BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Scotts Miracle-Gro has moved Jan Valentic, senior VP-global marketing services, to the newly created position of senior VP-chief sustainability officer and expanded the brand-marketing duties of Senior VP-Marketing Dan Paradiso to cover Ms. Valentic's former marketing-services duties.
The move comes amid strong results for Scotts in a rebound from a tough year in 2008. Fiscal first-quarter sales for the period ended March 31 rose 17%, led by fertilizer sales up 32% as the company rebounded from a year when rising commodity prices combined with recession to deeply cut into sales.
Mr. Paradiso, a 14-year veteran of Scotts, was previously responsible for brand marketing in the lawn, gardens, pest control and wild bird food businesses of the company since last June. Prior to that, he was general manager heading the lawns business since September 2007. He's added Ms. Valentic's duties, which include managing Scotts' agency relationships, media, public relations and other corporate-wide marketing duties.
M.L. Rogers, New York, is agency of record for the company, while WPP Group's Team Detroit handles media buying and planning, digital and other non-traditional marketing. Ms. Valentic was former global client services lead for WPP's Wunderman, which is part of Team Detroit, prior to joining Scotts in 2007. She's also a former VP-global marketing for Ford Motor Co.
"We don't let the grass grow under our feet," Ms. Valentic joked in describing her move to the new role three years after joining Scotts. While she realizes a company best known for marketing lawn chemicals may have an image challenge on the sustainability front, she also believes it's possible to reframe the issue.
"In many cases I think chemical-based nitrogens in the soil as a way of feeding the plants and enabling grass to lengthen its root structure to access water can be more drought-resistant and access more nutrients" which can have a positive environmental impact, she said. "A time-released fertilizer like ours that isn't water-soluble like, for example, manure, can be very favorable for the environment. "
As a marketer, she'll be looking at broadening Scotts' current sustainability focus on its production operations more toward other areas of its operations, including employee involvement and consumer communication, though she said the latter is more likely to take the form of education programs rather than conventional advertising.
She cited such areas as plant selection based on climate to minimize the need for water and chemical use as one likely area of focus. Scotts, she said, is "neutral" when it comes to the question of whether consumers have lawns or focus instead on trees and shrubs, noting the company makes products for all.
While Scotts is just beginning to measure its "carbon footprint," she said it's possible the company will come out net carbon-negative, as its products help plants grow faster and thus sequester more carbon dioxide.