Most companies think of marketing just their own company, store or product, but I’d like to create something bigger. The "Go Green", "Support Small Businesses", or "Buy American" campaigns are great but they are too broad. We need something more specific. Something like the “Got Milk” campaign but focused on potted plants and their value to make people feel good.
The goal of the marketing campaign: To increase the public’s interest in giving plants as gifts, thereby increasing sales of plants and trees. The advertising images will show people giving and receiving plants and their real smiles. A feel-good image or video showing the power of this simple gift that connects old & young, brings smiles and happiness, makes life more beautiful, and the world a better place.
I've got ideas how we can publicize the campaign but here's some taglines I've come up with:
Plant a Smile
Plant a Smile, Gift a Plant
Love Life, Plant a Smile
Just for the Health of it
What do you think?
A National Marketing Campaign was discussed some 12-15 years back, sometimes heatedly, among horticultural groups and it caused a lot of debate and hard feelings. The initial decision was to charge all growers and retailers a yearly fee to pay for the national ad campaign based on gross sales but a whole lot of small independents complained that they were going to be charged proportionately a lot more than those growers/retailers that grossed millions each year so that idea was dropped. It was also brought to the discussion that some folks that did not want to participate in the program would be forced to pay whether they liked it or not and did not feel they would benefit like the big box stores would with the added exposure to the buying public. The opposing opinion was that everyone in the business large and small would benefit. After throwing around how this all would be payed for which amounted to millions of dollars, someone came up with the idea that it would be more fair to just add a small tax to every container sold to growers throughout the US. This also caused a lot of heated debate when a agreement on whether the ceramics/clay container producers could be counted on to join the plastic container manufactureres, etc., etc. Also, many related "green' hardgoods manufactureres would benefit from the added advertising campaign without having to pay into the whole package financially since they did not produce containers. It was also discussed whether the big box stores would put pressure on the growers to not add this cost at the wholesale level where the big box stores would once again gain a monetary advantage over independent retailers. When the smoke cleared the whole idea was finally dropped when
no amicable decision could be reached across the board. Trying to make everything fair to small Mom and Pop wholesale growers to huge corporate nurseries, all the hard good supplyers in between, and the huge range of small retailers to large box stores was nealy impossible. If you have a better, and equally fair idea, to the miriad of businesses connected to the horticultural industry please come forward with the plan. :)
PS- Another huge problem was who would decide what parts of the country would get the most exposure to the marketing campaign and why? Past gross sales, population etc., etc. The more one looks into such an idea the more complicated it becomes. No one person has the authority or power to coordinate such a diverse industry. We are in a range of folks with a card table set up at a local flea market to corporations that take in millions weekly. How could such a program be fair to everyone in both paying for the cost and equal exposure. There would also be a huge cost in lawyers for the copyrights, staff for tv and newspaper production and an endity to hire to distribute all said marketing.
The history of this discussion shows the broad interest for something to help promote the sale of plants. Any marketing campaign to promote plants should be of interest to all those in the industry but the IGCs and retail nurseries are in the best position to create the buzz. They have the direct relationship with the consumer.
I’m proposing a grassroots, guerilla marketing campaign for IGCs and retail nurseries. They are the ones interacting with retail customers but a greater awareness and demand for plants would benefit everyone. If IGCs and retail nurseries promote and market their plant inventory through guerilla marketing using one tag line that links our efforts it can grow—and grow big. (The Occupy movement started out small too) It doesn’t require the whole horticulture industry or an Ad Council to start something.
Guerrilla marketing was invented as an unconventional system of promotion that relies on time, energy and imagination rather than a big marketing budget. Any IGC can use guerrilla marketing ideas to promote the message. It might be something as simple as posting customers’ photos of their plant gift-giving occasions or photos of your plants used as decorations at your customer’s wedding. All we really need is real images of real plants used in real life in many beautiful ways and one tagline or message.
After seeing how Prince William and Kate used potted trees to decorate the church, I thought for sure I’d see IGCs steal that marketing idea and run with it, but it hasn’t happened. It’s a great idea to market potted plants as practical decorations (first as decorations and then as living keepsakes).
The Got Milk campaign was good because it brought awareness – made people think about milk. Everyone already knew the benefits of milk, just like everyone already knows about the goodness and wholesomeness of plants. We need to market plants in more creative ways. And market to everyone not just the ones who are homeowners with gardens and yards. Not all IGC customers, own a house with a yard but they still give gifts and decorate for special occasions.
And the tagline doesn’t have to be the same but it would certainly be more effective to use one consistent line especially if we want to create a national buzz. If there was one tagline most of us liked starting out, all the rest of the IGCs could use it too. No IP issues—no tax on hard goods--no lawyers needed. IGCs would spend their own money on their own ideas and expend their own efforts for their own sales but add the tagline to reinforce and propel the message throughout the marketplace which benefits the rest. There’s no licensing – or rules of higher costs to one over another.
But there’s a problem trying to market plants for the same purposes as cut flowers. Plants are the perfect gifts for any occasion but the reason we don’t gift them much is because it’s not easy or convenient. Think about it from your customer’s point of view. You hear the message, buy a great plant to give as a gift or use as a decoration but what now? In order to gift it or use it as a decoration there's another pot to buy, or a wicker basket to find, or messy transplanting needed first. That is a non-starter.
I know this problem first hand because I’m your average bunny. It all started when I had gone to my local garden center on my way to a party to pick up a plant to give to my host. I quickly found the perfect gift, but there wasn't an easy, convenient or inexpensive way to hide the ugly plastic pot. That's all I needed. Right there in the garden center I came up with the very simple solution I needed. I knew if I wanted and needed an easy way to gift a plant so did lots of others--because I'm your average bunny.
I sell a new product called PlantWrapz which is a preformed, pre-sized gift wrap for potted plants and it's not sold in the big box stores. The whole reason I came up with the product was that I wanted to give a plant as a gift. I wasn't in the horticulture industry or any hard goods industry, I was just an average consumer who valued plants and wanted to use them as gifts and decorations.
Plant loving customers want to buy plants as gifts, but if it isn’t easy, convenient, and inexpensive and mess-free most customers especially those who haven’t a lot of time and money, will opt for something else entirely. It there's one thing that will stop the marketing campaign from being as big as it could be, it is that problem.
Without big money it is hard to create a national awareness but there’s strength in numbers. If we just work independently but focus the message cooperatively, we can get something going without making it complicated. Plants are better value than flowers and in this economy customers more than ever are looking for value. Add to that their desire to support Go Green, Small Businesses and the Buy American campaigns and you have the perfect time for this campaign to take off. If any IGC or retail plant seller wants to brainstorm with me or talk to me about using this product in their own marketing campaign I’m game.
Any campaign that creates public awareness about the many beautiful ways to use plants is a benefit to the marketplace as a whole. It's doable and worth doing. It's a win for IGCs, a win for the horticulture industry, and a win for customers. Why not try? What's the downside?
Plant a Smile works in a lot of ways and it's short brings in Plants and Smiles. Plant Smiles might be even better. Any thoughts on which tagline is better?
(I used Corel Draw, some free open clip art and photos of a plant I picked up in Mesa, AZ yesterday at A&P http://www.apnursery.com/ ) Even they guys at the nursery thought I was a little nuts shopping for plants in 110 degrees:)
I too have heard dicussions on this topic for years. Milk is milk and not many ways to change it. Plants come in so many types, colors sizes and require care, light, water, space etc. Hard to compare the Milk ads with plants.
I know I have heard many people in the Georgia area comment about this and their main objection seemed to be that the IGC and growers are independent thinkers and businesses and they did not want to join a huge group and pay for something they felt would not benefit their specific market. This may have been short sighted, but I can remember hearing the strong opposition to a national ad campaign.
Who says you can't promote a whole industry? 5 million views and counting.
Love the video! We need more of this! thanks!
A "cute" example of a industry that has slowly collapsed since WWII from a poster who has no idea where food comes from in today's market. Family owned farms have declined by 84% since the 1940's and 92% of all the food we buy at the store now is either corporate owned/grown or foreign imported. I have farmed for over 40 years and would never try to talk a young person into the business. Unless you are a millionaire already it is 80+ hour work weeks in steamy hot 100F+ to freezing cold weather and competition from countries with no EPA, Social Security Taxes and OSHA to contend with every year. Estimates from this Summer's drought in the mid-west is that another 22,000 family farms will go broke in 2012. How about using a legitimate example of successful marketing next time! :)
Who has no idea where food comes from?
And reaching over 5 million since June isn't a "legitimate" example of successful marketing? Not only is it a success in reach but also in RIO! "Peterson said the brothers aimed the video at their city friends on Facebook because they "hardly knew anything about the farm." They ended up educating the world." "Its success has been hailed by farm groups, documented by newspapers and even won the brothers a whirlwind trip to New York City for a television appearance on Fox News Channel’s "Fox & Friends." (AP)
I'm sorry you feel so beaten down and cynical. You missed the point:)
LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS VIDEO
Fluffy Scarsdale said:
Who says you can't promote a whole industry? 5 million views and counting.
I am not being cynical, just realistic. I do not think that someone with a successful 40 year career who has owned and operated their own retail nursery and retired at 58 years old, grown 220 acres of olives in Israel, 122 acres of Capers in Spain and 2247 acres of rice in Brazil is exactly clueless when it comes to marketing. If you want to compare marketing experience email me personally. I just do not think cute films on the Internet will cure the ills of a Industry that needs a complete overhaul and that is so disorganized. Wishful thinking does not make it so.
I understand and I respect your experience and accomplishments. OK, so forget that video. The point was to share some ideas, brainstorm about some ways to promote sales. You say the industry needs a complete overhaul and how it's so disorganized but you don't offer anything that CAN be done. Does that mean just give-up? Maybe that's what you're saying. I don't know. If you have some ideas or other suggestions put it out here. Learning from you would be great not just for me, but for all of us here, especially because of your achievements and long-lived success. So what do you think can be done.? What should be done? What can help increase traffic to an IGC? What could help increase sales of potted plants?
In my opinion IGC's need to change their attitude towards each other and instead of viewing each other as "competitors" they need to work locally as a team to promote the advantages and pleasure of gardening and plants around the house year round. For example, out of the 15+ retail plant sellers in a 20 mile radius of my location I found 3 over the years where the owners had a similiar outlook on life and passion for growing and selling plants that I had adopted very early on in my career. Though small operations at first, each location had a personality of it's own, extremely high quality plants and a work attitude/ethic that promoted fun and relaxation with plants. All the owners were/are hands on and at the locations at all times to work with staff and customers. They are not hiding in the office, instead they are intensely working with the public to promote the business. Rather than compete against each other we banded together and promoted 1/2 day trips where groups of folks, mostly housewives, drove a small circuit and visited all 4 of our operations on day trips to the area. I specialize almost exclusively growing oversized containers of blooming annuals and perennials specifically targeted to transplant into flower beds and patio containers. Each Spring I rotate out crops that have become "common" and keep up with the latest trends in colors and new varieties fresh to the market. My attempt is to "surprise" customers that have been comming out for 30+ years where they never know what they will find on any particular visit. This takes a lot of pre-planning, study and investigation a year in advance. Another in the group tends more towards landscaping, shrubs, trees, pottery, fountains etc. A third member more towards citrus, garden vegetables and herbs. The fourth water gardening. All in all we overlap somewhat on what we sell to the public but make sure we do not carry a lot of the same plants and really make sure we do not look like or compete with the big box stores. Personal service, quality and variety are key. The main point is that we do not verbally compete with each other. When a customer asks for a particular plant or hard good we do not carry we make sure to recommend one of the other nurseries on our preferred list and send them there. We work together and know each others inventory. We are still independently owned and operated, advertise locally separately but are viewed by the public as a cohesive unit of 4 nurseries. Having said all that, this past April I retired after 40 years of retail, but am actively growing small specialty crops for the other 3 nurseries and will be working with them in the back ground. I will also maintain my "pick your own" acre of Asparagus each Spring and run my Pecan Processing plant in the Fall. I still do "consultation" on a limited basis.
Over the years my small "marketing" program changed quite a bit. Initially I advertised locally in three newspapers and gave speeches to local garden club groups. This was all well before the Internet when print advertising was king. This has changed drastically as folks read newspapers less and less. Newspapers are a "slow" medium and when you read something in a newspaper it has already been on the Internet for at least a day and possibly 3 days, so I find newspaper advertising not worth the time or money spent. It is a fading media of the past. During a 22 year period I also printed my own flyers and maintained a customer list of over 4800 folks who I contacted by snail mail 4 times per year. This also became a cumbersome project and the US mail service more and more undependable. Maintaining current addresses on a seasonal basis and having customers receive flyers weeks after a sale was over became too frustrating. Gradually I melded into a "private email List" and sent out notifications of events here at the nursery. The email list cost me zero and when sent I knew the customers received it immediately. It is by far the most cost efficient and quick media to keep in tune with ones customer base. It is also a great way to receive feedback and ideas from customers.
The future of marketing for IGC's? I haven't a clue. My customer base is the 'baby boomer" generation that is 50 years old +. We grew up outside and don't mind getting sweaty and dirty, we appreciate nature and its gifts. The X and Y and Millenium generations I do not understand. My nieces and nephews would rather cruise the Internet and see pictures of the National Parks than actually go there and see them first hand. They stay indoors most of the time and befuddle me. It will take the newest members of the nursery industry to cater to them and I believe they will be a lot harder to market too and get into the nurseries. They would rather pay someone else to work in their yards than do it themselves. Like I said, I am stumpted as too their thinking. I guess that is why it is called a "generation gap" ! :)
Ok, so I have become long winded. To answer the question asked....
I believe a Local, concentrated marketing program, is the way to go for most IGC's. A National campaign for a industry so diverse and uncoordinated is not practical at this time. We grow and sell such a diverse volume and variety of perishable and hardgoods the task would be immense. If the whole industry as a group could ever come together for a marketing campaign I believe the pictures below would be the way to go. They represent the freshest and most inivative idea I have seen in a long time. They are extremely well thought out. Someone used their brain cells here.