”

The concept of a Scotsman promoting Scotts to his neighbors in middle America may seem corny, but “there’s so much noise out there,” Mr. Lyski said. “You need a little something to break through the clutter.”

This winter, Dick Bare at Arbor-Nomics in Atlanta and I had a long, very animated discussion about his new gnome. (To be fair, all my conversations with Dick are animated, whether they’re related to mythical creatures or not.)

Maria Candler at James River Grounds Management in Virgina just introduced Pip, a fox-like mascot she’s using to keep employees focused on training.

Whether you use a gnome or a fox or a hobbit, a simple and iconic and (yes, sometimes, a little gimmicky) mascot can humanize your brand, make your company more memorable and help you connect better with customers. It can help you, as Lyski says, cut through the clutter.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

May 15th, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Monday morning start-up — Freezing edition

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It feels like Minnesota here in Cleveland. We were in the 30s, so enjoy this Soundgarden gem. If you know the lyrics, you’ll know why we posted this.

Written by bhorn@gie.net

May 13th, 2013 at 12:34 pm

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Weekly round-up

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Here’s my weekly digest of cool stuff. Lots of trees and insects. The weather’s great here in Ohio and crews have been slammed. Stay safe this weekend and enjoy it!

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

May 3rd, 2013 at 6:51 pm

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The lost decade of the middle class

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Some very cool data from Pew about how the economy has treated the middle class during the past decade. For more consumer insight, check out our February Grow the Market report.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

May 1st, 2013 at 7:45 pm

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Monday Morning Start-up

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A belated Happy Birthday to Ace Frehley (April 27). His old band just isn’t the same without him Have a groovy week!

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April 29th, 2013 at 12:23 pm

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Send us your Day of Service stories

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The L&L team spent yesterday participating in PLANET’s Day of Service to install plantings and mulch in front of the Valor Home, a residence for homeless veterans in Akron. (We left the retaining wall work to the real professionals.)

The credit for the project goes to Sandy Munley at OLA and James Arch from Vizmeg for coordinating the project and herding us like cats all day. And much thanks goes to the professional expertise of crews from Edenscape, J.A.G. Maintenance and Landscaping, Graf Growers and Impact Landscaping & Irrigation, who made sure we didn’t hurt ourselves or anyone else.

Additional labor and materials came from: Project Evergreen, Empaco, Davis Tree Farm & Nursery, Lake County Nursery, Gilson Gardens, Herman Losely & Son, Wiloway Nurseries, Kurtz Bros., Sagamore Soils, Unilock Ohio, Perrin Asphalt & Concrete,  Davey Tree and Davey Nursery.

If your company did something for Day of Service, please send your photos, videos or stories to Brian at bhorn@gie.net so we can include you in our coverage.

And make sure you download our app if you don’t have it yet – it’ll be chock full of photos of projects from across the country.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

April 23rd, 2013 at 5:12 pm

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Weekly round-up

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Some very cool stuff this week: New research examines the health benefits of green space, a big western city is raising water rates because people are saving too much water and Pittsburgh reinvents itself from a black smudge of steel factories to a champion of sustainability. There’s hope for us all.

See you next week.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

April 19th, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Why you should think like Waffle House

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This comes via Marty’s blog, where he outlines his reasons for taking a spring break vacation

For 20 years now, I have taken a week off during the busiest time of the year for Landscapers: Spring. I just got back from a lovely week in Rosemary Beach, Florida; it’s on the panhandle. I had a great time with my kids and wife and many other families from our hometown that went to the same area.

The week off does me a lot of good. I bring a ton of books with me (not to mention the books on my Kindle), many articles I have saved for reading, and my to-do list and strategic plans for both my companies. The intention is to relax, which I do, and to spend time with my family, which I do. But, I am always learning, so this week I thought I would share with you some observations I made while in Florida.

Click through to read what he learned, what ideas you can steal and why you should think like an Awful Waffle House.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

April 18th, 2013 at 5:32 pm

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It’s so busy, nobody goes there anymore

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Jim Calhoun, who runs Northern Lights out in Mountain View, Calif., dropped me a note after he received our April issue. He wrote a piece for us last month on why the less-is-more approach to design is the wrong way to go when it comes to lighting.

He apologized for not being able to contribute more, as business is booming:

Thank you for including my article. I appreciate your continued interest in my work. I’m sorry that I could not submit more article material, however, my business continues to grow (at somewhat alarming rate). I am currently behind in installations and the phone continues to ring. I think I’m seeing a bit of a turn in the economy for the good. The best news is that I still have a passion for lighting.

I’d say that’s a pretty good excuse.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

April 16th, 2013 at 12:24 pm

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Spring cleaning book giveaway

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It’s (finally) spring here in Cleveland, and that means it’s time to clean out my office. I’ve got an entire shelf of books here that I’ve accumulated in the past 12 months that aren’t doing much, so during the next few weeks I’m going to send them to a few lucky readers.

First up is “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande. I wrote about this one in a recent column:

In his latest book, “The Checklist Manifesto,” Gawande talks about how simple checklists have helped doctors in ICUs across the country reduce infection rates to statistically zero. They make sure doctors remember stuff like wash your hands before operating and cover the patient in sterile cloths before you cut him open. Not rocket science, but easy enough to overlook in a crowded operating room.

The checklist programs started with nurses, the people doing most of the hands-on work with patients day to day. They really caught on after hospital administrators gave nurses the power to call out doctors when they missed key steps on the list.

Gawande describes three types of problems these lists help solve: simple, complicated and complex. A simple problem is like replacing a light bulb. It has a few steps that anyone could accomplish, and repeat. A complicated problem is one that involves lots of people and decisions, but can be divided into many simple problems – like launching a rocket.

It’s a quick read, and this slightly dog-eared copy is already lovingly annotated for increased ease of use.

It’s all yours. Just send me an email at cbowen@gie.net and include a note about a simple process or tactic you’ve implemented in your business that has made you more efficient.

Written by CBOWEN@GIE.NET

April 15th, 2013 at 4:52 pm