Plant Tags: New Ways To Share Plant Information

Gerry Giorgio

During his tenure as creative director and then marketing manager for MasterTag, Gerry Giorgio has had a hand in the evolution of labels and tags from basic identification to information source. But it’s not nearly enough, he says. Giorgio shares his thoughts on new innovations in the market as well as the one thing he wants to change most about tags.

GG: How are labeling companies helping growers to find new customers and helping those customers be successful?

Giorgio: I can’t speak for other tag companies of course, but MasterTag is helping growers find new customers by helping gardeners. It’s not just about providing content on a tag anymore. We have to be prepared to provide and distribute that content through many communication channels and media. Website development, social media management, marketing promotions and original content generation are all part of the fuel that we put into supporting a label program with some growers and retailers.

GG: What kind of labels are growers asking for? Has that changed over the years?

Giorgio: Two years ago, Home Depot and Lowe’s specified QR codes on their tags. This year, Walmart joined them in the requirement. That prompted growers to investigate QR codes for other products they are selling. Some have embraced the new technology by adding video links to the codes. We continue to see growers upgrading their labels to be larger and carry more information. Label size has followed the changes in container size over the years. As less packs were sold and more four-inch and larger pots took over, the need for a larger label evolved along with that trend.

GG: What are some really cool new ideas that are either out there right now or just around the corner?

Giorgio: In the really cool category, there is Augmented Reality (AR). AR is used to enhance an image enough to change the viewers’ experience of it. For example, AR might take a two-dimensional image and turn it into a three-dimensional animation simply by pointing your phone or other device at the image. AR can also be used in mobile devices where you point your phone at an object and it provides you with layers of additional information. This is being tested out on many consumer products.

MasterTag is developing AR for use on tags and signs. We see AR being used to provide a unique experience and help a gardener literally see the vision of their garden. This technology will become more common as mobile devices evolve and continue to influence people’s behavior.

GG: In the area of labels and tags, is there anything we should not be doing anymore?

Giorgio: The biggest thing is to stop putting a photo on a tag when none is needed. I’ve been ringing that bell for probably my whole career at MasterTag. For example, a photo is redundant on annuals that will only be sold in bloom, or herbs and foliage plants that present themselves. This is important because gardeners are continually asking for more information.

It’s difficult to put all the information on the tag that really needs to be there and still keep the tag in scale with the pot and with your costs. The photo can take up to 50 percent or more of the front of a tag. Why not put that space to better use?

Growers need to pay attention to the consumer. They’re paying attention to crop quality, paying attention to logistics and delivery and paying attention to jumping through hoops for their customers — especially mass merchants. But they’re forgetting about the person who actually picks up that plant in the end.

GG: Are you seeing ideas in other industries that we should be doing in ours?

Giorgio: We could discuss best practices in merchandising or smart packaging that solves a problem. But one overriding example of all, in my opinion, would be to go to market with a finished, retail-ready product. There has been a huge trend away from the activity of gardening and an explosion of interest in outdoor living space and gardening as decorating. Our industry could do better at creating products that look and feel finished and ready to use for these new purposes. Labeling takes on a different purpose here, so be innovative with it. Don’t think like you are selling plants, think like you are selling decorating accessories like pillows and throw rugs.

GG: In an ideal world, if you could get growers to adopt one new idea, what would it be?

Giorgio: It would be to think beyond their retail customer and craft their
products to have increasingly more value to garden center shoppers. Ultimately, like any other industry, it’s the consumer who drives it. If they are finding helpful information before they shop and while at the store, their good experience will translate into more sales. Keep your eye on the consumer and everything else will fall in line.

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