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California Spring Trials 2011 offered a sneak peek of new plants AND marketing. Here's some of the best of the latter.

Proven Winners
For the past couple of years, Proven Winners has invested heavily in consumer marketing, actually letting end-user focus groups decide which consumer ads the company will run. Proven Winners in turn will work with retailers to make sure they have promotional materials about the plants shown in the ads that run in Better Homes and Gardens, Canadian Gardening, Birds and Blooms and Fine Gardening magazines.

The company also is taking its brands straight to various consumer groups around North America via Outdoor Living Extravaganzas this year in Atlanta, Seattle, Milwaukee and Toronto. These all-day, retreat-styled seminars have been very popular over the past two years and have helped Proven Winners and participating garden centers in the host cities bond with consumer attendees. Proven Winners offers a coupon in the participant’s “goodie bags” for any garden centers that help promote the event to their local customer base.

On a third front, Proven Winners’ recent partnership with Walters Gardens received a good push at the trials—and will be part of the companies’ marketing blitz over the next couple of years. On display were many of the 28 new perennials from Walters Gardens that have been added to the PW program. (Like ‘Banana Cream,’ pictured left.) Susan Martin, Walters Gardens director of marketing communications, said eight of the varieties are brand new, and retail promotional material is available for each.

Greenheart Farms
Greenheart Farms has developed marketing programs for two rose brands, Garden Treasures and My Bouquet, complete with promotional material and ideas that can be used in displays to tout the benefits of the respective brands.

For Garden Treasures Roses, the retail “bullet points” include the compact growing habit (a maximum height and width of 12 to 14 inches), their disease-resistance and the little maintenance required to keep them looking good in the landscape—a real plus for the Generation X customer looking for something beautiful that won’t require a lot of work. Additionally, they can be sold as annuals or perennials in 2 1/4-inch to 1-quart pots. At the trials, Greenheart Farms used literal treasure chests in marketing the plants, a trick that garden centers probably will want to emulate.

My Bouquet Rose retail marketing has been made easy thanks to clever chalkboard display materials that retailers can use to craft any message they want. If the message is to focus on the roses, per se, these plants are the largest pot rose on the market, and they rebloom every 45 days. Greenheart Farms offered another great use of the boards at the trials when its staff noted on one that Honeysuckle had been named Pantone Color of the Year for 2011. The gist was that retailers can tap hot trends and craft plant combos—including My Bouquet —that play off the color du jour.

Burpee Home Gardens
The Burpee Home Gardens brand will move from the kitchen to the landscape in 2012, thanks to a new collection of easy-to-maintain flowers that should be especially appealing to the Gen X customers who helped turn Burpee edibles into a garden center staple the past few years. The new flower line will feature the following plants and will have marketing support from Burpee:

  • ‘Center Stage’ impatiens with red flowers and green/yellow leaves
  • Isabells calibrachoa
  • Uptown zinnias, which are similar to Profusions and Zaharas—only taller with a light pink and white
  • Poprocks tiny petunias
  • Angelonia presented with the common name Summer Snaps.
  • A yellow osteospermum presented as a spring daisy

Burpee has actually given the aforementioned Gen Xer a name and personality. Julia, the literal poster person for Burpee at the trials, is a company creation who is a 37-year-old working mom interested in vegetable gardening and in growing a healthy family.

To that latter end, Burpee is marketing its Boost program in 2012. Boost will promote vegetable varieties high in nutritional value and that include health boosters such as beta carotene, lycopene and Vitamin C. The Boost line will include a ‘Gold Standard’ cucumber, ‘Sweet Heat’ peppers and ‘Power Pops’ cherry tomatoes.

To assist Julia—and those shoppers Burpee hopes will relate to her—the company is playing up the Burpee Garden Coach. This smartphone app can help a customer design gardens and create a“recipe” sheets that can be printed and presented at the garden center. At the store, Julia can use the technology to snap a QR tag on the plant to become better acquainted with a plant right at the store. Once she makes her purchase(s), she can receive regular reminders about watering and fertilizing regimens.

John Henry Co.
A lot of the buzz at the trials focused on, the consumer website John Henry Co. introduced late last year.

In a nutshell, the site walks prospective gardeners through the entire process, from planning to implementation. They go there, enter some geographic and demographic specs, and instantly find information they’ll need to be successful gardeners. They can choose the color and the texture of the landscapes they want to create, and then be pointed toward a plethora of plant options. Consumers then can print out a landscape “blueprint” to bring to the garden center, where the dream has the chance to wed the reality. In addition, all manner of gardening advice is available to the site’s visitors, from design tips to plant care instructions. And the plant suggestions are just generic enough that any garden center should be able to match or adapt suggestions to fit a customer’s particular needs.

Hort Couture
One of the big stories from Hort Couture was news that more than 200,000 of its plants will be used to landscape the grounds for this year’s Greenbrier Classic Professional Golf Association event on July 25-31.  Also, Hort Couture joined the ranks of companies focusing marketing efforts at consumers when it had more than 100 people participate in its Spring Trials consumer day. The event was held on March 26, and participants purchased plants and provided feedback about the company’s marketing programs. Among the highlights of the programs are:

  • Hort Couture is a strategic partner in the Garden Pilot smartphone technology crafted by 10-20-Media.
  • The company has introduced “smart gardening tags” using QR (quick response) technology.
  • Hort Couture is hosting regional fashion show webinars  to inform gardeners about Hort Couture and its plants.


June 2011
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