The Sledgehammer

Trimming Grass & Marketing Plans

July 19, 2021


Dry yellow grass Singapore“ by Jnzl’s Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

We’re at that sweltering point in the summer where temps across the US are hitting their annual highs. Combined with lower rainfall, much of our outdoor greenery is starting to look, well, not so green.

Wilting flowers. Yellowing herb gardens. Depressed container pots. And the grass? Those lush lawns and pleasant parks, the motorway medians, and sod-flanked sidewalks?

Brown.
Crunchy.
Sad.

This grim state of grass is extra depressing when you consider the extraordinary resources Americans pour into yard maintenance. Roughly $60 billion dollars every year is invested in the “turfgrass industry” — maintaining the grass at sporting fields, commercial properties, and the 40.5 million acres of private lawns. Why does such a cornerstone of the outdoors cost so much to maintain? Mostly because getting that verdant view out your front door doesn’t come naturally.

The uniform lawn look that we have grown to love — dense, neatly trimmed Kentucky bluegrass — is not native to North American terrain and climates. (Its name was given only after it was imported to the US from Europe & northern Africa).

Because they don’t naturally thrive in the states, Kentucky bluegrass and other premier lawn grasses need a lot of TLC: frequent watering, careful mowing & fertilizer usage, and herbicides to ward off the weeds. And depending on whether we DIY or hire a landscaping service, all this extra effort becomes a drain on our weekends or our wallets thanks to the time, energy, and money that this kind of lawn care can require.

But here’s the real kicker: many of us don’t actually USE much of our lawns! This wasn’t always the case — most of the working class in the early 20th century used their yards to grow vegetables or raise small livestock. However today’s yards have become green moats around our homes and are mostly there to be admired, playing host on occasion to a BBQ or a game of fetch. Despite this lack of functional return, we still aspire to grassy greatness because beautiful lawns are embedded into our psyches as a sign of success, prosperity, and pride. Even American ex-pat communities in the deserts of Dubai have grassy greenery around their homes.

So to recap — we love the look of lawns, but we also kind of loathe them. We put a ton of time & money into them and yet we don’t get a ton of functional benefit out of them. Sounds a bit silly, right?

Well, it might be the case that you have a metaphorical lawn in your marketing ecosystem: something that you or your team puts considerable time & effort into (that you might have even felt peer pressure to do) but doesn’t return considerable value to your brand. Likely culprits could include stale CRM streams, flat digital banner campaigns, wimpy social pages, and snoozy speaker programs.

And Challenger brands (or really, any brands) can’t afford to have these “Lawn Losers” on their hands. Here’s why you should take a closer look at your current brand landscape:

Lawn Losers can cause you to neglect your brand’s needle-movers.

Sometimes we can be so hell-bent on getting something to grow or reach perfection, that we inadvertently ignore the other important things around us that also need our time & energy. For a horticulture metaphor, imagine a pair of vibrantly-blooming bushes around your front door that have the ability to attract both human admirers & pollinators that enrich the wider ecosystem. These two plants pack a lot of punch in your landscape, but they require regular pruning to keep up. And if you’re hyper-focused on a stubborn patch of dying grass in your backyard (that someone rarely sees) then you run the risk of losing those high-value hedges. Your marketing plan may contain similar low-return distractions that take you away from projects that offer greater overall value.

Lawn Losers can be a drag on your overall ecosystem.

Remember how we said that America’s preferred lawn look, Kentucky bluegrass, is not indigenous to the country’s soils and climates? Some homeowners can still groom that kind of grass into submission; but for others, especially in the sun-baked states of the South, it’s an uphill battle. And no matter how hard these homeowners work, there are likely long stretches of the summer season where their yard is pretty darn yellow. Similarly for marketers, if you take on an otherwise-common tactic that isn’t a natural fit for your audience or brand offerings — say, an email campaign for social-minded Gen Z’ers or cool conference booths for an HCP specialty that prefers to stay home — then lackluster performance can make your brand look bad in front of others and keep them from wanting to engage in future outreach.

Lawn Losers distract you from blooming a new vision.

A neighborhood-wide neurosis around lawn maintenance can give us tunnel vision in our approach to landscaping — the Jones’ yard next door is a groomed green carpet, and so is the Smith’s across the street, so we can’t help but assume we should spend our weekends watering and weed-whacking as well. The same story can happen in our marketing approaches, in which we can’t help but copy the companies around us or — worse — just recycle our own team’s plans and programs each year. Breaking this cycle and taking an entirely new approach (hardscaping, anyone?!) takes courage, both externally and internally. But kicking those labor-intensive tasks to the curb can be what your brand/yard needs for smart, sustainable growth.

So take on a new marketing mindset this season — stop exerting outsized energy on activities that aren’t returning notable value and look for smart new ways to grow your brand. In fact, many lawn-care experts subscribe to a similar philosophy, saying we tend to belabor our backyards — using too many chemicals, mowing too frequently, removing grass clippings & nitrogen-rich “weeds” that otherwise help our lawns stay healthy.

Just think of all the reclaimed resources you can put towards growing other fruitful endeavors — perhaps yielding a different type of coveted green. 💵

At any given time, there are hundreds of actual sledgehammers present in the Heartbeat office. To celebrate their first year on the team, each HB’er receives their very own sledge—a nod to our daily pursuit of tearing down tiresome healthcare marketing. To determine what is built in its place, we often turn to outside industries, cultural forces, and personal experiences. We eagerly share them with one another, and now we’re sharing them with you. Clear the way—here comes The Sledgehammer.