“That’s Hot”

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"That's Hot"

The next generation. Those three words are overwhelming to a lot of growers. Marketing to the largest current demographic of gardeners, women ages 35 to 55, is tough enough, and then you throw in a bunch of Gen Y’ers, and what have you got? A big need for expertise from someone who is part of that generation.

That is exactly where Takao Nursery found its inspiration for marketing Garden Bloomers perennials. The brand was added to the young plant grower’s name (Garden Bloomers Takao Nursery) in 2000, when the nursery set out to “create an identity for the nursery that would be both universal and appeal to all, and was also to be used by other growers and retailers to market our product,” says Lisa Takao, creative director and eldest child of co-owners Danny and Renu Takao.

When 27-year-old Lisa and her siblings Emily and Aaron went to their parents and told them they needed to do something different to target up and coming gardeners, Danny and Renu gave them creative liberty to take their ideas to the next level. 

Keeping It Real

The results have been, in a word, fabulous. In 2006, the operation released its first consumer marketing-oriented catalog, distinctly different from any catalog growers might expect to receive from a young plant grower. The catalog, titled “fleur*, the magazine about plant fashion,” used props like expensive handbags and cosmetics in its “Style Guide” to illustrate the color and beauty of plants to inspire growers to think more creatively in marketing plants to young consumers. It also featured gardening and marketing articles to really drive home where Gen Y’s interests lie.

“As a Gen Y’er I know that marketing toward the next generation is something the industry is lacking. The next generation will be the consumers of the future and we need to be able to appeal to them,” Lisa says. “I wanted to create a catalog that would do just that–interest younger viewers while still focusing on plants and showing them how to appreciate and easily incorporate them into their everyday lives. I hope it shows others that it’s okay to step out of the box and that there are all sorts of different ways to showcase plants.”

The 2007-2008 catalog, “Cultivating Life” followed up on the previous year’s success. The title, also the company’s new tagline helps to highlight Garden Bloomers Takao Nursery’s mission to connect with customers through an innovative approach.

“To us, the company is about more than just growing plants; we want to create lasting relationships within and outside of the company because the business is such a big part of our lives,” Lisa says.

The catalog took off on this idea, with Lisa hitting the streets to present random people with plants and then interview each those people about how they felt when presented with the plant and what they planned on doing with it.

“In everything we do, we try to maintain a feeling of lightheartedness and we aim to create a personal connection with the viewer,” Lisa says. “In addition to selling a product, we’re selling an image, an emotion, an idea. We want to evoke a response from the viewer and we want them to feel engaged in the catalog. I think a personal connection is necessary for the next generation of consumers–whether it makes them laugh or smile or annoys them or makes them think twice, it needs to make them react in some way in order to be remembered and to evoke a response.”

Defining Generation Y

- Gen Y is made up of those born between 1977-2002, according to its broadest definition, making this group 70 million strong and growing.
–They are the largest demographic group since the Baby Boomers and will soon also rival it in buying clout.
–Although many in the Y generation are still young, they have an annual income totaling $211 billion.
–This generation spends $172 billion per year and drives many adult purchasing decisions.

Source: “Generation Why?” by Lisa Takao, Garden Bloomers Takao Nursery’s Fleur Fashion catalog, 2006-2007

Moveable, Fashionable, Easy Impulse

So why exactly is a plant propagator so interested in marketing to the end consumer? While Garden Bloomers Takao Nursery is far removed from the retail side of the industry, and doesn’t provide marketing or merchandising materials beyond plant tags, the operation’s plants are sold nationwide and demand has increased over the years. And, well, the folks at Takao would like to see that continue.

“If we don’t begin to work toward the goal of attracting younger buyers, our current target market is going to continue to age and eventually decline,” Lisa says. “We can’t market to the same demographic forever–if we don’t show the next generation the value of plants now, how can we expect them to value them in the future? These are our future consumers and we need to be able to appeal to them.”

Garden Bloomers Takao Nursery, through its catalogs and Web site, www.gardenbloomers.com, is hoping its industry customers will pick up on some of the ideas presented to them and cultivate new gardeners for the good of the industry.

“Gardening to the Gen Y lifestyle needs to be easier, more compact, movable; we should offer more in terms of things like container gardening, self-watering pots and indoor garden options,” Lisa says. “The next generation wants more than a nice plant. We need to show all that a plant can be by selling it in a nice pot or as a combo set or with how-to kits. It should be a very straightforward and easy buy.”

Some ideas she offers are showing consumers how to improve the look (stylish pot) and feel of their offices and homes (cleaner air), and how a plant can be a great gift, too, by selling a low-maintenance plant in a trendy leopard print pot with matching notecards, for instance.

“It’s all about presentation! For the younger generation, a lot of the value is in perception,” Lisa says. “Package it nice and they’ll find the value in it–put the same plant in a plain plastic pot and it will not be as enticing, even if it is priced lower.”

By the same token, playing to Gen Y’s weakness for easy-buy impulse items could really help the industry, Lisa adds.

“Gen Y’ers don’t expect or want things to last forever,” she says. “Younger consumers are always on to new trends and what’s ‘hot.’ What’s popular now could be so ‘played out’ by the end of next week–trends are constantly changing.”

Laura Drotleff is editor of Greenhouse Grower.
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