Plant retailers will be pleased to learn that there is a thriving dedicated marketing initiative designed to help drive sales of pelargoniums and increase consumer engagement with this summer favourite.
Pelargonium for Europe (PfE) is working to change the way that pelargoniums are perceived by bringing them to the masses and highlighting their many unique and pleasing characteristics, whilst also helping to shine a light on the thriving European horticulture sector and its world-leading production and breeding programmes. The ultimate aim is to encourage more producers and retailers to optimise the opportunities afforded by pelargoniums and to increase sales of these much-loved blooms.
The consumer demographic
Currently PfE operates a dedicated campaign in 22 European countries and it receives EU funding to maximise the size and scope of the project in six of them: Germany, Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland. Each country works towards a common goal and focuses on key consumer target groups; demographics which are perceived to be the biggest sales opportunity for the product.
In the case of pelargoniums, extensive market data showed that those target groups in transformative stages of life would be more responsive to pelargoniums and their many USPs, such as those aged between 25 and 30, and also 50 and 65. The latter, summarised as “New Life Builders”, are consumers who have reached the end of their professional careers and have seen their children fly the nest. These are consumers who will recognise pelargoniums in their many varieties and are likely to be loyal customers, buying plants often and confidently. Career or Family Builders, the name given to summarise the younger, 25 to 35-year-old consumers, are known to buy differently, and will be responsive to pelargoniums’ colourful, cost effective qualities, ease of care and maintenance.
To reach these different core consumer groups, photography and written content is created to speak to them individually, whilst also engaging with the rising number of plant-oriented garden and nature lovers, as well as creative urban types who are engaging with gardening in a way not seen previously. Content works to position pelargoniums as suitable for modern living and contemporary interior and exterior decor schemes, countering dismissive labels such as ‘old fashioned’ or ‘outdated’.
The PfE campaign implements a combination of measures including conventional PR activities such as news releases and special feature content, as well as media collaborations with magazines, influencers, vloggers and bloggers, cross-channel digital and social media activities as well as a range of creative promotional initiatives from product placement on TV shows and fashion shoots through to partnering with festivals, hosting pop-ups, giveaways, installations, workshops and more. Closely engaging with the green trade, it also runs campaigns at POS offering materials to retailers and reaches the green industry through trade press, partnerships with leading players, associations and educators as well as at events such as meetings and trade fairs.
At trade level, the focus of the PfE campaign is on specialised retailers as they represent important channels for securing long-term sales. The campaign also aims to support producers and others throughout the supply chain and has partnered with numerous industry associations including the Bureau Horticole Régional in France, Zentralverband Gartenbau in Germany, LRF Trädgård in Sweden, Opplysningskontoret for blomster og planter in Norway and Kauppapuutarhaliitto ry in Finland.
Campaign content is driven to help retailers to better understand the breadth available under the banner of pelargoniums, and offers a range of measures specifically aimed at supporting the green industry including point of sale material such as posters, banners and care cards; texts and videos offering advice on care, sales and promotion; free professional images, and other marketing materials.
All of this content can be found in Pelargonium for Europe’s trade website where retailers can access and download content for use throughout the season. This is all about arming retailers with the tools they need to drive sales and optimise their social media and direct marketing content, without having to invest time in the creation and design work.
Trade focused PR content is also created to provide easy to achieve ‘wins’ within the retail environment. This content includes top tips for driving sales including advice on point of sale, plant locations and supporting signage, staff training and tips for educating end users via marketing communication and social media activity. This “outside thinking” provides retailer with a fresh look at the way they sell and offers new, inspirational advice that makes then rethink the consumer journey in-store and, in turn, helps consumers to see pelargoniums differently.
Talking about the campaign, Anna Kaszewiak, an expert at Bronisze, the biggest wholesale market in Poland, said: “The Pelargonium for Europe campaign hit the bullseye for us. As plants, pelargoniums are a permanent element of the Polish landscape and idyllic life. Often speaking about pelargoniums, our thoughts return to adolescence, to grandma’s windowsills. For several years they have been experiencing their comeback thanks to newer and more interesting varieties in terms of colour palette and forms. Thanks to the wonderful materials made available by PfE, the average consumer has an opportunity to learn the basic rules of growing and taking care of this amazing and very long flowering plant. Colourful leaflets, packed full of knowledge and inspiration are a great tool for beginner gardeners. Thanks to them, our customers know how to take care of them, and how to combine them with other plants.”
Echoing Anna’ feedback is Reiner Höpken, store owner and Chairman of Bundesverband Einzelhandelsgaertner in Germany. Reiner said: “The pelargonium advertising material conveys joie de vivre, and also gives an impression of the variety of colours and shapes of pelargoniums, something that is difficult to convey without this material. I personally find the large poster, flags and ceiling hangers to be beneficial in the retail environment.”
Hundreds of retailers in Germany have also hosted a dedicated and highly successful annual pelargonium POS competition in partnership with PfE. The competition sees thousands of consumers participate for the chance to win high-value prizes such as holiday vouchers, giving retailers an opportunity to engage with their end-customers with all expenses covered by PfE.
The results - 2020
The first year of PfE’s latest EU-funded programme took place in 2020 and it was hit by the pandemic which coincided with the start of the key pelargonium sales period, but nonetheless the campaign delivered.
Among only the six EU-funded countries, a total of 691.4 million people were reached via PR which exceeded targets, whilst the online profile through the website www.pelargoniumforeurope.com and social media platforms brought pelargoniums to the attention of over 120,000 people.
Media co-operations also proved extremely effective. The local PR teams promoting PfE used a wealth of creative methods to achieve important exposure opportunities including product placement and coverage in print and online publications, as well as through broadcast media and via vital social influencers.
Across just six of the total campaign countries, these high-value partnerships tallied 36 online, 26 print, 9 TV, 6 outdoor and 4 radio - reaching at an estimated 142 million people and not including the many publications created through classic PR.
The green industry offering via websites, trade PR and POS proved a strong way to connect with the wider industry to develop trust and awareness which in turn increases promotional support and sales. Whilst printed POS materials could not be delivered in all countries due to the lockdowns, through trade newsletters and special digital delivery materials, the campaign showed industry that it continues to support it.
But what do these results mean for the green trade?
Partners of PfE have commented on an influx of positivity regarding pelargoniums that coincides with the ongoing communication and perception activities; positivity which translates into an increase in sales.
Media and consumer engagement with PfE activity has demonstrated a thirst for content, whilst the core customer demographic being most likely to adopt new behaviours – including the purchase of pelargoniums – coupled with growers continuing to deliver over 145 different pelargonium varieties, point to ongoing growth in plant sales.
The long-term growth expectations for the pelargonium market are expected to mirror that of the poinsettia market, which has been heavily supported by Stars for Europe (SfE), PfE’s sister marketing initiative, for 20 years. Latest data from SfE shows that consumption of poinsettias amongst the younger target market of Family/Career Builders (age 25-29) increased by 170% in 2019 compared to 2014-2017 while their spend on general flowering houseplants only increased by 30%.
In fact, Pelargonium for Europe targets a 2% increase – or about four to five million plants - in the sales of pelargonium cuttings each year. It also aims to stabilise and/or increase average price at consumer level. In doing so, the campaign will maintain or raise the position of pelargoniums in the top ten list of bedding and outdoor plants.
Looking ahead, there is no question that pelargonium sales are facing a significant growth opportunity. The influx of an army of new gardeners during 2020’s lockdown has helped to educate new customers on the joys pelargoniums on a scale that would not have been possible without an enforced stay at home order. However, this momentum now needs to be captured and the activity of the PfE campaign throughout 2020 and 2021 has helped to lay a significant amount of groundwork for the future growth of pelargonium sales and the supporting PfE campaign.
This year’s campaign is already hard at work to capture this new gardening army, promoting the plants under the banner of ‘My Freestyle Garden’ which shows how geraniums can seamlessly blend into a beautifully relaxed and natural space, and ‘Urban Summer Escapes’ which offers a taste of blissful summer holidays suitable for styling on anyone’s balcony, terrace or even an outdoor home office. Alongside trend photography, a large number of DIY design ideas are also produced, from clever planters to decorative centrepieces and more.
To find out more please visit www.pelargoniumforeurope.com or www.pelargonium-trade.com