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...

April 1, 2015

Philadelphia Flower Show Draws More Than 250,000 Attendees With Disney Pixar Movie Theme

With more than 250,000 consumers attending the prestigious Philadelphia Flower Show in March each year, it's a great opportunity to get flowers and gardening products into the public eye. This year's show displays took on family favorites at the movies, with a focus on Disney and Pixar films. Check out some of the highlights in our slideshow.

Read More

April 1, 2015

Peace Tree Farms Grows Its Customer Base

Over the past five years, Peace Tree Farms in Kintnersville, Pa., has concentrated on growing its business by providing plant material for the displays at the illustrious Philadelphia Flower Show. We caught up with Peace Tree Farms’ Lloyd Traven to ask about how the Flower Show figures into his business plan.

Read More
protecting bees and pollinators video

March 31, 2015

New Video On Protecting Bees And Pollinators Educates Horticulture Industry Professionals

A new educational video that provides information on the horticultural industry’s essential role in bee and pollinator stewardship is one result of industry collaboration by the Horticultural Research Institute, AmericanHort, Society of American Florists and the American Floral Endowment. “Protecting Bees & Pollinators: What Horticulture Needs to Know,” narrates the current state of bee and pollinator health, provides information on factors that impact pollinators and the environment and underscores the beneficial role horticulture plays in providing healthy pollinator ecosystems.

Read More
Latest Stories
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

November 25, 2014

Conley’s Launches New Website

Conley’s Manufacturing and Sales recently launched its newly designed website, which was redesigned to create a user-friendly digital environment for customers to explore Conley's products.

Read More

November 17, 2014

Canada’s Plants Love You Campaign Educates Consum…

In a cooperative effort to promote the benefits of plants to consumers, the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance (COHA) recently launched its Plants Love You campaign to make consumers more aware of the health, environmental and economic benefits of plants.

Read More
Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum™ Petunia from Proven Winners

November 11, 2014

Plantbid Offers New Tool For Growers, Plant Buyers

Plantbid is touted as a revolutionary new tool that allows plant buyers to purchase their whole plant list at one time, from growers who provide their complete availability online. According to the company, this new offering could change the way growers and landscapers do business.

Read More
Dahlia Dahlinova Temptation Lavender from Dummen Fides Oro

November 10, 2014

Bas Pellenaars Takes On New Role As Brand Manager For D…

Dümmen group announces the transition of Bas Pellenaars from area manager to brand manager.

Read More

October 28, 2014

Zombie Adventures Are Back: GGS Releases Premiere Of Ne…

What's good for plants, but bad for zombies? GGS structures. The company released a new promotional video to get growers in the spirit of Halloween. GGS Structures ran a series of zombie movies last year, and this year, something new was released October 24.

Read More
Suzanne McKee

October 27, 2014

Use Your Data To Make Smarter Marketing Decisions

Learn which marketing metrics are important to your business, measure successes and learn where changes are needed.

Read More
Sara Tambascio

October 2, 2014

How To Measure The Success Of Your Digital Marketing

Take a look at these metrics in your digital marketing to see if you’re connecting with your audience or just adding to the clutter.

Read More

September 26, 2014

How To Get The Digital Generation Into The Garden: Gard…

Capture millennials’ gardening interests with these marketing tips.

Read More
The Joseph Shinoda Memorial Scholarship Foundation

September 9, 2014

Shinoda Foundation Contributes Nearly $15,000 In Schola…

Based in California, the Joseph Shinoda Memorial Foundation's mission is to encourage educational opportunities for young people interested in entering the industry. Since 1965, the foundation has awarded $790,000 to more than 660 undergraduate floriculture students.

Read More