In the beginning, Hermann grew plants in his New York City apartment, planting in his bathtub, and sold plants on the street. The idea of a brand was so important that he hand-printed labels for the plant pots. Over the years, brand awareness spread across the country and today, through its Exotic Angel Plants brand, Herman Engelmann markets more than 400 varieties of low-light-acclimated foliage.
“Hermann believed firmly, even back then, that the consumer needed a little story behind the item,” says Wolfgang Engelmann, president and COO of Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses. “And he never put ‘Begonia’ on the label. He always wrote, ‘I am Begonia.’ So it’s more personal storytelling.” Hermann believed in a few simple principles — surprise the customer with even better plant quality than they’re expecting and keep things simple to order.
“That’s why we sell everything in assortment. We don’t sell individual varieties,” Wolfgang says. To help keep the exotic varieties thriving for the consumer, Engelmann uses custom soils and grows everything under low-light conditions.
Plants in the program carry the red Exotic Angel logo on tags, which feature helpful tips to consumers, including a color coded guide to light requirements and plant-care instructions. The origin of the species is also included on the tag, which, on a roster of exotic plants, could be anywhere from China to South America to South India. The company’s point-of-purchase posters have changed quite a bit over the years. In the past, posters were information heavy, but Wolfgang describes today’s posters as “simple, but touching.”
“Our newest thing is we try to feed the soul and the heart more than the brain,” he says. “In the past, we’ve told the consumer why this is bigger and better. Now we’re at the point where we have to inspire them.”
Pot sizes are also unique. They range from 3.8 inches to an 8-inch hanging basket. The grower pots are slightly smaller than standard sizes, so they can be slipped into cover pots and upgraded for a more premium look. Plant packaging is also customized depending on the retail outlet.
Take It To The Web
In addition to the information on its tags, information on all of Hermann Engelmann’s plants can be found on its Web site, www.exoticangel.com. With the high costs of advertising in consumer media, Wolfgang says plant tags and the Web site are the best ways to connect with the consumer. And it’s working — the site boasts more than 5,000 visitors per week. ï»¿
As Wolfgang sees it, the future holds more new product development and innovation in packaging. The operation sees Generation Y becoming the biggest buying group in a few years, because as a demographic, this generation has embraced going back to nature. This demographic is also savvy.
“The only way to market to them is to tell a very honest story,” Wolfgang says. “Unless you’re a completely honest brand, they’ll see right through you. So now we’re trying to build their confidence in us by providing a product that actually lives in their home and doesn’t die after two days.”
In the end, the company lives by two basic principles for marketing: Give the customer a quality plant that is well priced, and provide real solutions for retailers. “Creative marketing and outstanding products could not be possible without the help of our terrific team,” Wolfgang says. “My appreciation goes out to everybody in our organization. They all truly deserve this Medal Of Excellence.”