Danny Takao’s National Promotion Idea

Danny Takao's National Promotion Idea

Danny Takao, the former OFA president, suggests a non-profit organization serve as the vehicle that collects annual dues from the entire supply chain. Takao writes:

My daughter put a sign in my office. It reads, “If you change nothing, nothing will change.”
As I look at all the events around the country and abroad, I’m wondering what will the new normal be like for our industry and how will our new consumer think and spend their monies. I don’t think it’s in our best interest to sit back and wait.
Here are some interesting and scary facts:
According to Charlie Hall, the Ellison Chair in International Floriculture at Texas A&M University, there is going to be a decline in the population after the Baby Boomers. This group is going to be significantly smaller than the Baby Boomers, who have supported our industry all these years. It will be roughly 10 years before the next group of consumers come of age that can affect our industry and will actually be larger than the Baby Boomers. These next groups need to be shown how plants can be incorporated into their lifestyle. 

Fact: Our current college age group has borrowed more than $1 trillion to pay for their education. They have a long time to pay off their debt. How will that affect their ability to purchase homes and our plants?
Fact: Our housing market has a ways to go before it balances out with inventory versus demand. In California, we thought 2012 but now everyone is thinking 2015. If you look at what has happened to the nursery growers it could easily happy to any segment. We need to think as an industry.

Fact: We know there is a need to help educate any consumer regardless of age about the beauty and wellness that can come from plants. The biggest issue I hear from young people is they don’t know enough and end up killing the plants they purchase, which affects future purchases. We need to develop confidence in all the age groups that feel this way.
Fact: As growers, we could never come to any solution on funding this campaign. It’s been more than 20 years since we started talking about this. We’ll never volunteer to fund this, and it’s not fair to have one segment of the supply chain have to collect for the industry.
What if a non-profit organization could be the funding/collecting mechanism via assessed yearly dues? Instead of focusing on one group, we assess the complete supply chain based on annual sales. Let’s say we collect $250 to $1,000. If we spread that over everyone in the industry, no one group or company would bear the cost of this campaign. That should raise a minimum of $1 million, plus enough to get going with our national campaign.
I know this is blue-sky thinking but I can’t think of a better time to get this going. As past president of OFA, I’ve heard it all – from those who see the vision to those who do but say they can’t afford to contribute. My thinking is we can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. The wait-and-see approach is not a good one for our industry.  
As my daughter’s sign says: If you change nothing, nothing will change.

It’s time for change.

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25 comments on “Danny Takao’s National Promotion Idea

  1. Danny, I agree 100%. I have felt for years that we need to do something! Hope your article is the inspiration that get us off our butts!!!

  2. The American Floral Marketing Council, which was started by SAF so many years ago asked for a voluntary 1/2 of 1% (of gross sales)contribution on a monthly basis. AFMC did a pretty darn good job of providing category awareness marketing for flowers and plants. The council did this primarily by national print, television and radio media, public relations, and retail collateral materials. The decline of the retail florist segment can be directly linked to the absence of AFMC and Promoflor. Category awareness marketing works. The model that Danny is suggesting has potential.

  3. I agree as well. As Faith said, many of us have talked about getting this off the ground but funding is going to be needed. The Society of American Florists has been successful with this type of group dues type structure.

  4. Yes Yes Please! As a Gen Xer in the industry I feel an urgency to do this. I don’t want to have to switch industries in the later half of my career.

  5. Long overdue, our industry needs to be in the face of the American (buying) public, reminding them our value and importance to all of our lives. The coordination of this endeavor will not be easy, but the benefits to our industry and our society will far exceed the efforts needed to bring a national marketing campaign together.

  6. I agree! Though some would argue that those of us in the industry already know about the benefits (economic, environmental, and health/wellbeing)…I would argue that we either don’t know, or worse yet, aren’t sharing that message. Cooking and healthcare are such prevalent topics in day to day conversations, are YOU sharing the message when opportunities arise? I AM!

  7. As long as the contributions are voluntary, it sounds good, but if you try to make it a mandatory assessment, it’s a good as dead. If you don’t believe me, ask the folks in ANLA who tried this same thing over a decade ago. They thought the required vote was a done deal until we informed everyone that the Federal Government would put a lien on your business if you didn’t pay. I think the promotion order folks forgot the premise of taxation without representation. If you’ll check, you’ll find that most promotion orders did not work and are now disbanded. Voluntary…remember those words!

  8. Tony,
    I remember the words Voluntary for the last twenty years and I have several thoughts on that:
    First if it’s Voluntary there are those who will come along for a free ride.. and there would be many. It only works if everyone in the supply chain contributes. (REALLY is a assessment of $250.00 to $1000.00 that high of a cost to help secure our futures.) I hear this phrase often: We’re having a tough year and we need help. When I ask them about some kind of National Marketing Campaign to help promote our plants first words out of their mouth ” I can’t afford it”. That really tells me all they are thinking about is themselves. They want someone else to fund this. The more people who support this the smaller the cost is for each company.
    Second we don’t need the Government to intervene for us do we? The guys in DC could really care less if we disappeared except for the fact we generate tax revenues.
    If we went to the voluntary revenue model we probably wouldn’t raise enough to make much of a statement even though our industry generates billions of dollars up and down the Supply Chain.
    I agree with you on the Promotion orders. We’ve never been able to get anything off the ground. That’s why I’m suggesting a assessment that is fair in cost to each company. Otherwise in 20 years it will probably be my daughter or grand daughter writing this and saying 40 years ago…

  9. We have an existing national marketing campaign. It’s called America in Bloom and it fosters the increased usage if flower, shrubs, and trees in communities all across America. One grower commented at the AIB 10th anniversary breakfast at OFA this year that his sales increased 8% during the years that his surrounding communities participated in AIB. This program, because of its grassroots nature, has promulgated a loyalty to green industry products and services in AIB participating communities that would be hard for even the most successful generic advertising program such as Got Milk to emulate. Additionally, I have been emphasizing (at almost every green industry event that I speak at) that we as an industry can accomplish much of the same effect of a national promotion order if we collectively utilize the same messaging in the marketing strategies of our individual firms. That message has got to focus not on the fact that “we are pretty” but on the fact that we enhance the quality of people’s lives by providing many economic, environmental, and health/well-being benefits — things that we have historically not emphasized. It’s time that we do. And if we do it well, we will transform consumer perceptions that we are a mere luxury good to be purchased when economic times (and the weather) are good, but we are a necessity in their lives that they couldn’t bear to live without. Go to the America in Bloom website right now and find out more. Better yet, email me or give me a call and I’d be happy to walk you through how to make life better for your business and your local community!

  10. Danny: I’m a believer in the power of (and need for) national promotion of our industry, promoting the benefits and value plants and flowers provide to help build consumption!

    The only method for mandatory collection of assessments is through the USDA managed Promotion Order program, and only growers can be assessed under this program; there is no provision for collecting from manufacturers, distributors or retailers.

    All other collection options are voluntary. America in Bloom operates with volunteered contributions. SAF earmarks a specified percentage of their annual dues to marketing initiatives that they manage (though a member can’t ‘opt out’ of the marketing contribution, the member can avoid paying by dropping their membership, so it’s really a voluntary assessment). And I’m sure there are other examples of other voluntary programs.

    I’m pleased to see this discussion is taking place…it’s long overdue!

  11. Danny – Without playing semantic games, an assessment is a tax and cannot be done without the force of Federal law. We should instead look at any marketing program like a cell phone contract…let’s make what the customer gets so good that they wouldn’t want to leave. Perhaps something more along the lines of a Better Housekeeping Seal of Approval and a website that promotes all members (contributors). If people can visibly see that they are getting something for their money, the money will flow much easier. Do you want to lure the heards with honey or a stun gun? Obviously, there are some folks who will never board the train and so be it.

  12. Tony,
    I respect everyone’s view on this assessment whether they are for or against.
    My intend was not to argue on what funding mechanism would work or wouldn’t work but to see if there was enough interest from the supply chain to support such a (fund raiser). I know we’ll never get everyone on board to support this and I know there are two things that will happen from this point. We can figure a way to fund this or we can let this drop like we done for the last 20 years.
    But this time might be a little different. With the changing of the guard in both our industry ( I’ve heard from a lot of younger future owners) and consumers, if we allow ourselves to be perceived or not perceived as relevant to tomorrow’s consumers can have a large impact on the health of our industry in the future. I’m not saying either that this National Marketing Campaign is going to save our industry. It’s just one of the things we can do along with how we present ourselves and our products in this new era. With a smaller customer base the worst thing for us to do as a industry is nothing.

  13. Small is the new Big. Think Small. Think the local garden center can make a difference!

    There is a lot of agreement that something is wrong with our message. One problem might be that our message isn’t out there building demand for our product. I propose that the root problem has more to do with the quality of message that we do have out there and the damage it is doing. And I have a solution that works.

    There is already more money in the marketing budgets of just 100 garden centers of $2 million each in sales than a promotion order would raise. The math: 4% (marketing budget) of $2 million = $80,000.00 budget x 100 garden centers = 8 million. If we had just 1,000 garden centers budget being spent effectively that would have much more impact – $80 million. This is only a small number of our retail outlets and already a budget many times what a promotion order will ever raise.

    Most of those 8 million or 80 million dollars are being wasted on damaging marketing messages to offer people who already want our product low prices, discounts, bonus bucks, BOGO, coupons, etc. that erode value. Very few of the marketing messages currently being put out to the consumer provide inspiration to cause more people to want more of what we have, or to create increased demand outside of the peak season using latent capacity. Instead, these messages erode our value. Therein lies the problem.

    It wouldn’t cost near as much money as a promotion order, and would be far more effective to provide the inspiration, education, and tools to advertise effectively to increase the number of people who want to buy.

    This can be done and in fact is being done. The first time it was done was with the ANLA “Fall is for Planting” promotion that focused on educating consumers that they could indeed plant successfully in another season. It was a noble effort to spread out the business over the year, but didn’t expand demand. There are still a lot of retailers using the Fall is for Planting message voluntarily and at their own expense even though it is over 25 years old. With that little bit of success the focus went upstream to creating the national promotion order and died there. Unfortunately, Fall is for Planting alone has not had significant effect, and has not come close to counter-acting the effect of the value eroding marketing that is done most of the time.

    But I know some garden centers that have learned to create value with better messaging. I’m not going to tell more here because I don’t want to make a commercial for my programs. I just want to make the point that we need to do both – stop eroding value, and inspire and create a compelling want for our product with the budget that already lies at the control of the garden center and would replace the value-eroding message that is being sent for lack of understanding of the effect of those messages.

    We have to look beyond solving the symptom of oversupply for the root problems, and that lies in demographics. Baby boomers are spending less and less primarily because that is what happens as people age. And the generation coming behind them is smaller in number. To some degree the effect can be countered by creating value for our product. The other part of the problem is also demographic and that is the increased population of competitors born over the past 15 years. The majority of our new competitors also destroy our value systematically with their low price driven commodity marketing of our product.

    These are the root causes of what’s been happened and continues to happen. Commoditizing of our product by increasing distribution outlets that have value eroding DNA, and producing more product than there is demand for leads to where we are. (This is not a box vs. independent argument, it is cause and effect.) The box stores are not created to put their ad money into creating real demand. They’ll just strip out cost and lower prices to drive traffic from the already sold consumer even if we can expand the market. It believe that is another reason it will be difficult to get our industry to support a marketing effort that will be capitalized on by mass marketers. Therefore, for now it is the independents we all must rely on and help to create any expansion of demand beyond the effect of birth rate on the population.

    What can we do? Spread the message to the independents that they must create value versus eroding it with the marketing dollars already being spent. The retail grower segment is the the place to begin.

  14. How thrilled I was to read this letter from Danny Takao! The time is right, Danny. Let’s make it happen.

    For a few months I’ve been thinking that there are two phrases I’d like to plant into the average American’s vocabulary: “You can grow that” and “Passionate about plants.”

    Personally, I think that over the last fifteen years we’ve all been mistaken in catering to people’s desire for ease. With all that talk about low-maintenance gardening and foolproof containers we just set people up for disappointment and frustration. They discovered that composting is just a tad complicated and that combination planter takes a bit more tending than we’d led them to believe. And then there were the insects and diseases…

    Why aren’t we speaking of the range (hell, the magnitude) of worthwhile results that plants and gardening cultivates?

    Beauty? Fun? Stress relief? Fitness? You can grow that.

    I agree with Danny that we need an industry-wide campaign. We need everyone on board: growers, independent garden centers, garden writers, sales people, PR firms, plant breeders, bloggers, and branders. Solidarity? You can grow that.

    In the same way that the phrase “Fall is for planting” cemented the idea that it was good to plant in autumn, we need to thoroughly saturate people with the belief that plants and gardening are worth doing because of the benefits gained. We need to repeat the messages, over and over: “You can grow that” and “I’m passionate about plants.”

    This campaign needs to address everyone, kids, gen x, y and z, baby boomers and the family dog. Each segment of society needs to be reminded that much of what makes life satisfying can be grown in our own backyards.

    The message should range from serious (Healthy food? You can grow that!) to the fun or surprising. (Sex? You can grow that!). We want it to be the starting point in plant descriptions and punch line for advertisements, videos and blogs. I want to see David Letterman and Jay Leno make fun of it. I want Seth Godin to blog about it. I want “You can grow that” to enter the popular phraseology in the same way that “Got milk?” has.

    Laughter? You can grow that. A tasty, organic meal? You can grow that. Flowers for a wedding? You can grow that.

    Why? Because it’s good for our industry, certainly, but also because I absolutely know that it’s true. Gardening one of the most life-affirming things we can do.

    We put a great deal of time, money and effort into our own products, businesses and brands, so how can we not band together to cultivate this industry as a whole? We can’t just focus on the latest plant, fertilizer or organic insecticide; we’ve got to sell the excitement first.

    Call me an unrealistic, naïve hort-a-holic, but I truly believe that it’s possible. A resurgence in gardening? We can grow that.

  15. Sure wish this comment form didn’t reduce several paragraphs into one huge block of text! That said, I’m getting many responses to my blog post (essentially what’s above) from people who are saying “Yes! Count me in.” So Danny…let’s set up a meeting and get this underway. When and where?

  16. I love your passion C.L. Passion is everything. I think we need to direct the passion to the benefit of growing so people actually want to rather than focus on the fact that they probably can, should they want to. Why would they want to? Yes, they can. Yes they should (in our opinion), but what’s in it for them? Tune them in to their favorite radio station – WIIFM – What’s in it for me?

  17. I never thought I would see the day that someone would bring this subject up again! I recall two marketing order attempts in Florida and one National one during the 1990’s. All three of these attempts were voted down. The major objection seemed to be that these were mandated and therefore were taxes and who needs more taxes. In addition those who opposed them spread all kinds of misinformation about government involvement that wasn’t true. Well the past is the past, but look where our industry is now. There are lots of marketing orders that work just fine, think milk, think cotton, think apples and there are others. The last national attempt was based on a surcharge on containers so that everyone would pay a tiny portion of the total dollars needed to make it work. The projections were that we could raise in excess of 20 Million dollars which would have been equivalent to what cotton was spending at that time. Our industry has done a masterful job of creating new varieties and new techniques for over producing almost every species of plant you can imagine. Few in our industry, though, really understand the marketplace or the customers in that marketplace. Big changes lie ahead as pointed out by others on this site. The National Foliage Foundation now supports two graduate students at the University of Florida who are working on marketing issues. This is a change from supporting traditional production research projects. We need to know more about the customers and the market place and how to provide products that are profitable for our industry and satisfying for the customer. I hope that Danny’s ideas get the ball rolling again and that our industry responds. I don’t believe that “voluntary” will do it, but at this point almost anything would be better than what is being done now. If you want more information about the National Foliage Foundation just drop me a line.

  18. I COMPLETELY agree with Danny and have for months since we first started talking about this and how OFA and NGB can work together. In reading the above, there is nothing in anyone’s comments that is a disagreeable idea. So, why don’t we get started. But why go to the extra work and expense of starting from scratch? Why not start by supporting programs already in existence? Charlie talks about AIB and I agree that should be supported more to have more impact. Sid says to “Start small but think big”. In my almost 24 months at the helm of National Garden Bureau, I see that this small organization has great potential to be the marketing arm of the industry. We already have “Started Small” with our “Year of the” programs. As well as with our New Varieties programs where we promote our member’s products. We also send out gardening e-newsletters where the intent is to inspire trying new things in the garden. Next up is a gardening blog written by our members. There’s no reason why our membership can’t grow and as it grows, we create small products with big impact that cater to our member’s interests. We already have the website (getting over 10 million hits per year), the infrastructure, the databases etc. We’re ready to serve the industry were needed and I’m willing to listen to ideas for partnerships, growth, etc.

  19. “… via assessed yearly dues?”

    I would not be interested in paying for a national marketing order or any kind of generic industry program. I am very doubtful about their efficacy. As a small IGC, my advertising dollars go locally. My focus is local, and I think that is where the future of IGC’s is. A voluntary program is fine; go for it. Please don’t consider anything that requires a mandatory assessment.

  20. Don,
    Let me ask you this. Let’s say you have a voluntary fire dept. Your house is on fire. Half the guys say let so and so take care of the fire I’m watching TV. So you’ll depending on those who show up to put out the fire. Let’s say those who did show up couldn’t put out the fire and save your house. What would your opinion be of the others who stayed home and watched TV. That if all of them showed up could of saved your house. In essence that’s been the scenario of our industry. We can’t think voluntary because one, it’s not fair for those who contribute and do all the lifting. I’ve found that in our industry ( from IGC’s to the Manufacturers ) the 20/80 rule is prevalent or as Martha Beck says it’s the 5/95 rule now. A small group of people do the majority of the work while the rest enjoy the benefits. Those days are gone and we need to realize that.
    Don’t focus solely on local and your own company. If our supply chain doesn’t remain healthy where will you go to buy your supplies?

  21. First of all, lots of communities work fine with volunteer fire departments. “It’s not fair” for me to not contribute to your idea? I think marketing orders and national generic advertising is very old school, largely ineffective, and that a significant portion of it goes to overhead and consultants. I would not contribute to this project. I choose my suppliers the way my customers choose me: small, family-owned growers who sell to IGC’s. Most of us have slashed our budgets in all expense categories. If I had an extra $250 around, it would probably go to the local school garden project.

  22. I agree its difficult for a national campaign to market on a local level, but ideas that could be accomplished: Finacially supporting garden writers to write articles. Helping fund and expand AIB. Supporting school gardens through donations of plant material. As for Plug Connection: We give all our certified organic edible plug overages to both San Diego and LA schools under our Organiks brand. Have we made an impact- absolutely. Thousands of kids are being engaged in their health, environment and learning to dig in the dirt. I can grow that.

  23. In many respects, America In Bloom (AIB) was started as a positive response to the many futile and industry divisive attempts to initiate a government mandated check off program. We know this from past experience that: a) a mandatory program (that must, by law, be administered by the government) is, simply stated, a tax and will never be accepted by our industry. This has been proven time after time in failed attempts and b) a voluntary program will never work either, the thinking is always that the “other guy” should pay if I do and if he doesn’t, I won’t, and there is always someone who will not or cannot pay; the program eventually dies a natural death.

    So if neither mandatory or voluntary program will work where does this leave us, the answer is AIB. It has proven itself to be the “best bang for the buck” time after time in the communities in which it is initiated. Like all good “promotional programs” it takes work, money, and a commitment to the “long haul”. We have the mechanism in place, it has 10 year head start; our industry needs to wake up and get behind what has proven itself to be worthy of achieving elusive goal of industry wide promotion. By stimulating the demand for our products community by community through local efforts, the national promotional goals will be achieved; it cannot and will not work in reverse, a national program will never influence the desire and will of the local community. The last thing we need is another form of a national industry wide “stimulus” package which arrives and is gone with the wind.

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