Reader Reaction: National Promotion Must Attract New Customers

Reader Reaction: National Promotion Must Attract New Customers

Danielle Ernest, public relations and brand development coordinator for Proven Winners, reacts to Laurie Scullin’s November column about national promotion. Danielle supports the idea and stresses the importance of creating a national promotion that attracts new customers–and not just the ones we already have. Directly below are Danielle’s comments to Laurie, and below her comments is Laurie’s response to Danielle.


I enjoyed your article in the November issue of Greenhouse Grower. It sparks many questions I have regarding this type of promotion.

In the article, the “Got Milk?” campaign is mentioned multiple times. I want to reference a recent book I read titled “The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR” by Al and Laura Ries. The book directly talks about this campaign.

The authors write: Over the years no advertising campaign has attracted as much attention as the milk mustache ‘Got Milk?’ program run by the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board. If the milk mustache campaign is American’s favorite advertising campaign, why isn’t milk America’s favorite beverage? Per-capita, milk consumption continues to decline, reaching its lowest level ever last year.

Lee Weinblatt, who heads an ad research company, said that while everyone raves about the milk mustache campaign, milk sales keep going down. “The main reason why girls don’t drink milk is they claim it’s fattening. None of the ads address that issue,” Weinblatt says. Hence the creation of the 3-A-Day dairy campaign that tells young women you can actually lose weight from consuming dairy products.

I think our first step should be reaching out to the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board to see if this campaign has helped increase or decrease the sale of dairy products. If the campaign worked, we would be able to obtain case-study information about it to replicate the program, but at a lower budget and over the course of several years. However, if it didn’t help increase sales, I think we should look for a different example to replicate.

Also in the article, you mentioned putting the slogan on all of our plant tags, store signs, delivery trucks, staff T-shirts, etc. My biggest question after reading this was: How is this going to attract new business? If that 20- or 30-year-old isn’t already in the store, how are they going to see this slogan?

Personally, I feel more research needs to be done by speaking to the milk board about its experiences and also creating focus groups of people in this age group to understand what they are thinking and how they view the current look of the promotion. This can now easily be done by the use of social media tools or even getting an industry board of this age group together. Many of us attended the meeting during OFA Short Course and thought it was interesting most of the people talking were not of that age bracket.

I truly believe in the power of PR and feel people would be able to learn about this campaign through publications (i.e. magazines, newspapers, blogs). A public relations plan would need to be in place to make this happen.

Overall, I think it is a wonderful idea. I just feel for it to be extremely successful, research should be done extensively upfront and presented to the industry.

Thanks for listening,

Danielle Ernest
Public relations and brand development coordinator
Proven Winners

Below is Laurie’s response to Danielle’s letter.

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Many thanks for thoughtful and researched comments. A few thoughts back for consideration–not in any rank or order.

I agree PR versus “advertising” is our industry’s only hope, as I do not think we would easily raise the $50 million a year required to establish a “Got Milk” campaign.

Regarding references to “Got Milk,” they have been made mostly because that is the one outreach on commodity product our fellow growers understand. We spent some time with Dr. Charlie Hall at Texas A&M on these types of generic programs to better understand their impact. Generally, economists have attached a 5-to-1 ratio to all agriculture market orders–that farmers would expect to see a five-fold increase in revenue for every dollar spent on outreach. Place a big asterisk here, though, because that’s hard to measure. Even revenue is not always used as the good measure–but with Charlie’s blessing we have used the 5-to-1 number in our thoughts.

We have also assumed as an industry we would never be able to run with an enforced market order collecting funds to mimic any program–from Got Milk to the FPO “Alive with Possibilities.” I would love to be proved wrong–and have the industry throw cash into hat for outreach–but outreach will likely have to be PR based.

To your question on how would a slogan attract new business: If it is supported by $50 million of advertising, we should see a 5-to-1 bump. But we cannot afford $50 million outreach and TV, magazine and public relations, so then what? That was the thought that drove us to the grassroots idea. If we can’t mimic top down–can we go bottom up?

If you look at our market today, we have almost zero outreach to consumers with any message that says “use more.”  Our friend Stan Pohmer has written a lot about our industry messaging. We do have messages that say “mine is better than theirs” in regard to plant programs, and the occasional message of “mine is unique,” but I am pressed to think of any serious outreach that says “plants are great, use more.” So our grassroots challenges include coming up with some sort of message (i.e. Life/Plant Life).

To your question about attracting new business: We have always assumed we needed a few things in place to make this work:

1. Broad distribution of the message. I like the idea of including the message on plant tags, sides of trucks, bumper stickers, bouquet wraps in supermarkets, on newspaper ads and websites. To your point, we may not see the message on a plant tag in a garden center, but what about in a supermarket? If the slogan was truly adopted by everyone, we would have more than 1 billion uses of the slogan.

2. Use of new media. We have talked about a central website to help talk generically about why plants are great and to inspire with images and social media content. If the millions of impressions are driving some back to an inspirational site, we believe that will lead to more. Should the industry have a social network site that allows like-minded gardening homeowners a place to exchange ideas with each other and all of us?

3. New media PR. We need to reach out to new homeowners, and that means driving non-traditional PR. We envision heavy use of many new media tools, from postings on blogs to engaging YouTube video to … it is almost endless.  And many new consumers–both young and old–would be targets of outreach.

4. The non-20 year olds. What if we can inspire our current customer base to plant a little more? We think we are losing some relevance in the sustainability war. Our core audience would benefit from a “plants-are-great, plant-more” message. And to your point about how to add units, I suggest this is our biggest opportunity in the near term.

Finally to your point about extensive research upfront: At this point, our fractured little industry has no funding mechanism to pay for anything–market research, PR, advertising. We are suggesting we should consider a bottom-up approach, in which we need little or no money to get the right folks in a room and come up with a slogan and start “plant more” outreach. We assume there would be a team of folks like you and I  who have enough experience in plant marketing to avoid any major pitfalls, that doing something is better than doing nothing. Based on comments this past year from breeders, brokers and growers, we really should start something soon.

To go all the way with a real new media PR campaign and a consumer-friendly Web environment will cost real dollars–but way less than just a few years ago. We can do a lot with volunteers–and little or no infrastructure. Compared to a $50 million “Got Milk” campaign, we could do a lot for a fraction of the investment. 

Please come back with more questions/comments. This is what we need to do if we are to truly reach out to others.

Laurie Scullin
Relevance in Hort
New Product Group

Leave a Reply

4 comments on “Reader Reaction: National Promotion Must Attract New Customers

  1. I am a mid30s mother of 4, I am a grower, and I have always had a flower garden (many of them). I feel I need to be a billboard for our industry if I want everyone I know to be excited about spending their dollars on my product. However, as an industry we have failed ourselves by not having a national promotion to make people want our products. Where does someone like me begin?

  2. I agree with you Laurie. And one other element is some regular contact with interested consumers to keep driving them back to the website. As most of us know, simply building a website is just the first step. Getting people to keep coming back to it and having new stuff on it are key. Anyone know how those contest offers on the bottom of cash register receipts which encourage consumers to websites are working for the big box stores?

  3. I am a mid30s mother of 4, I am a grower, and I have always had a flower garden (many of them). I feel I need to be a billboard for our industry if I want everyone I know to be excited about spending their dollars on my product. However, as an industry we have failed ourselves by not having a national promotion to make people want our products. Where does someone like me begin?

  4. I agree with you Laurie. And one other element is some regular contact with interested consumers to keep driving them back to the website. As most of us know, simply building a website is just the first step. Getting people to keep coming back to it and having new stuff on it are key. Anyone know how those contest offers on the bottom of cash register receipts which encourage consumers to websites are working for the big box stores?

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