Spring: The final frontier of marketing research

If you’ve been unhappy with spring this year, just wait till next year.

Extensive one-on-one, marketing-research surveys are now being conducted to determine what people want to see — and when they want to see it. Experts hope to use the results of these studies to bring spring more in tune with its customers’ tastes.

“Every year, the tulips bloom in late March, after the crocuses have come and gone. The dogwoods follow soon after, with their distinct, star-shaped blossoms. It’s been done that way for years — almost forever. But we’ve never stopped to ask the people who witness spring every year what it is they really want,” explained Max Myror of Nature Dynamics Informational Marketing Systems Inc. The company is now performing field studies all around the country, including here in Asheville.

They’ve already found that 67.5 percent of the people in this area prefer pink dogwood blossoms, as opposed to white. The city of Asheville will be removing its excess white dogwoods and replacing them with pink ones, to reflect the preference ratio of its citizens. And since 4 percent of the people said they’d like to see a dogwood with deep-purple blossoms, which currently doesn’t exist, scientists are experimenting with pouring biodegradable purple dyes into the soil around four out of every 100 dogwoods located in the city.

“The people will finally get the dogwoods they’ve always wanted,” Myror explained happily.

Another result: Most people (89.5 percent) feel that spring arrives here too late. As result, the city is contracting with a robotics firm in Silicon Valley to produce a large flock of synthetic robins that will arrive in Asheville at the end of January. City workers will collect the birds in late December, “just to have their batteries recharged,” before being rereleased, Myror said.

“They do everything a real robin can do: fly, eat worms, even cock their head sideways and give you that enigmatic look,” Myror noted. And, since car owners overwhelmingly complained about real robins’ messy droppings, the synthetic bird will, instead, be programmed to periodically relieve itself of approximately 5 ml of windshield-wiper fluid.

Nearly 78 percent of the people surveyed indicated that robins’ perpetual chirping can be irritating, so the chirp frequency has been lowered, and the birds’ simple sound replaced with a mix of hammered dulcimer, Celtic harp and ocean surf.

“Those are the sounds that marketing surveys revealed were most pleasant to people,” he said.

Another big finding: People don’t enjoy all that extra rain in spring. They’d prefer their May flowers without April showers, thank you.

“This poses the biggest challenge for us,” conceded Myror. “We’re experimenting with the idea of putting a giant tarpaulin over the city limits.”

That would block the sunshine, however, so extra-powerful halogen lamps would be installed underneath, with strategically placed space heaters to warm the soil. Underground sprinkler systems would be used to keep vegetation supplied with sufficient water.

Elm, walnut and other trees will be permanently sterilized, to prevent spring seedlings from dropping on sidewalks and patios (“A pain to clean up,” said to 87 percent of respondents, and “Not very pretty,” according to 68 percent). Discussions are under way to determine whether the seedlings should be replaced with permanently affixed tinsel or some other popular decorative motif.

A substantial number of respondents noted that the word “spring” has many confusing connotations. When asked what the word means, many first thought of a coiled metallic mechanism, a small body of running water, or the sudden action of jumping up, among other things. To make sure all spring clients are on the same page, the Chamber of Commerce is spearheading a mass re-labeling campaign — including banners, pamphlets and public forums to replace the word “spring” with the words “vernal preliminary phase.”

In honor of this change, local singer Kat Williams will be singing “I’ve Got Vernal Preliminary Phase In My Heart” at select venues around town.

“Next year, you’re all going to get the spring — I mean the vernal preliminary phase — you always wanted,” promised Myror, his voice rising and his eyes gleaming with the excitement of this methodically orchestrated mass satisfaction.

Summer, winter and fall marketing surveys are also under way, he added. Preliminary results suggest that winter may be a bit chilly, and summer just a tad too warm. “And if we could just make leaves fall up in autumn,” says Myror dreamily.

Of course, there are the perennially disgruntled few who are protesting these changes. But Myror pointed out that they represent only a small, biased minority — merely an anomaly of statistical sampling. “Our population-sampling techniques are state-of-the-art and take into account the needs of every individual,” he confirmed.

So when next spring rolls around, and things look very … well, different — try to remind yourself that it’s just what we always wanted.

[When not enjoying the vernal preliminary phase, Patrick Runkel keeps busy conducting mass-marketing surveys on himself, to decide what he wants to eat for breakfast. So far, the results are still inconclusive. But he’s thankful that dogwood trees just bloom, without asking for anyone’s opinion first.]

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