Branded Plant Collections Engage New Customers

The HGTV HOME Plant Collection

It’s a common complaint: fewer people are interested in gardening nowadays. While research suggests that people have trouble connecting with plants, many media brands are working to make live goods more accessible to consumers.

The Southern Living Plant Collection (SLPC) debuted in spring 2008, and Sunset magazine and HGTV have followed with their own collections. Each new collection strives to seduce more people into the garden, but is it working?

Regional Plant Collections Increase Customer Confidence

For southerners, and those that read Southern Living magazine, gardening has always been a big part of the overall lifestyle. The Southern Living team knew that the magazine’s readers were interested in getting their fingernails dirty; the plant collection was a
natural next step.

“Southern Living is a very strong brand name and lifestyle magazine, and gardening is a big component of what they do that appeals to the Southern lifestyle,” says Kip McConnell, director of Plant Development Services, the company tapped to bring the collection to market. “You would get these phone calls when Southern Living would write an article on a specific plant. The phones would start ringing off the hook. In the magazine, they would tell people to look for it, but there was a disconnect in that the mass producers hadn’t started growing it yet.”

Once Southern Living connected with Plant Development Services, the two teams worked to create a product line that would thrive in the southern parts of the country. Available at retail for the past two to two and a half years, the collection can be found in independent garden centers, Home Depot and Lowe’s stores across the U.S.

The important thing when bringing the line to market, however, was to maintain the high level of trust that the Southern Living brand earned with consumers over the years. This mentality also applied when Sunset magazine and Plant Development Services announced the Sunset Western Garden Collection for gardeners in the western regions of the U.S. in January 2012.

“People want a recognizable name, and Southern Living and Sunset have such a personal connection with their readers. Mothers and grandmothers grew up having it in the house. It’s part of the tradition for so many people. They recognize the brand name and say, ‘That’s the lifestyle I want to have,’” McConnell says. “Another power they have is that they are regional. People have a sense of ownership, whereas something national doesn’t have that. Southern Living can be trusted. Even bigger than knowing the name of the brand is knowing that they will be successful with what they buy. When consumers are confused, they don’t buy. When they see that name though, they have confidence. It brings them to a point where they are comfortable with their purchase.”

In the next phase of the process, the two collections will focus on expanding the collections’ product lines and creating an oasis in the landscape.

“What we’re trying to do now is continue to focus on great plants and the entire look that the plants have in the garden. There will be more annuals and perennials, and we want to show them how to use several of the plants to create a successful garden experience in the landscape and in containers,” says McConnell. “We will do this with articles in the magazine and signage at retail. This will give them that step-by-step or one, two, three. It will say, ‘Here’s the look, and here is how you create it.’”

HGTV Connects Consumers To The Gardening Lifestyle

Well-known for its expertise in all things home-related, HGTV recognized that the gardening aspect of the brand lacked a presence within the marketplace. In order to remedy this, the brand began looking for opportunities to provide plant-based solutions to consumers in the same way it offered home-based solutions. The collection’s soft launch began Mother’s Day weekend at garden centers around the country. The full launch of annuals is set for 2013, with lines of perennials and shrubs to follow.

“HGTV is very interested in products that sit in the home category because the brand is all about the home and anything that sits in the home space. They are also very focused on solution-based initiatives and helping consumers solve problems within their homes,” says Randy Hunter, CEO of Agricola Management Group, the company helping to ensure the success of the HGTV HOME Plant Collection with consumers.

Much like the SLPC and Sunset Western Garden Collection, HGTV wanted to give consumers the confidence to buy plants without worrying that they wouldn’t be up to the task of gardening, but even before that, HGTV surveyed consumers to confirm that those consumers felt HGTV had the right to enter the plant market. With consumer approval backing the initiative, HGTV moved forward with its plans. Devoted to finding the right plants for its consumers, the brand took more than two years to put the collection together.

“A fundamental difference in what we’re doing with HGTV over anyone else is that [the collection] centers around know-how. We start with know-how, and we deliver know-how in the voice of HGTV,” says Hunter, who also helped with the SLPC and Encore Azalea launches. “And in the landscape world, HGTV is the most trusted brand in home and gardening. We have research that supports that. We start at that intersection with the consumer and the consumer’s need for solution-based products, and we go back to the industry and find the best products that fit the personality of the brand. It’s not just about slapping a label on a product. It’s about providing a landscape solution to consumers and communicating that in the voice of a trusted and recognized source, HGTV.”

What also sets this collection apart is HGTV’s national reach.

“HGTV is a lifestyle brand, not just a television network or a magazine, and that’s a unique point of difference in bringing this whole product to market and how it came to market,” Hunter says. “Southern Living and Sunset are regional brands and great magazines, but today, in this market place, it has to be more connected than a magazine. It has to be a lifestyle brand.”

And consumers seem to be responding to the brand in the way that HGTV and Agricola had anticipated with stories of garden centers selling out in a single weekend. Speaking to the power of the brand, Sarah Hayes,
marketing manager for Agricola, says that The Dees’ Nursery & Florist in Oceanside, N.Y., had consumers taking plant material straight from the delivery truck when a shipment arrived during regular business hours.

The Branded Plant Collection Trend Is Not For Everyone

Although the trend of creating plant collections has proved successful thus far, both McConnell and Hunter agree that not everyone should jump on the branding bandwagon.

“There will be hits and misses. Just because people know the name doesn’t mean they will be successful with the plants,” McConnell says. “In our case, we are very diligent. We automatically have that trust, but we cannot take that for granted and put things on the market that are inferior. I think with some of the other collections, maybe the plants didn’t solve problems or weren’t successful where they were.”

When it comes to misses, Hunter highlights three reasons why some plant collections won’t make the cut: lack of traction between consumers and horticulture brands in general, the inability for most people to connect with the brands year-round and irrelevance within the category.

Citing research that indicates popular plant brands like Proven Winners and Monrovia have lower consumer brand awareness than a lifestyle brand like HGTV, Hunter says horticulture brands in general lack traction with consumers.

Even high-profile brands like Burpee, which has recently expanded from seeds into live goods, have not yet had a major impact on consumers in the garden market, he says.

“I think there was some early success with plants in the horticulture industry because there was no branding at all,” Hunter says.

The early success that Hunter refers to comes from what he calls single plant brands. The top four include Wave Petunia, Encore Azalea, Endless Summer Hydrangea and Knock Out Rose. Hunter maintains that because the market cannot support an abundance of single plant brands, the “umbrella brand” or collections act as a unification tool for the brand in the retail space.

“There is no way you can continue to support the proliferation of single plant brands in the retail environment. You’re going to walk into a garden center and have fifty different plant brands? That just can’t exist,” Hunter says. “That’s why the other brands have been moderately successful. I’d say Southern Living is more successful and we were able to get it off the ground because we knew consumer branding better than other people in horticulture. HGTV will go a step beyond that because it is a national brand. It has more brand awareness.”

As for the second reason, Hunter says most people do not garden year round, which means the plant collections remain untouched when consumers aren’t digging in the dirt.

“Consumers just don’t resonate with plant brands because it’s not a year-round product. They are not connected to the brand year round. They are connected to lifestyle brands in all of their life, not just in their plant life when they’re gardening,” Hunter says. “When you aren’t gardening you are still watching HGTV. If you’re not gardening, you’re still reading Southern Living, if you’re a subscriber. So you are connected to the brand in ways beyond just plants.”

And a connection between plants and a lifestyle brand need to make sense. Nike and Starbucks have brand awareness and resonate with customers year round too.Does that mean growers can anticipate branded plant collections from these companies as well? Not likely, Hunter says.

“They have to have relevance in the category. If they don’t, I don’t think they are going to connect with consumers. HGTV is a great example of that. It’s Home and Garden television, and plants are part of the home and your garden. It is a very easy transition for HGTV to do that. If ESPN decided they wanted to get into the plant world, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean that all brands are committed to licensing, and a brand alone can’t do it. It needs to be done through a licensing program in order to be successful. We’re not a company that’s sitting on this big mountain of genetics that we need to sell, so we go out and rent a brand to put our name on it to take it to market. It’s easy to put a label on something. That doesn’t make it successful long term, and there are plenty of examples of that out there.”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Marketing...
Plant-Select_for-web

May 28, 2015

PlantSelect.org And FindPlants.net Assist Consumers With Growing And Finding Plants

The recently launched PlantSelect.org and FindPlants.net websites offer growing and maintenance tips, where-to-buy information and design ideas to help consumers have success with growing and finding plants.

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

May 27, 2015

Cal-Poly Students And Faculty Ask Industry To Help Save Horticulture Facilities

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential, and/or recreational space. According to a letter from Scott Steinmaus, the horticulture and crop science department head, the proposed changes directly affect the current orchard plantings and other long term plans for the department. The department is committed to making sure that its facilities remain invaluable teaching environments that enable its students to learn about crop, fruit and horticulture production, food safety and pest protection, in addition to providing sites for externally funded research projects that benefit the industry. Industry members are invited to submit comments to the university. According to Steinmaus, a recent eMail to the Cal-Poly community from the university president indicates that all of the input gathered through the end of May will be studied by the planning […]

Read More
Laura Drotleff

May 27, 2015

Growers Working Hard To Protect Pollinators — And Their Businesses (Opinion)

Editor’s Note: This editorial was written and published just prior to the news coming out about Lowe’s phasing out neonicotinoids by 2019. However, that news doesn’t change the fact that growers have a long history as good stewards of their land and of the environment. As evidenced by the 2015 Top 100 Growers Report, the nation’s largest growers continue to adapt their production practices to be cognizant of environmental factors, worker safety, retailer preferences and consumer concerns. In light of Lowe’s announcement, growers who produce for the retailer are certainly working toward that mandate; but they’re also hopeful that the research currently underway will provide scientific reason for decisions made on production going forward. When the news broke last year that growers would be required to label plants treated with neonicotinoids at The Home Depot, and that other retailers were mandating growers to produce crops without neonics, I sucked in air and […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Four Star Greenhouse Proven Winner Plants At English Garden

May 26, 2015

Retailer To Grower: It’s Time To Offer Services To Loc…

Retailers wonder why mass merchants are the only ones to receive stocking, merchandising and plant care from growers.

Read More
New Guinea Impatiens

May 14, 2015

10 Tips To Improve Retail Shelf Life Of Bedding Plants

Good-looking plants at retail lead to stronger sales and less postharvest shrink. Try these 10 ideas for maintaining quality and keeping plants looking beautiful.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

May 12, 2015

Suntory And GrowIt! Garden Socially Partner On A New Se…

Suntory Flowers and GrowIt! Garden Socially are working together on a new photo contest that both retailers and their customers can get involved in. GrowIt! Garden Socially is a free garden photo sharing app, and the photo contest is designed to promote Suntory’s plant brands and help consumers interested in those plants find them at local garden centers. Consumers who want to enter the contest can take these four steps: 1. Download GrowIt! for free from the App Store or Google Play store 2. Sign up with a username 3. In the app, add a photo of their favorite Senetti plant 4. In the comments, tag it #SenettiRocks The first photo contest featuring ‘Senetti’ pericallis runs from May 7-18. Three entrants will win gift certificates from their favorite local garden retailer — one $100 prize and two $50 prizes. After Senetti, the next featured brand will be ‘Million Bells’ calibrachoas […]

Read More

May 6, 2015

Orange Is The New Green: An Interview With Dümmen Orang…

The day the news came out about the name change of DNA Green Group to Dümmen Orange, and everything that meant for the large flower breeding conglomerate, Greenhouse Grower Editor Laura Drotleff talked with Dümmen Orange Operations Manager Kate Santos about what the identity shift would mean for the company, its customers and ultimately for consumers. What’s going to happen to the brands and what was behind the decision to do away with those brands and consolidate? A key objective for our organization in moving to one corporate brand is to continue to stay true to the heritage and history of the individual brands that have made us what we are today and what we will build the future of our company upon. For this reason, some of those brands that have a deep-rooted history and much more recognition within the market, will have a longer persistence in our overall […]

Read More

May 1, 2015

Restoration Landscapes: A Specialized Market For Nativ…

Restoration landscapes, depending on their purpose, often require straight native species, along with a confirmation of their known provenance. Research is key in this area and good recordkeeping is a must.

Read More
Dummen_Begonia_UnbelieveableFirstKiss

April 29, 2015

Dümmen Orange Is The New Name For DNA Green Group

DNA Green Group has a new name: Dümmen Orange. The company revealed its new name, logo and brand values at all of its facilities in 16 countries on Thursday, April 23. The well-known corporate brands Lex+, Bartels, Terra Nigra, Dümmen Group, Agribio China, Agribio Colombia, Oro, PLA, as well as the production locations, are changing their identities immediately to Dümmen Orange. Other established brands like Rijnplant, Ecke, Oglevee, Red Fox, Fides, Japan Agribio and Barberet & Blanc will convert over limited time. The company’s CEO Biense Visser calls it a logical next step. “All companies that have been acquired have a rich and successful history,” Visser says. “We have always tried to respect that heritage. Doing so, we created confusion for our customers. Our employees expressed a preference for a more uniform approach to the market, too. That is why we have chosen one large umbrella brand that embraces the entire product […]

Read More

April 15, 2015

Redesigned SunPatiens Website Offers New Tools For Saka…

Sakata Seed America's new and improved SunPatiens website launched March 1, 2015 and provides growing information, marketing support, product location and many more tools to encourage consumer success with SunPatiens.

Read More
Keenland

April 13, 2015

Proven Winners Partners With Award-Winning Designer Jon…

Proven Winners will partner with award-winning garden designer, author and fine living expert Jon Carloftis on a new series of four LIFE + STYLE events in 2015. In true Carloftis style, food and spirits will be paired with inspiring architecture and innovative garden designs featuring Proven Winners plants.

Read More

April 13, 2015

New Consumer Website Makes Buying Roses Easier

A new website has been created as a resource tool for gardeners who are looking for a rose that fits their needs. This website is 100% consumer focused and will inspire confidence and promote rose gardening to the next generation of gardeners. Visitors will also find links to connect on social networks, such as Facebook and Pinterest. The website promotes roses, not specific brands, and that is what makes it unique.

Read More
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Hor…

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
National Floriculture Forum 2015 029

March 18, 2015

2015 National Floriculture Forum Focuses On Marketing I…

The 2015 National Floriculture Forum, held March 6 to 7 in Minneapolis, Minn., zeroed in on the topic of marketing in horticulture and included visits to Gertens Greenhouses and Garden Center, Bailey Nurseries, Bachman’s Floral, Home and Garden and Tangletown Gardens. The annual meeting allows greenhouse and floriculture faculty, graduate students and industry partners to meet and share updates on current research, issues and initiatives.

Read More

February 18, 2015

Range Of Nursery Inspections To Protect Patented Plants…

Plant patents are under protection, and breeders are fighting for their rights to keep growers from illegally propagating protected varieties. It's something you don't want to take a chance on, because the risk is far higher than the reward. More than 300 inspections were carried out last year from New York to British Columbia and from Ontario to Florida to protect plant patents, Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) and branded programs.

Read More

February 4, 2015

TPIE 2015: An Electrified Industry Vibe Boosts Cool New…

The general feeling at the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association's 2015 Tropical Industry Exhibition (TPIE) was upbeat and positive. Attendees were inspired by exciting new products and varieties, as well as creative new displays and innovative ideas and left energized for the season ahead.

Read More
Costa Farms Website

January 21, 2015

Costa Farms’ Launches New Interactive Website

Costa Farms is making efforts to educate consumers while pushing horticultural digital marketing forward with the re-design of its website. The new website features a fresh design and improved navigation, as well as a plant finder that gives gardeners easy access to plant information.

Read More

January 5, 2015

Growers Are Successfully Marketing The Benefits Of Pla…

Growers who are already marketing plant benefits and gardening as a lifestyle say they think this could be the best angle for the floriculture industry to promote our products.

Read More

January 5, 2015

Plants Love You Campaign Raises Plant Benefits To Foref…

Plants make us feel good. It’s a no-brainer, backed by numerous studies, but there’s more to the story. And it’s one the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance (COHA) hopes its Plants Love You campaign will tell in such a way that it will inspire people to make plants a part of their life, and on a bigger scale. COHA is an alliance between the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA), the Fédération Interdisciplinaire De L’Horticulture Ornementqale Du Québec (FIHOQ) and Flowers Canada Growers (FCG). Inspiration for The Plants Love You campaign came from COHA’s research, which revealed that 96 percent of consumers surveyed have a favorable attitude toward plants. When COHA delved deeper into the numbers, one thing stood out loud and clear. “It quickly became apparent that while consumers like plants because they are pretty and make them feel good, few understood the environmental and health benefits plants offer.” says Frank […]

Read More

December 9, 2014

New Website For PanAmerican Seed

PanAmerican Seed's new website is mobile-friendly and has a fresh look and enhanced navigation.

Read More
What’s a pumpulent? It’s a pumpkin planted with succulents, and it’s also one of the ways Altum’s is catching customers’ attention with new products and modern marketing.

December 1, 2014

9 Digital Marketing Resolutions For 2015

Whatever your experience with digital marketing, here’s some advice for keeping your business progressing into the new year.

Read More