Join me in analyzing a new marketing campaign that’s been targeting us bloggers heavily, repeatedly, and whose attention-getting name is Coalition to Stop Dandelions (the URL is literally Stop Dandelions.com.)
Demonizing dandelions gets our attention
How about that dandelion-slashing graphic! And the “gulp!” at the very thought of doing anything to encourage such a dasdardly plant! And here’s another good one: “We’re sick of dandelions and their weed masquerading as a flower.” Yeah, those treacherous plants are producing flowers just to trick us into – what, liking them?
Well indeed lots of people do, increasingly, as any gardenblogger who follows the subject of eco-gardening knows. Cooks are concocting recipes for them, Paul Tukey at SafeLawns is one of their biggest fans, and there’s even a Facebook group Stop Killing the Dandelions. They’re Pretty, which I just Liked for the hell of it.
What the campaign is selling
But this just gets weirder because the campaign isn’t aimed at selling herbicides at all; its goal is to sell soil tests. And the connection (supposedly) is that only with a soil test will we choose fertilizers that feed our lawn but not the dandelions. But how they do that I still haven’t figured out.
However, the most popular fertilizers are super high in nitrogen, and while they’re formulated to green-up your lawn right away when the soil is still cool, they also yellow up lawns weeks later when the soil warms up. And they fertilize EVERYTHING, which includes weed seeds that exist in every yard.
If this doesn’t make sense yet, here’s more from their fertilizer facts page:
Dandelions thrive off of soils high in, you guessed it, Nitrogen, and have the ability to attack areas of your lawn that are weak or bare (e.g. insufficient root systems).
If proper nutrients are applied every six to eight weeks (which can only be understood properly through a thorough soil test analysis) then turf grass will become very healthy.
About that soil test
So, what does their $20 soil test test for? Again the answer isn’t easy to find but their “sample results” show amounts for organic matter, phosphate, potassium, % K: % Mg (whatever), calcium, pH, and sodium.
Which raises a couple of big questions. First, the result shows a phosphate reading of 62, with the “acceptable level” shown as 16-35, which you’d think would alert the customer to stop adding phosphates, that dasdardly nutrient that’s ruining our waterways. But instead, here’s what the results advise: “Phosphate level is High: Phosphate levels indicated will not hamper the effects of good turf growth.” No problem!
And the recommended product (which is the whole point of the soil test, right, that it directs users to the right fertilizers?) is “CIL Golfgreen Fall”, either synthetic or organic (take your pick; they sure don’t care) and after some searching I finally found out that its nutrient content is 28-3-6 – high Nitrogen!
So here’s my suggestion about soil tests: use a university lab, like the one at U.Mass. that I used. It costs $15 and gives more information than the Stop Dandelions test.
A coalition of the selling
As a fan of coalitions, I was curious about this new one and here’s what the website tells us about it: “The Coalition to Stop Dandelions is dedicated to educating people caring for lawns and gardens about how to make a healthy lawn grow, and how to get the right soil test information that golf courses and farms have counted on for decades.” And about WHO they might be we’re told: “The Coalition to Stop Dandelions is a project of A Growing Necessity,” whose About Us page doesn’t actually tell us.
Too bad, coz it looks like an improvement
I finally got tired of following links that don’t work or when they do, don’t answer the questions they’re supposed to answer, but my tentative conclusion is that this product MAY lead to an improvement over what some golf courses use – fertilizers that encourage top growth and weeds, plus lots of pesticides. “This personalized nutritional management process reduced the need for reactive based products (such as pesticides) to less than 6%….amazing reduction!” See, that much sounds good.
More bad marketing to gardenbloggers
The Stop Dandelions campaign is a nonsensical mess that’s off-putting to the very people it’s targeting, but it didn’t need to be. I’ll bet that a random GardenRant reader could come up with a better approach than this one, created by – no surprise here – a marketing firm with no particular expertise in this area.Susan Harris on April 19, 2011 at 4:46 am, in the category Taking Your Gardening Dollar.