Rocket Farms Creates Face-To-Face Consumer Demand For Potted Plants

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Rocket-Farms-Flower-Truck-adventure-team-gathers-valuable-new-information-and-insights-while-interacting-with-consumersIf you’ve ever eaten goodies from a food truck, you know how popular these mobile hotspots can be, and how easily they draw a crowd. As a grower, you can engage consumers in much the same way, like Rocket Farms has with its Flower Truck adventures.

The Flower Truck acts as an ambassador, giving potted flowers to consumers in targeted areas. The California grower, based in Half Moon Bay and Salinas, has two events under its belt, with another event underway this fall. The idea, says Ashley Beleny, CEO of Environmental Relations PR, is to carry out the operation’s commitment to exposing more consumers to potted flowers and convert them to using potted flowers and plants as a lifestyle.

The Flower Truck project started back in February 2013, when Rocket Farms ventured out to three locations in the San Francisco Bay Area on Valentine’s Day and gave away 500 miniature roses. This spring, Rocket Farms headed out on a second adventure, distributing Get Mee campanula.

A Great Way To Reach Consumers

At each stop, Rocket Farms representatives talked with the flower recipients and ask them about their interactions with potted plants and flower selections.

Plant-giveaways-make-people-happy-but-also-generate-market-feedback“We learned a lot about what the general public did and didn’t know about potted plants,” Beleny says. “When we speak to our consumers, we assume there is a certain level of knowledge there and then, when you go out and meet and talk with them, you find out that you’ve made knowledge assumptions that aren’t there. That causes you to go back to the drawing board and think about how you’re communicating with them and what different messages you need to be giving them. That is what’s so interesting about these events — there are so many different elements to them: community relations, making people happy with flowers and market feedback.”

During the event itself, about five people typically represent Rocket Farms, including Beleny, Rocket Farms’ Vice President of Marketing Jason Kamimoto, a graphics designer and a salesperson. CEO Justin Dautoff has also been part of the event at some locations. Beleny says the team tries to bring along people who represent the message of the brand.

At press time, Rocket Farms was making plans for its third event, an Herb Truck adventure, to be held at a Bay Area farmers’ market. The event will be different in that it will be stationary at only one location versus three. And there are many additional considerations to pulling it off, like following tasting regulations, because it’s providing food and not flowers.

“If people seem responsive to the Herb Truck idea, then we’ll decide from there if we’ll expand it,” Beleny says. “With these out-of-the-box marketing events, we have a long-term strategic goal and vision, but we don’t write out the exact plan and put it in stone. Part of what makes us successful is our ability to adapt to things as we go and make decisions based on the success of different initiatives as we go.”

Currently, Rocket Farms rents the truck it uses for its adventures. Beleny says she tries to get the same truck each time and affixes logo decals on the side to keep a consistent look. A truck purchase may be in the operation’s future.

What Rocket Farms Is Learning

Rocket-Farms-plant-giveaways-taught-the-operation-what-consumers-know-and-don-t-know-about-plantsFor each Flower Truck event, Rocket Farms chose three locations, hoping to engage three very different demographics. In some places the response differed slightly. In a business district, recipients were more hurried but curious. In San Francisco’s Union Square, people were skeptical, thinking they were expected to buy the flowers, and seemed confused when told they were free. But one thing remained constant: receiving the flowers made everyone happy. Some were emotional, saying, “I feel so special,” or “This is the only flower I’m going to get for Valentine’s Day.” Adding up all the smiles, Beleny says that emotional connection to flowers is something universal, which we, as an industry, sometimes forget.

Rocket Farms uses its website and social media channels to both promote and see the impacts of its events. Facebook and Twitter help spread the word and provide live updates, and photos are posted on Pinterest and Facebook afterward.

All plants that are given away include website address and social media channels, and Rocket Farms asks recipients to follow or like them. Rocket Farms does receive likes, follows and thank-you posts on its Facebook page and website, but Beleny says it’s hard to analyze who was there versus who liked or followed the event because they liked the concept.

Beleny and Kamimoto provide a recap of each event to present internally, which includes photos, the most common comments, anything that was surprising, comments on Facebook and how many likes and shares were received.

For growers considering taking on events like Rocket Farms’, Beleny says there are many considerations. Mainly, you need to know: 1. Why you’re doing it and 2. What you want to get out of it.

“What’s important to you? Is there a question you want answered? Are there statistics you want to collect?” she says. “Don’t just do it for the sake of giving away flowers. You need a reason and you need to know your audience, how you want to speak to your audience and what you want to accomplish.”

Laura Drotleff is editor of Greenhouse Grower.
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