Time to kick the hornet's nest: Now is the time for a national marketing program for our products.
We just survived the scariest spring in recent memory. Many of us did it by growing and selling less material. Many of us lost sales, especially those who grow bigger-ticket items like shrubs. We survived, but not without cost.
Remember our great growth spurt of the past decades? The experts say that spurt is well over, and many of our markets are flattening or shrinking.
Plus, the environmental movement has its costs. We may have to retool what and how we grow, and many of us really don't understand younger consumers.
So, I think it is time to say we need help to grow the market - and to help direct messages to consumers about how great plants really are. Growing the market will help all of us - all products, all categories - because plants are great, they are "green," they make us all healthier and they connect us to nature. Life without plants would be bad, and we should tell the world.
And that kind of messaging smacks of a "national" something, which can be a scary endeavor as any national marketing is cost additive.
Here is an idea: My business partner Frank Zaunscherb of ZMI and I have talked to a bunch of folks this year about a grassroots marketing idea. Ours is a low-cost idea that would be driven bottom up from us all.
We have been spreading the word with the help of many industry people about our proposal. What if we all had a slogan we all supported? (Think "Got Milk" for plants.) What if we all added this slogan to all our plant tags, all our store signs, all our delivery trucks, staff T-shirts - you get the idea.
The slogan does not replace your marketing message - it just helps support the notion that plants are good. And, this idea is free. We have been talking about a grassroots idea we could all support - not a top-down promotion order, but a simple common-sense approach.
We all use thousands of tags and have fleets of trucks on the road. What if all our existing consumer outreach had a common call to action, something that says plants are good?
Frank and I mocked up what a simple campaign could look like with an idea we call "life.plantlife." We're showing some simple images of life without plants - then life with plants.
We got brave and crossed all plant categories - bedding plants, nursery, cut flowers. We even did a mockup about turfgrass.
Take a look at how these mockups do or don't work - yes, we want your opinion, and yes, our slogan is just a draft placeholder. It could be "Plants Are Good" or "Use Plants. We like "life.plantlife," but there may be better ideas someplace so let's hear them all.
What would happen if we all had that one great slogan like this on all our plants? Could we rally around a program like this? Get some national buzz? Could we all tell some of the same story about planting more plants? Could we tie back to a common website that showed consumers how great all plants are and encourage consumers to plant more plants?
An advantage to us all using the same slogan is we could support the slogan with a website - with public relations and social media outreach (think Facebook for plants). Think about a bunch of YouTube videos all with fun information on plants and all telling the world how great plants are.
Answers To Your Questions
What do you think? Is it a good idea to have some sort of grassroots marketing outreach on all our stuff? Is it a stupid idea?
My problem is I have been way too close to this idea - so I cannot see the forest for the trees. And that's why we need your feedback. Here are a few questions for you to ponder and, perhaps, some solutions:
1. How would consumers learn about this grassroots slogan? If most growers and retailers add the slogan to tags, trucks and store signs, we will have millions of impressions - maybe even billions of impressions.
That is lot of free outreach. We are not buying TV ads or going into glossy magazines. We are thinking about the bottom of plant tags. Heck, most of us old guys remember the "Fall Is For Planting" campaign, and that was decades ago.
2. How would a slogan on a tag grow the marketplace? Well, if all of us started using a positive slogan - "Plants Are Good" for example - consumers would notice. If that slogan leads back to a well-viewed website that supports all the positives those plants do - make oxygen, make people happy, feed the soul, etc. - then we will influence consumers.
If we can inspire consumers to use more plants - to do more outdoor living with our great products - that starts to help sell more plants. Think about online forums where our industry can connect to consumer questions.
3. How much would it cost? To start, it could cost nothing. We could get a team of volunteers together and come up with a killer slogan to get the ball rolling. It would be great to raise a little cash to do some consumer testing, but we could wing it.
To start with a fleshed out web space could cost some bucks, but we could always catch up to that next year. This idea is grassroots, so it needs to be bottom up in terms of energy and activity. To keep the idea going, it may need to live in a company or a trade association or have a little bit of infrastructure - but maybe not. We assume we can raise some "get-started" money.
4. How can free marketing work? Don't you need TV, magazines or some media? Nope, because we assume the media is the billions of tags, trucks and store signs on which the slogan would live.
We are hoping to ride for free on existing media rather than mimic "Got Milk" and buy TV or magazine spots. We do not think it would be wise to raise millions of dollars to buy media. We do think we can build a unifying industry campaign on existing tag media.
5. Who directs this? Maybe a group of volunteers - so far Frank and I have been pushing it - with some help from a few other brave souls. It may just live in a committee - it could live in OFA or SAF or ANLA. It could be a little free standing not-for-profit. Right now, though, the idea needs the following:
a. Is the idea worthy? E-mail, call or write us. We need to know.
b. Talk to others. Share the magazine, ask your retailers,
send e-mails to colleagues.
c. Lend us ideas. What should the campaign be called? How can it work? How could you help?
d. Would you do it? Yes or no? If yes, what would you add to your tags?