Now Is The Time For National Promotion

Now Is The Time For National Promotion

Time to kick the hornet’s nest: Now is the time for a national marketing program for our products.

We just survived the scariest spring in recent memory. Many of us did it by growing and selling less material. Many of us lost sales, especially those who grow bigger-ticket items like shrubs. We survived, but not without cost.
 
Remember our great growth spurt of the past decades? The experts say that spurt is well over, and many of our markets are flattening or shrinking.
 
Plus, the environmental movement has its costs. We may have to retool what and how we grow, and many of us really don’t understand younger consumers.

Taking Action

So, I think it is time to say we need help to grow the market–and to help direct messages to consumers about how great plants really are. Growing the market will help all of us–all products, all categories–because plants are great, they are “green,” they make us all healthier and they connect us to nature. Life without plants would be bad, and we should tell the world.
 
And that kind of messaging smacks of a “national” something, which can be a scary endeavor as any national marketing is cost additive.
 
Here is an idea: My business partner Frank Zaunscherb of ZMI and I have talked to a bunch of folks this year about a grassroots marketing idea. Ours is a low-cost idea that would be driven bottom up from us all.
 
We have been spreading the word with the help of many industry people about our proposal. What if we all had a slogan we all supported? (Think “Got Milk” for plants.) What if we all added this slogan to all our plant tags, all our store signs, all our delivery trucks, staff T-shirts–you get the idea.
 
The slogan does not replace your marketing message–it just helps support the notion that plants are good. And, this idea is free. We have been talking about a grassroots idea we could all support–not a top-down promotion order, but a simple common-sense approach.
 
We all use thousands of tags and have fleets of trucks on the road. What if all our existing consumer outreach had a common call to action, something that says plants are good? 

Plant Life

Frank and I mocked up what a simple campaign could look like with an idea we call “life.plantlife.” We’re showing some simple images of life without plants–then life with plants.
 
We got brave and crossed all plant categories–bedding plants, nursery, cut flowers. We even did a mockup about turfgrass. 
 
Take a look at how these mockups do or don’t work–yes, we want your opinion, and yes, our slogan is just a draft placeholder. It could be “Plants Are Good” or “Use Plants. We like “life.plantlife,” but there may be better ideas someplace so let’s hear them all.
 
What would happen if we all had that one great slogan like this on all our plants? Could we rally around a program like this? Get some national buzz? Could we all tell some of the same story about planting more plants? Could we tie back to a common website that showed consumers how great all plants are and encourage consumers to plant more plants?
 
An advantage to us all using the same slogan is we could support the slogan with a website–with public relations and social media outreach (think Facebook for plants). Think about a bunch of YouTube videos all with fun information on plants and all telling the world how great plants are.

Answers To Your Questions

What do you think? Is it a good idea to have some sort of grassroots marketing outreach on all our stuff? Is it a stupid idea? 
 
My problem is I have been way too close to this idea–so I cannot see the forest for the trees. And that’s why we need your feedback. Here are a few questions for you to ponder and, perhaps, some solutions:
 
1. How would consumers learn about this grassroots slogan? If most growers and retailers add the slogan to tags, trucks and store signs, we will have millions of impressions–maybe even billions of impressions. 
 
That is lot of free outreach. We are not buying TV ads or going into glossy magazines. We are thinking about the bottom of plant tags. Heck, most of us old guys remember the “Fall Is For Planting” campaign, and that was decades ago.
 
2. How would a slogan on a tag grow the marketplace? Well, if all of us started using a positive slogan–”Plants Are Good” for example–consumers would notice. If that slogan leads back to a well-viewed website that supports all the positives those plants do–make oxygen, make people happy, feed the soul, etc.–then we will influence consumers. 
 
If we can inspire consumers to use more plants–to do more outdoor living with our great products–that starts to help sell more plants. Think about online forums where our industry can connect to consumer questions.
 
3. How much would it cost? To start, it could cost nothing. We could get a team of volunteers together and come up with a killer slogan to get the ball rolling. It would be great to raise a little cash to do some consumer testing, but we could wing it. 
 
To start with a fleshed out web space could cost some bucks, but we could always catch up to that next year. This idea is grassroots, so it needs to be bottom up in terms of energy and activity. To keep the idea going, it may need to live in a company or a trade association or have a little bit of infrastructure–but maybe not. We assume we can raise some “get-started” money.
 
4. How can free marketing work? Don’t you need TV, magazines or some media? Nope, because we assume the media is the billions of tags, trucks and store signs on which the slogan would live. 
We are hoping to ride for free on existing media rather than mimic “Got Milk” and buy TV or magazine spots. We do not think it would be wise to raise millions of dollars to buy media. We do think we can build a unifying industry campaign on existing tag media.
 
5. Who directs this? Maybe a group of volunteers–so far Frank and I have been pushing it–with some help from a few other brave souls. It may just live in a committee–it could live in OFA or SAF or ANLA. It could be a little free standing not-for-profit. Right now, though, the idea needs the following:
 
a. Is the idea worthy? E-mail, call or write us. We need to know.
 
b. Talk to others. Share the magazine, ask your retailers, 
send e-mails to colleagues.
 
c. Lend us ideas. What should the campaign be called? How can it work? How could you help?
 
d. Would you do it? Yes or no? If yes, what would you add to your tags? 

Leave a Reply

28 comments on “Now Is The Time For National Promotion

  1. I love the concept, but unfortunately “PlantLife” is already trademarked by a body care company. I found it when I googled plantlife. (www.plantlife.net)

  2. Something like the ‘stimulus plan’
    Lets all do something for everyone.
    No, I like the good old American way – you do for you and I’ll do for me and may the best plant win.

  3. Great idea. I wish I was creative enough to come up with a catchy slogan. I’m sure out there can. As for the best plants winning-they always do-if you can get the customer into your greenhouse.

  4. I like the idea and everyone knows we need something to increase awareness. Plant life is ok but if already trademarked then incorporate the meaning into a “PLANTS for LIFE” logo. There are several email newsletters that should be willing to run this logo on every issue of their newsletters. You can count on me to run it in my mewsletter when you are finished.

  5. USDA Sets Hearing for Proposed National Marketing Agreement for Leafy Green Vegetables

    AMS No. 161-09

    Jimmie Turner (202) 720-8998
    jimmie.turner@usda.gov
    Billy Cox (202) 720-8998
    billy.cox@usda.gov

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2009 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the dates and locations of seven hearings related to a proposed national marketing agreement for leafy green vegetables. The hearings will be held September and October 2009.

    A cross-section of producers and handlers from the fresh-produce industry proposed the establishment of a marketing agreement to facilitate the practical application of Good Agricultural Practices, Good Handling Practices, and Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

    If established, only handlers who sign on to the marketing agreement would be subject to the requirements of the accord. Signatory handlers could only handle leafy green vegetables (domestic or imported) that meet the requirements of the program.

    The hearings provide the public an opportunity to learn more about the proposed agreement and to offer comments in support of or opposition to the agreement. The hearings will be held at the following locations from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (local time) or as determined by the presiding administrative law judge:

    Sept. 22-24, at the Hyatt Regency Monterey, 1 Old Golf Course Road, Monterey, Calif.

    Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, at the Wyndham Jacksonville Riverwalk, 1515 Prudential Drive, Jacksonville, Fla.

    Oct. 6, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Room D130, 400 North High Street, Columbus, Ohio.

    Oct. 8, at the Denver Airport Marriott at Gateway Park, 16455 East 40th Circle, Aurora, Colo.

    Oct. 14-15, at the Yuma Civic Center, Yuma Room, 1440 Desert Hills Drive, Yuma, Ariz.

    Oct. 20, at the Renaissance Syracuse Hotel, 701 East Genesee Street, Syracuse, N.Y.

    Oct. 22, at the Charlotte Marriot Executive Park, 5700 Westpark Drive, Charlotte, N.C.

    The proposal and the hearing notice will be published in the Sept. 3, 2009, Federal Register. A copy of the proposal is also available on the home page of the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Web site.

    Copies may be obtained from Antoinette Carter, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Stop 0237, Washington, DC 20250-0237, phone: (202)720-2491, or fax: (202)720-8938; or Melissa Schmaedick, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, Northwest Marketing Field Office, AMS, USDA, 1220 SW Third Avenue, Room 385, Portland, OR 97204; phone: (503)326-2724, or fax: (503)326-7440.

  6. What I have read answers everything except; What demographic are you targeting? The goal has to be bring in new purchasers. Many of the ideas tossed around, in these articles, just solidifies the people already buying. Create an app for the new phone market. Doesn’t cost that much, in terms of other advertising. It can be nerdy and silly, not dry and boring( not that the above ideas are. Just think outside the pot). Figure out who the the enemy really is, a dwindling client base. The app could also create a revenue base to do the next step, what ever that might be. “Plant a Smile”.

  7. I like Jim’s app idea. As I give greenhouse tours to local garden clubs and enthusiasts, these folks are generally quite a bit older and tend to make up a large percentage of our retail customer base. The excitement, interest, and curiosity is just as apparent in the high school and college tour groups, and a big difference is that nearly every single kid has a smartphone they rely on to stay connected and informed.

  8. What kind of plant life video can we make that could go viral on YouTube, i.e. appeal to young people in droves? Might be able to work a slogan around the cliché, “get a life!”

  9. I think this is a fabulous idea – way to go! This could be exactly what we need to promote and support our industry at a price we can afford. And that we all work together…what a novel concept :o) Count me in to help.I like “plant a smile” its a good start!

  10. Idea for slogan: Beauty Feeds the Soul

    What we want is to suggest a ‘culture’ of living with more beauty, more health, more consciousness. The Food Industry is already moving this way due to attacks on it from the ‘health’ side, and they are doing it without an industry slogan. In a way, they have broken the ground for us.

    Ornamental horticulture could align our message with food and health, demonstrating the ‘value’ that plants contribute to our lives. The marriage of Food and Flowers (the common stand-in for all landscape beauty), is classic evidence of the ‘Good Life.’

    Anyone in the industry could use the slogan or just the concept because it does not name any particular slice of the industry. Targeting specific demographics is done with individual message crafting and delivery media. A universal adoption of the theme would constitute a ‘cultural’ message without requiring any industry overhead…except maybe to TM the slogan.

  11. I like the idea and it may appeal to those that don’t support a marketing order. How about ” Plants For Air” or “Plants for Oxygen” since plants release oxygen into the atmosphere and we all need to breathe.

  12. I love that plant slogan, “stimulus plants”

    Well, at the risk of being run off the page by bringing everyone down, let me talk a bit about this idea.

    If I understand this concept correctly, the end game is to drive more business into independent retail garden centers and nurseries, right?

    Yes, there were pretty fantastic seasons for us all some years back. The best were in the early 80’s when customers would walk into retail greenhouses and say “I want houseplants in my home everywhere!” Remember that? Sweet times!

    But the river has moved and moved fast in our industry….the boxes, the selections, the pricing, the rapid communication and more importantly, the new generations. We all know that.

    If we think that this national campaign will drive significant increases in our sales, it just aint gonna happen. The majors will piggyback right onto this concept in a New York minute and take all the oxygen out of the room real fast.

    Until all our buying generations believe that they can walk through our doors knowing that they will get great plants, great service and great prices, we are stuck just wishin and hopin. To most gardening customers, “independent garden centers equal HIGH PRICES” Now we know that this is not always true, but that is the perception and it will not go away unless we re-think what we are to the buyers of plants and plant products.

    We need a a different model. We need to re-engineer who we are. For most we are a place to buy spring flowers and bug sprays. We are a big plant stand that is there when they need us and forgotten when the spring is over.

    So why not look at that model again? Quite trying to be a furniture store or a barbecue boutique. Take out the brass and glass and load the place with plants and plant care products and move them out the door as fast as possible with great prices. Be the plant stand they are looking for. Then watch that checkbook balance go up and stay there!

    We won’t need a national campaign. Everyone in our communities and regions will know where the good stuff and great prices are.

    I love your enthusiasm for this project. I want to see it succeed. It’s just a hard new world out there and we have to recognize the cold hearted reality of where our customers’ heads are at.

    nickhudson
    greengardengates@blogspot.com

  13. I love the concept, but unfortunately “PlantLife” is already trademarked by a body care company. I found it when I googled plantlife. (www.plantlife.net)

  14. Something like the ‘stimulus plan’
    Lets all do something for everyone.
    No, I like the good old American way – you do for you and I’ll do for me and may the best plant win.

  15. Great idea. I wish I was creative enough to come up with a catchy slogan. I’m sure out there can. As for the best plants winning-they always do-if you can get the customer into your greenhouse.

  16. I like the idea and everyone knows we need something to increase awareness. Plant life is ok but if already trademarked then incorporate the meaning into a “PLANTS for LIFE” logo. There are several email newsletters that should be willing to run this logo on every issue of their newsletters. You can count on me to run it in my mewsletter when you are finished.

  17. USDA Sets Hearing for Proposed National Marketing Agreement for Leafy Green Vegetables

    AMS No. 161-09

    Jimmie Turner (202) 720-8998
    jimmie.turner@usda.gov
    Billy Cox (202) 720-8998
    billy.cox@usda.gov

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2009 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the dates and locations of seven hearings related to a proposed national marketing agreement for leafy green vegetables. The hearings will be held September and October 2009.

    A cross-section of producers and handlers from the fresh-produce industry proposed the establishment of a marketing agreement to facilitate the practical application of Good Agricultural Practices, Good Handling Practices, and Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

    If established, only handlers who sign on to the marketing agreement would be subject to the requirements of the accord. Signatory handlers could only handle leafy green vegetables (domestic or imported) that meet the requirements of the program.

    The hearings provide the public an opportunity to learn more about the proposed agreement and to offer comments in support of or opposition to the agreement. The hearings will be held at the following locations from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (local time) or as determined by the presiding administrative law judge:

    Sept. 22-24, at the Hyatt Regency Monterey, 1 Old Golf Course Road, Monterey, Calif.

    Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, at the Wyndham Jacksonville Riverwalk, 1515 Prudential Drive, Jacksonville, Fla.

    Oct. 6, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Room D130, 400 North High Street, Columbus, Ohio.

    Oct. 8, at the Denver Airport Marriott at Gateway Park, 16455 East 40th Circle, Aurora, Colo.

    Oct. 14-15, at the Yuma Civic Center, Yuma Room, 1440 Desert Hills Drive, Yuma, Ariz.

    Oct. 20, at the Renaissance Syracuse Hotel, 701 East Genesee Street, Syracuse, N.Y.

    Oct. 22, at the Charlotte Marriot Executive Park, 5700 Westpark Drive, Charlotte, N.C.

    The proposal and the hearing notice will be published in the Sept. 3, 2009, Federal Register. A copy of the proposal is also available on the home page of the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Web site.

    Copies may be obtained from Antoinette Carter, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Stop 0237, Washington, DC 20250-0237, phone: (202)720-2491, or fax: (202)720-8938; or Melissa Schmaedick, Marketing Order Administration Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, Northwest Marketing Field Office, AMS, USDA, 1220 SW Third Avenue, Room 385, Portland, OR 97204; phone: (503)326-2724, or fax: (503)326-7440.

  18. What I have read answers everything except; What demographic are you targeting? The goal has to be bring in new purchasers. Many of the ideas tossed around, in these articles, just solidifies the people already buying. Create an app for the new phone market. Doesn’t cost that much, in terms of other advertising. It can be nerdy and silly, not dry and boring( not that the above ideas are. Just think outside the pot). Figure out who the the enemy really is, a dwindling client base. The app could also create a revenue base to do the next step, what ever that might be. “Plant a Smile”.

  19. I like Jim’s app idea. As I give greenhouse tours to local garden clubs and enthusiasts, these folks are generally quite a bit older and tend to make up a large percentage of our retail customer base. The excitement, interest, and curiosity is just as apparent in the high school and college tour groups, and a big difference is that nearly every single kid has a smartphone they rely on to stay connected and informed.

  20. What kind of plant life video can we make that could go viral on YouTube, i.e. appeal to young people in droves? Might be able to work a slogan around the cliché, “get a life!”

  21. I think this is a fabulous idea – way to go! This could be exactly what we need to promote and support our industry at a price we can afford. And that we all work together…what a novel concept :o) Count me in to help.I like “plant a smile” its a good start!

  22. Idea for slogan: Beauty Feeds the Soul

    What we want is to suggest a ‘culture’ of living with more beauty, more health, more consciousness. The Food Industry is already moving this way due to attacks on it from the ‘health’ side, and they are doing it without an industry slogan. In a way, they have broken the ground for us.

    Ornamental horticulture could align our message with food and health, demonstrating the ‘value’ that plants contribute to our lives. The marriage of Food and Flowers (the common stand-in for all landscape beauty), is classic evidence of the ‘Good Life.’

    Anyone in the industry could use the slogan or just the concept because it does not name any particular slice of the industry. Targeting specific demographics is done with individual message crafting and delivery media. A universal adoption of the theme would constitute a ‘cultural’ message without requiring any industry overhead…except maybe to TM the slogan.

  23. I like the idea and it may appeal to those that don’t support a marketing order. How about ” Plants For Air” or “Plants for Oxygen” since plants release oxygen into the atmosphere and we all need to breathe.

  24. I love that plant slogan, “stimulus plants”

    Well, at the risk of being run off the page by bringing everyone down, let me talk a bit about this idea.

    If I understand this concept correctly, the end game is to drive more business into independent retail garden centers and nurseries, right?

    Yes, there were pretty fantastic seasons for us all some years back. The best were in the early 80’s when customers would walk into retail greenhouses and say “I want houseplants in my home everywhere!” Remember that? Sweet times!

    But the river has moved and moved fast in our industry….the boxes, the selections, the pricing, the rapid communication and more importantly, the new generations. We all know that.

    If we think that this national campaign will drive significant increases in our sales, it just aint gonna happen. The majors will piggyback right onto this concept in a New York minute and take all the oxygen out of the room real fast.

    Until all our buying generations believe that they can walk through our doors knowing that they will get great plants, great service and great prices, we are stuck just wishin and hopin. To most gardening customers, “independent garden centers equal HIGH PRICES” Now we know that this is not always true, but that is the perception and it will not go away unless we re-think what we are to the buyers of plants and plant products.

    We need a a different model. We need to re-engineer who we are. For most we are a place to buy spring flowers and bug sprays. We are a big plant stand that is there when they need us and forgotten when the spring is over.

    So why not look at that model again? Quite trying to be a furniture store or a barbecue boutique. Take out the brass and glass and load the place with plants and plant care products and move them out the door as fast as possible with great prices. Be the plant stand they are looking for. Then watch that checkbook balance go up and stay there!

    We won’t need a national campaign. Everyone in our communities and regions will know where the good stuff and great prices are.

    I love your enthusiasm for this project. I want to see it succeed. It’s just a hard new world out there and we have to recognize the cold hearted reality of where our customers’ heads are at.

    nickhudson
    greengardengates@blogspot.com

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