Spinning Compost into Cash
How “Four Seasons Total Landscaping” created a marketing bonanza from a political blunder
Turning a potential public relations disaster into a winning marketing opportunity is no easy feat – especially when your business is the backdrop for a politically charged event following the most contentious election in recent history.
So credit is due to Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Northeast Philadelphia, a company that successfully made a big pitcher of lemonade from what might have been a very sour lemon. Or maybe in this case, money out of manure? Cash out of compost? This is fun.
The business – which offers services like weed control, mulching and leaf removal – somehow found itself the site of a post-election news conference featuring Rudy Giuliani standing in front of a garage door, pounding on a podium in support of President Trump’s baseless claims of election irregularities.
Americans remain charged up about the 2020 Election and its results, so Giuliani’s angry sideshow and its widespread coverage had the potential to get ugly for this oddly cast business.
But one of the best ways to diffuse anger is humility and humor. Rather than firmly plant themselves (pardon the pun) in partisan rancor, Four Seasons Total Landscaping’s owners explained they would have been proud to host a presidential campaign of either party.
Then they got to work capitalizing on the humor of the president’s erroneous tweets, which initially claimed the press conference was happening at The Four Seasons luxury hotel in Center City. Had Trump not been so quick to tweet, the landscaping business might have narrowly avoided fame.
Acting quickly, the family-owned small business moved to market itself, selling merchandise proclaiming “Make America Rake Again” and “Lawn and Order.”
Part of the reason this strategy worked is because the landscaping company acted right away to take control of the narrative. After all, one of the cardinal rules of public relations is to tell your own story before someone else tells it for you. While the luxury hotel chain quickly distanced itself from the news conference, the landscaping firm – which everyone now knows is located near an adult novelty shop and crematorium—is forever linked to this surreal event. At this point, their best strategy was to own it and take the flak good-naturedly.
Realistically, the people running Four Seasons Total Landscaping could probably never afford to pay for this scope of publicity. This is what communications professionals call the “earned media value” of coverage. They could have been defensive about the negative attention, but sometimes the best way to diffuse the joke on you is to laugh along. And they’re laughing all the way to the bank – their merchandise quickly sold out.
The Four Seasons Total Landscaping story also spawned a new beer – said to be “brewed with sour grapes” – and a charity event dubbed the “Fraud Street Run,” an 11-mile race billed as “starting at the famous Four Seasons Total Landscaping and finishing up at the lesser-known Four Seasons Hotel.” The run grew so popular that it became an ongoing event and at the time of this writing, raised close to $20,000.
Soon enough, the Four Seasons mix-up will probably be forgotten. Four Seasons Total Landscaping took advantage to strike while the iron was hot and market itself cleverly in a way that didn’t alienate the business from customers of either party. This is a great communications comeback story out of a town that sure loves a good one.
Meredith Montalto is a Senior Vice President in Ceisler Media's Philadelphia office.