Seeing the sneak preview of the new varieties that will be presented at California Spring Trials (CAST) spurs a visceral reaction in me. I’m giddy and excited about these gorgeous plants, having taken in some of their beauty and excellent performance already at Costa Farms’ Season Premier. I’m excited to travel to Spring Trials and that spring is coming, and I’m ready to dig in and get gardening. I’m guessing many of you feel the same way. And it’s likely that consumers do, too.
Nearly a year ago, upon returning from California Spring Trials, I lamented the absence of ideas translated from CAST to retail. The beautiful displays, the breathtaking combinations, the clever marketing — somehow, all of that effort and enthusiasm focused on business-to-business promotion is not being funneled effectively to the consumer. As an industry, we are not good at working together to market our products in a clear, consistent, unified way. And in this day and age, with more and more noise competing for consumers’ attention, we need to work together to make it happen. We need a unified message to promote plants and flowers.
And yet, perhaps the way we can work together best is less about marketing new varieties, and more about the benefits of being around plants and flowers. According to our younger industry set — and backed up by mountains of marketing research conducted on the Millennial age group — our next influx of customers is less concerned about what’s new than they are about what our products can do for them. How do plants and flowers make their lives better? What value do our products bring? And that goes beyond financial value to include things like supporting local growers, being sustainable, growing something that’s alive, and helping others (i.e., making them happy with flowers). We need to tell the story about the industry that we not only profit from, but that we love and live, every day. In Millennial marketing speak, that’s called “storyliving.”
We talked about this at length during Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 GROW Summit in December. The event is an annual forum for our GROW Partners (see who they are on page 35) to discuss five goals or pillars for growing the industry and everyone’s share of “the pie.”
Every year we try to steer around the topic of marketing, frankly because it is a big, scary elephant in the room, and every year, that’s the big issue everyone wants to talk about. But it felt different this time. There was some frustration aired, yes, but overall, the general attitude was we’re at the point that we really need to do something. We need to work together to find a solution, and hopefully at least move the boulder that sits on our collective backs. We decided that a national effort is in order, and we have to start somewhere.
Believe me, I have heard all of the arguments:
“People don’t want to pay into a promotion order because our products across the industry are too different.”
“There is too much competition for all of us to work together effectively.”
“It costs way too much for a national advertising campaign. Where are we going to get that kind of money?”
I don’t know how many times I have heard people say in this industry, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” But the difference between saying that phrase and actually working together to make it happen, is what needs to happen here.
Begin we will, and we’ll look at a few different areas — marketing our industry’s products and benefits, and marketing careers in our industry. Want to help? We’ll take all the ideas and input we can get. This may be starting with GROW, but we recognize it needs to be a collaborative industry effort.
It’s worked for the Blueberry Council and the Pistachio Growers. The Mexican Avocado Council pitched in to drive a marketing campaign that included a Super Bowl ad this year. And within our industry, we have the California Cut Flower Commission’s successes to look to for inspiration, plus the three organizations in Canada that worked together to develop the Plants Love You campaign, which is ramping up its efforts to promote the benefits of plants.
We can do this, and we’ll all be better for it. Are you in?
Grower Homework: Think about what you can contribute to the discussion on how our industry can work together to promote the benefits of plants and flowers, and the value proposition our industry’s products bring to consumers. Please send your thoughts and ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.