Making your mark

Features - Marketing

Taking advantage of space on tags, labels and pots can influence impulse buys and create brand recognition with your end users.

April 30, 2015

Marketing your product can be done in many of places: a website, social media, advertisements in the community, on the radio, at trade shows — the list goes on. But what about where customers or end users are actually seeing your product?

A tag or a pot that’s coupled with your high-quality plant — right inside the retail store — can make a big impression. The beauty of a plant can speak for itself in most instances, but providing the end user with care information and inspiration by utilizing otherwise blank (or bland) space can get people more excited about your product and more eager to be creative with how they use it.

It’s all about identity, not branding

Growers may not have the resources to fully brand their product, but what they can do is create an identity that can resonate with retailers and end users.

“What I advise people to do is [develop] programs that have value to customers,” says Gerry Giorgio, marketing manager at MasterTag, a company that provides tagging, merchandising and communication solutions for growers and retailers.

The biggest opportunity for growers is to take advantage of tag and pot space.

“Most people make decisions based on the information they get on tagged or printed material,” he says. “I would make sure first that I’m giving consumers all of the information that they want, and that is a combination of enough information for them to be successful and confident in purchasing the plant. The other thing is to give them the inspiration or the reason to buy.”

Instead of simply bringing raw materials into the garden center, those materials can be packaged up and sold as a finished product that provides a creative outlet consumers can use at the point of purchase.

“That’s really where the market is going,” Giorgio says. “In other words, there are fewer and fewer people who identify themselves as gardeners, but there are still plenty of people out there who love flowers and vegetables. They want to have them in their life, so they’re really motivated by lifestyle. They’re motivated by how they want to use those plants or how they’re inspired by them.”

Put creativity on the tag

Putting engaging material on a plant tag is important. Gone are the days where a black and white tag with the plant’s photo and some basic information is the norm. More and more, growers are putting more effort into what goes onto that tag to convey the right message to their customers and end users.

A tag doesn’t necessarily have to accompany a single plant, either. Combining different annuals and perennials into a mixed container, and using the tag to call the product something new is one way to bring a freshness to your product and provide the inspiration and creativity that customers are looking for, Giorgio says. He also recommends putting ornamentals and edibles together to create a “patio garden” look.

“It’s taking existing products and putting them together in new ways and tagging and labeling around that. [It] creates some purpose for customers,” he says.

For instance, if you're selling a perennial, on the tag you may have some basic information: It’s going to have blue, flower space 15 inches apart, it’s going to grow 12 inches, blooms in July, etc. But if you combine the perennial with a few annuals and edibles, the tag no longer has horticultural context.

“You’re creating a new product and you say, ‘Here’s a perennial combination plant, just set it on your deck and enjoy it,’” Giorgio says. “That’s where we’re really seeing the opportunity. That’s a legitimate way [growers] can increase their profits and sell more of their product.”

Also, if the plant is in bloom, a photo of that plant on the tag is no longer necessary. Use the space for more graphics, interesting information or an creative photo that allows the customer to understand what the plant is all about.

This year at Spring Trials, the MasterTag team took a Sakata Seed America collection “Grandio Pansies,” and changed the name from “Citrus Mix” to “Zest,” and put oranges on the tag instead of flowers to create an outside theme to make another connection for the customer.

“You’re still providing information, but you’re providing inspiration, too. Color can be very inspiring. Use color,” Giorgio says.

Think about selling

It isn’t just the garden center that must think about merchandising. Growers must do it too, and usually with a bigger tag. Larger tags provide more opportunity, Giorgio says. And making the investment will pay off in the next generation of plant purchasers.

“I know [growers] want to cut their costs. I know that [a larger] tag represents some cost to them, but in the overall scheme, if you provide a unique package and unique product and you’ve created some value… It happens in Europe. It happens in Australia. I think here in the U.S., we could benefit by that,” he says.

Giorgio says when consumers are inspired, they tend to make more emotion-based decisions and oftentimes, buy more, and the tag helps do that. “The tag can provide them with the confidence to go forward with it,” he says.

He provides an example: A young person wants to put some plants on her deck and walks into the garden center, then sees a package of six vegetables already in a container and ready to be set on a deck or yard to grow produce. “I might do just that just because it makes me feel good. It makes me feel good to get my own tomato every day. It’s simple things like that,” he says.

Put it on a pot

Not only is there valuable space on tags that are placed inside each pot or planter, but a pot itself can offer a way to connect with customers. Utilizing the space all around the plant can also grab attention, provide useful information and get customers thinking of what they can do with your product.

“It’s a principal billboard in the garden center that helps get a message across, so it’s the perfect place to put pertinent information for a one-time print cost,” says Robert Gumpf, vice president of sales at Summit Plastics Co., a container manufacturer in Tallmadge, Ohio.

Summit Plastic Company’s JanorPots work in concert with tag companies and growers to convey a message (many times using color), providing growing information — and at the same time — providing UPC information to better help track what products need quicker replenishment.

Many times, the pots have no shoulder, so that the space can be used for POPs or graphics.

High-end graphics can help sell a plant if it hasn’t flowered yet. For example, when blueberry and raspberry bushes look half dead like the Linus tree, as Gumpf calls it, a graphic of what the plant will look like will help sell the product. “Themes like that attract the customer to the pot, and show the customer, ‘Wow, I’m going to get all these nice strawberries off this plant.’”

And Summit Plastics is part of the creative process too, with mock-up capabilities similar to 3D printing that can create a prototype.

The JanorPots are also priced a little more competitively, Gumpf says, and they’re also environmentally friendly because they’re comprised of all recycled plastic.

Or make your own message

Nortex Wholesale Nursery in Wylie, Texas had been using blue and white labels that paired well with the green foliage of their plants to sell in retail stores, and when consumers started recognizing the label, they began to wonder where “the herbs with the blue label” came from, says Aaron Pinkus, vice president and general manager. Therefore, the herbs that at one point weren’t branded, became “Blue Label Herbs.”

Nortex has also expanded to offer a premium color program in branded quart pots called the “Blue Label Collection,” which contains selected, premium varieties that are likely to succeed in the Texas environment at the times of the year they’re offered, Pinkus says.

The herb program has been around since the 90s, he says, but it was the customer recognition that made Nortex realize the branding potential. Now they’re building off of that success with a bigger distribution of the product (Blue Label Herbs are sold in 36 Whole Foods retailers in the region) and by creating a website that includes more consumer-based information. Plans are in the works for a “personal herb encyclopedia,” where consumers will be able to search different herb varieties and learn a little about each, and Blue Label Herbs will also feature a blog that focuses on gardening aspects and herb and vegetable uses.

“Branding has its place in every industry and in every market. For Blue Label Herbs, branding is not about visibility. It’s about building relationships. We grow excellent-quality plants, but we also provide top-quality customer service. It’s important for us to have relationships with our customers, as well as the end user, so we can help them be successful with our products and get feedback from them on how to improve on our end,” Pinkus says.

Marketing take-home products through tag and pot presentations like JanorPots, MasterTag labels and Blue Label Herbs will appeal to younger customers.

“Young people, they may not be homeowners yet. They may be thinking of themselves as gardeners. They don’t identify themselves as gardeners: They’re flower appreciators. They have a lifestyle they want to foster, and they think of these plants as being part of their lifestyle,” Giorgio says. “They’re less likely to dig in the soil and create a flower bed. They’re more likely to have containers on their deck and have a lot more lifestyle around the plant rather than [gardening] as a hobby. That has nothing to do with flowers. I may not know what that flower is, but I know that it makes me feel good.”