Imagine just a few years ago. The largest nursery chain in California runs an ad in the local paper extolling the virtues of the pesticide Sevin. In the ad they say, "Garden Tip: Do you have bug problems in your garden? Try Sevin Insect Control. It's OK to use on edibles and is environmentally-friendly." How would you have responded if you disagreed? Write or call. Even if you got the company to listen it's doubtful the company would have printed a retraction or printed your feelings. InÂ the old days the advertisers controlled the message.Â Of course things have changed. Companies want to jump on the social media bandwagon and use it to get their message out.Â Twitter is one such medium that many companies are starting to use. The difference these days is the audience can comment back.
Armstrong Nurseries tweeted the other day that the pesticide Sevin was,"OK to use on edibles and is environmentally-friendly."Â When Farmer Fred and myself Tweeted our concerns we we're directed to this paper. According to the paper Sevin or Carbaryl is not very environmentally friendly. "Direct contact of the skin or eyes with moderate levels of this pesticide can cause burns. Inhalation or ingestion of very large amounts can be toxic to the nervous and respiratory systems resulting in nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and excessive salivation. Other symptoms at high doses include sweating, blurring of vision, incoordination, and convulsions." The paper continues, "Carbaryl is lethal to many non-target insects, including bees and beneficial insects."
Since there is no definition of "Environmentally friendly" it's left to the advertiser and reader to make that distinction.Â What does "environmentally friendly" mean? If one of the most toxic insecticides to bees can be called environmentally friendly, where does it end?Â We saw this coming a couple of years ago as advertisers of all stripes jumped on the ecological and environmentally safe bandwagon. The terms have lost their meaning.
As more and more advertisers use social media to make claims, it's up to the users of that social media to speak up when they disagree with those claims. While most advertisers would prefer that those they are advertising at remain silent and do as they are told, others will relish the idea that they now have a forum to discuss these claims. People are searching for the truth and will reward those companies who speak the truth and are not afraid to fess up when they are wrong. We all make mistakes, and these days the price of making those mistakes right are a lot smaller. No more expensive print or TV ads explaining the mistake. Now it's just a matter of Tweeting, blogging, or Facebooking the response. It's a win-win for the customer as well as the company.
Another customer of Armstrong Nurseries Tweeted , "Is it o.k. for pet's, too?" Armstrong Tweeted back, "The powder form can be applied on dogs for flea control. Pets should be kept away from the area when using the liquid form." Why should pet's be kept away when using the liquid form? If the product is "environmentally friendly", why keep pet's away?
We await Armstrong Nursery's response...