MWRA 2006-2007 Writing Contest Winners

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1st Place Winner, Grades 9-12
Michael Baskin, Grade 12, Boston Latin School

Bay State Fertilizer Won't Sell Itself

Bay State Fertilizer provides the optimal solution for your lawn, shrubs, and gardening needs. Designed to reduce labor while enhancing soil, Bay State Fertilizer uses a slow-release nitrogen formula to gradually nurture your lawn by allowing the soil to retain 700/0 of the added nitrogen past the first growing season, increasing the plants' opportunity to take up the nutrients. The unique Biosolid Production Method results in a 600/0 organic matter composition that enhances the moisture holding capacity of soil thus reducing the need for frequent watering. While avoiding the inorganic plant burn of most fertilizers, Bay State Fertilizer supplies both macronutrients and micronutrients. Rigorously tested, Bay State fertilizer is awarded the "highest quality classification" from the MA Department of Environmental Protection and the "exceptional quality" rating from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Bay State Fertilizer is an exceptional product, but it won't sell itself. In stores, Bay State Fertilizer is "the responsible choice." If the American consumer was looking for the "responsible choice" then most successful products from McDonald's Big Macs, to video games to SUV's would fail. Who buys responsibility? The fact is that while consumers may talk green, they don't talk with their dollars. Philips' compact fluorescent light bulbs wouldn't sell as "Green Light" but a change of name to "Marathon" and an increased emphasis on longevity and energy costs has resulted in US sales growth of 12% or more per year.

Across the board from Electrolux's "energy efficient" (rather than environmentally sound) appliances to the initial marketing of the hip technology of Toyota's "Prius/genius," green products sell best when they "link environmental innovations to other benefits" ("Philips" 390-391)1. Bay State Fertilizer can inexpensively change its marketing through a shift in advertisement emphasis and capitalization on already existing marketing opportunities.

Online, if you aren't looking for Bay State Fertilizer, you won't find it. If you do find it, Bay State Fertilizer presents itself as a drab product that will take away "the sudden burst of green to which you may be accustomed" with nitrogen that is "initially unavailable for plant use;" a product literally made of someone else's waste. While the New England Fertilizer Company's description packs more of a punch, the first step in a new marketing effort would be to revise the descriptions to accentuate the positive. A shift in advertising emphasis will remake the image of Bay State Fertilizer. Positive diction combined with emphasis on the benefits for the user, as demonstrated in the opening paragraph, is vital. This should be linked with a more attractive visual appeal to get potential buyers to read in the first place. The North East Biosolids and Residuals Association (NEBRA) Biosolids Case Study #3 contained eye-catching photographs from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) of Castle Island, the Esplanade and Newton Commonwealth Golf Course that showcase the landmarks that trust Bay State Fertilizer. These images and the accompanying captions should be featured prominently on the Bay State Fertilizer web site.

Browsers tend to be drawn to images first, and thus there is potential power in captions linked to graphics. Bay State Fertilizer should leverage the fact that it is a name-brand, widely distributed product, and it can do so by featuring the pictures of prominent venues that choose Bay State Fertilizer. Consumers are used to being bombarded by advertising and expect to have the highlights of a product clearly displayed and easily accessible. The absence of easily accessible selling points leads the consumer to suspect that the product lacks such assets. To address this, the link to "brochure" should be attached to something more than a list of small font, randomly assorted hyperlinks, (none of which seem to be a brochure) and the link to Related Reports should go directly to Case Study #3. For a more drastic approach, a name change may be in order. Renaming the brand in retail outlets as "Deer Island Fertilizer" produces a gourmet, elite, specialty brand feel for those who don't know about Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, and catches the eye of those who do know about the facility (the same people who would be most interested in buying the fertilizer because of its unique 'history' and environmental benefits but might not otherwise know that "Bay State" Fertilizer comes from the MWRA facility). Remembering that perception is reality, for small and large changes alike, accessibility and accentuation of the positive should be the main subjects of the shift in advertising emphasis.

Improvement of the current image of Bay State Fertilizer will complement and should be coupled with capitalization on already existing marketing opportunities. Promotion of Bay State Fertilizer can be integrated into MWRA literature. For example, the MWRA "Guide to Gardening and Landscaping" makes no mention of Bay State fertilizer even where it could easily be tied in. Where the pamphlet suggests adding organic matter, Bay State Fertilizer's 60% organic matter composition could be mentioned. In tips for water conservation, Bay State Fertilizer's ability to enhance water retention deserves to be pointed out. The environmental advantages of biosolid fertilizer, mentioning Bay State Fertilizer as a case study, could also provide a "Solutions" section in response to the "Environmental Effects" section of Wikipedia's article on fertilizers. To build brand recognition, small signs or plaques describing the product could also be placed around the sites where free Bay State Fertilizer is used such as near the Boston Common flower beds or in Franklin Park.

For more targeted advertising, several options suggest themselves. Contact should be made with landscapers who have Environmentally-Friendly mission statements. To promote such statements (and the accompanying sales). In addition to spreading awareness to landscapers' clients about 'green' landscaping, Bay State Fertilizer could offer discounts to landscapers with 'green' mission statements. Falcon Waterfree Technologies’ Green School Fund program serves as a successful model of this system. Along the same lines, proposals for green building expansions should also be looked at as potential consumers and be treated as such. For example, Harvard University is planning a $500 million expansion into Allston that it hopes will reach Gold LEED standards. Beyond requiring the combination of extensive landscaping and 'green' features, the expansion also needs the approval of the surrounding community (represented most directly by the Harvard-Allston Task Force) which would probably endorse Bay State Fertilizer as it is produced by a member of that community, the MWRA. Marketing to organizers of such events as the annual Boston Shines citywide cleanup (which also includes the spreading of new mulch and fertilizer) is sure to ring in results. Also, while listing on Massachusetts's Procurement Program CommPass may yield large scale projects, targeting green consumers on an individual scale is also easy.

While some personalized promotions like those of BzzAgent Inc.'s bzzagent.com might not have the desired cost/effectiveness ratio for a product like Bay State Fertilizer, Idealbite.com offers daily advertising access to thousands of captivated consumers concerned about the environmental and social impacts of their purchases and is practically designed for products like Bay State Fertilizer. Smart and efficient expansion of audience can greatly increase effectiveness of advertising.

Bay State Fertilizer needs the same makeover that it will provide to the buyer's garden. Through a shift in advertisement emphasis and capitalization on already existing marketing opportunities, Bay State Fertilizer can inexpensively change its marketing to better promote the extraordinary product that it is.

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