Overplant and Overpromise

Marketers and gardeners fall in love too easily.

The lushness of an early spring blossom or the promised miracles of a new ingredient, seduces them every time.

But gardens and markets evolve, and the fancy greenery or can’t miss new product of one season inevitably turns brown and fades in the Fall, or is ignored when faced with the cold shoulder of consumer whim.

I have been gardening the same piece of Connecticut woodland for 25 years. And have watched over it carefully season after season. And just like a mature brand, it contains the imprints of former caretakers. Traced by ancient fieldstone walls built by 18th century farmers, shaded by massive centuries-old oak trees, dotted with rhododendron and azalea by previous owners, my grandfather’s tetraploid hemerocallis and cherished Siberian irises nestled along the stream, it is a work in progress.

As works in progress, brands like gardens require decisions, some for today or this season, and some for the next generation.

And as a wonderful piece in the NY Times today points out, gardens like brands go through inevitable phases. It talks about the decisions of a Westchester County couple trying to simplify their garden,

“The first step is to replace perennials with shrubs and ground covers, more green architecture less plants”.

These are the kinds of decisions that both gardeners and marketers find difficult. Both know that deciding where to prune and what to plant is the real art. But the seductions of the spring nursery or new product technology are often are hard to resist.

But the good news, and some recent evidence suggests, that marketers are beginning to understand simplicity. I was struck by the number of conversations about making things simpler for shoppers at a recent Private Brand Movement conference. The talk was less about weeding through a maze of meaningless copy and more about letting shoppers enjoying the view. Less corn maze, more gently curving pathway.

Like all optimists, we overplant and overpromise. When we do, gardens get messy and consumers get confused.

The photo above is from the wonderful work of photographer Keith Lanpher


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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