As reported in Committed to Building the Industry, February 9, 2012, a special State of the Industry Roundtable Discussion, presented by SNA, Nursery Management Magazine, and GSHE, was held during the Gulf States Horticultural Expo in Mobile, AL, in January. The event, sponsored by Atlas Manufacturing, attracted some of the best of the industry and for two and a half hours many topics such as challenges in production labor, insect and disease issues and other factors that affect profitability were discussed.
There was also some discussion of future consumers, or Generation X and Y, and how reach them. The opportunity to boost sales through consumer channels was also a topic of discussion. Promoting the benefits of our products to both current and potential customers through a common message was felt to have the greatest potential for increasing sales. But the greatest challenge of such a campaign is in organizing the effort and identifying a group to take the lead.
After the roundtable session, Danny Summers, SNA Board Advisor, contacted several industry members for a followup discussion and to examine how we can engage Generations X and Y that are very involved in the "green" movement. The discussion confirmed the opportunity for our industry (our products) to be accepted by these groups as they are increasingly aware of environmental issues.
We are fortunate to be a part of the "green" industry - an industry that has products with great benefits. But does the rest of the world know these benefits? Plants help cool the earth, produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Plants help improve our lives... mentally, physically and socially. And, landscaping not only adds curb appeal but can increase home values as much as 15%. In addition, strategically planted trees can help cool a house and help save as much as 25% on energy consumption. We all know this and a large percentage of the general population knows this. But somehow we are missing the mark on communicating the value of our products to this environmentally focused populous at a time when we have more channels of communication than ever before.
There is such a "green" or "environmental" reawakening in the world today. There seems to be a renewed interest in protecting the earth and a growing awareness of our "carbon footprint". More and more people now recycle and compost, buy organic, and choose natural, eco-friendly products, although these products usually cost more. Even Home Depot has recently added an Eco Options brand with more than 3,500 products to make it easy for consumers to identify products that have less of an impact on the environment while claiming they're "lowering the cost of living green."
What do we have to do to get in on the "green" movement? Living green can surely include plants and gardening. But how do we incorporate plants in to the living green concept? Plants have multiple benefits, but none of the benefits are as strong and as simple as cleaning the air that we breath. Perhaps we could promote the message of plants being an automatic air cleaner, or a natural air purifier. Would Plants… Cleaning While We Sleep work? What about, Plants… The Silent Maids? There has to be something to inspire consumers and promote one of nature's most beneficial products and get our industry growing!
In the past, our industry has tried to implement several strategies for marketing our products. The Nursery Marketing Council which later became The Garden Council created programs such as Fall is for Planting, Plant a Little Paradise, Have a Real Christmas, and Windowsill Gardening. However, the efforts of The Garden Council proved to costly and not effective in encouraging industrywide participation. The Foliage for Clean Air Council was another effort focusing on interiorscaping and created programs backed by NASA Research. Another past effort by The People Plant Council promoted the therapeutic benefits of plants.
America in Bloom, now in its second decade, promotes horticulture through a nationwide beautification program of education and community involvement by encouraging the use of flowers, plants, trees, and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements.
There are currently several consumer focused industry initiatives underway. The Grow Initiative is an effort started by Greenhouse Grower to get the horticulture industry growing again. GrowSomething is a part of the Grow Initiative, and is designed as a social media takeover. All you have to do is post something about plants to a social media channel such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest, or blog at least once a day from May 14 through May 18. This includes both personal and business accounts. Sounds like a great effort to get the industry involved and be heard!
Plant Something is another initiative developed by the Arizona Nursery Association to promote plants through a website designed to assist in locating garden centers. Currently Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Washington state associations have adapted the program for their states.
Most recently, OFA is exploring how the association might take an active role in developing a national marketing campaign for the industry. Details of this initiative can be found at http://www.greenhousegrower.com/article/23754/ofa-exploring-next-steps-amid-national-promotion-discussion.
It's exciting to see programs such as these being developed in an effort to create value and promote our products! Perhaps this time around we can pull the industry together to create a unified message that consumers can identify with and recognize the value of plants!
America in Bloom
The Grow Initiative