Whenever the topic of creating an industry-funded promotion order comes up, I’m always amazed that very few people seem to remember this past attempt: Plants For America. It was championed by the now defunct Garden Council in 1994 and 1995. The idea was for the entire green industry–spanning floriculture, nursery, trees and even sod–to raise $25 million annually for generic industry promotion.
The order was to be funded through a 5.85 percent assessment, or tax, on containers, which was supposed to represent 0.35 percent of gross sales for a typical growing operation. Container manufacturers were identified as the “narrowest point of collection” in the industry. It’s more efficient to collect from less than 20 container manufacturers than thousands of growers. That point of collection is even narrower today with consolidation of container manufacturers.
Plants For America’s proposal was put to an industry vote and failed, as the past news story reports. In addition to opposing the idea of a mandatory promotion order, the main criticisms of this particular proposal was that it was too broad in scope to be effective, would not be equitably assessed, and the plan for how the dollars would be used was too vague. The only real experience our industry has had with promotion orders is in the cut flower and cut greens segment. At the state level, the California Cut Flower Commission has survived three referendums, but its
Pages From The Past | Original Issue: June 1995, page 9 number of participating growers has dropped significantly since 1990.
On a national level, the cut flower industry did have PromoFlor for a few years in the mid ’90s. It had strong industry support and was enacted through an act of Congress. After the campaign was launched, the assessed growers and handlers voted on it through referendum and it was defeated. While some didn’t like the “Buzz the Bee” campaign, others felt assessments were not collected fairly.
Most of the collective marketing efforts since have been funded by voluntary contributions. Flower Promotion Organization (FPO) began with a trade settlement between U.S. and Colombian cut flower growers. Over the years, FPO has conducted successful campaigns in select metro markets and developed integrated multimedia resources for florists and consumers. Through strategic public relations, FPO has gotten cut flowers really high profile air time on television.
The Society of American Florists (SAF) also has been successful leveraging public relations in print and on television through its PR fund. Commissioning psychological research at leading universities also has led to great media play. Examples include “the happiness study” and how plants and flowers positively affect people at home, in the hospital and in the work place. FPO and SAF have been partnering on more research and initiatives.
On the interior plant side, Green Plants for Green Buildings is making great strides making plants an integral part of the green movement and health and wellness.
In outdoor plantings, America In Bloom (AIB) has been the most successful. Now in its seventh year, the community revitalization program has engaged more than 150 cities by encouraging public plantings through a friendly competition. We’ve observed participating cities over time and see that it’s contagious. It doesn’t take long for a town with 20 hanging baskets on Main Street to triple or quadruple its efforts and programs. The spillover to neighboring towns is positive, too.
Pick the program that matches your business and interests and support it. The shortcoming of volunteer programs is very limited budgets. For specific products and brands, like Wave petunias, Proven Winners and Stars Over Europe poinsettias, the royalty model has been a good one. Let’s be more creative in finding ways we can generate dollars to help grow our industry–cause-related marketing to help ourselves.