Valentic: From Ford to Fertilizer

Q&A: Carmaker's Former VP-Global Marketing on Her New Gig at Scotts

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Jan Valentic has found greener pastures at Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., which she joined in March as senior VP-marketing for North America. Though she came from Y&R, Seattle, where she was exec VP-global client leader on Microsoft's account, Ms. Valentic was best known at Ford Motor Co., where she rose to VP-global marketing.
Jan Valentic, who recently joined Scotts Miracle-Gro as senior VP-marketing for North America, made a name for herself at Ford Motor.
Jan Valentic, who recently joined Scotts Miracle-Gro as senior VP-marketing for North America, made a name for herself at Ford Motor.

Scotts is enjoying brisk growth; last week it reported a global-sales record of $993 million in its second quarter, including an 8% jump in North American sales to $754 million.

Ms. Valentic spoke with Detroit Bureau Chief Jean Halliday about commonalities in the different businesses she's worked on and her plans for Scotts.

Advertising Age: What's your mission?

Jan Valentic: To make the company more relevant. We are in the outdoor-living business, everything from fertilizer to plant food to Smith & Hawken (outdoor furniture, pottery and tools). We want to become the definitive expert around all things regarding outdoor living. It's simply on trend. The outdoor living space is growing like mad. We have these businesses that have great synergy, and we need some ideas to knit them together.

AA: What changes do you plan in marketing?

Ms. Valentic: The No. 1 thing we're thinking about is how to improve the lawn-and-garden experience in total. How do we educate people on why it's important to feed their plants and about the wide array of services and information we provide? Mobile will play an interesting role for us. You'll be able to download your [shopping] list and take it to the store. ... Podcasting is new, and we are doing some cool stuff with our [online] videos. We're thinking about alliances and partnerships with brands. We are having some discussions with our retailers -- the Home Depots of the world -- about what makes sense for their business. We are doing some cool stuff with Nascar. One of our control brands, Ortho, is doing branded entertainment for "Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race" [on ABC], with hot Nascar drivers teaching celebrities how to drive Nascar cars. We are doing some really fun promotions.

AA: Why is most of Scotts' spending on TV, and how might that change?

Ms. Valentic: We do so much volume in concentrated times of the year, like now, and TV has been pretty efficient for us. So we'll continue to have that in the mix. We want to make sure our messages are in the right places when people are thinking about their lawns. We know there are a whole lot of consumers getting their information elsewhere.

AA: What are your main challenges?

Ms. Valentic: How do we improve the in-store experience? We are in the process of a dramatic upgrade to our website [via Resource Interactive, Columbus, Ohio].

AA: What keeps you up at night?

Ms. Valentic: First is: How do we get ahead of the issues of environmental and natural? We've acquired some products and brands in that space. How can we be a leader in this? There's a lot of myth out there about nitrogen and fertilizer. Secondly, there's a whole lot of emotional reasons why people care for their lawns and gardens. There's isn't one prevailing reason. We've got people who think it's a creative expression all the way to people who feel a spiritual connection to nature. As a marketer, we need to make a more emotional connection that is less focused on selling what the product does.

AA: Which Scotts products do you use?

Ms. Valentic: We are in the bird-food business, so I have bird feeders and enjoy the throngs of birds. I keep a clean house, but I do have bugs, so I use [Ortho] Home Defense. ... My mom had a green thumb, and we always used Miracle-Gro.

AA: What are the similarities and differences between marketing cars, software and lawn-care products?

Ms. Valentic: These are all products that appeal to consumers on a deep emotional level, but the emotions vary a lot. Nature is living. It's alive. It's not like power-washing your deck. ... [All three] use the web to gather information and, more importantly, get connected. A great site is You type in your ZIP code and find all the gardening gurus in your area. Software is sold through retailers, as our brands are, although Home Depot has its own brand, and we have to operate our brand the way they want us to.
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