Hort Innovation is responsible for investing the nursery marketing levy into a range of activities to drive awareness and consumption, under the Hort Innovation Nursery Fund. Here’s a quick look at some of the activities and achievements of 2019/20, for both the domestic and export marketing campaigns.
Plant Life Balance
The Plant Life Balance campaign is designed to get more Australians buying more green life for their homes, both indoors and out. It’s the lead consumer program for the nursery industry, and 2019/20 marked its third full year.
Plant Life Balance combines fashion and styling for homes with science that focuses on the two fundamental benefits of including more plants in the home environment: air quality and wellbeing. The campaign uses digital tools and social media to connect with a target audience of women aged between 25 to 35, to help build their confidence and inspire them to get more ‘plant life balance’ in their lives.
The Plant Life Balance audience is a new wave of plant lovers. Young, female, renters or first homeowners with busy lives and possibly first time or soon to be parents. They are digitally connected, socially savvy and fashion conscious. They are experienced at keeping their plants alive and what’s more, they are emotionally attached to their plants, which is excellent for industry.
SOCIAL AND DIGITAL PROMOTION
The primary objective of the Plant Life Balance social media campaign in 2019/20 was to drive engagement and promote traffic to the Plant Life Balance website (www.plantlifebalance.com.au). Strong results were seen across both Facebook (www.facebook.com/plantlifebalance) and Instagram (@myplantlifebalance) channels. During the year, the Plant Life Balance social community surpassed 100,000 followers, becoming one of the largest online plant communities in the country, and a go-to source for advice and inspiration. The Plant Life Balance Facebook and Instagram reached 12.6 million plant-loving consumers, an increase of 53 per cent from the previous year. Engagement averages across both channels remained high, well exceeding industry averages. The Plant Life Balance blog (www.myplantlifebalance. com.au) and the e-newsletter consumers can sign up to through the site continued to drive engagement. The Plant Life Balance media team has also positioned the brand as the go-to for media seeking content and comment.
This meant that during 2019/20, there were consistent in-bound enquiries which then became media stories. Plant Life Balance media campaigns generated 96 pieces of media coverage with more than 3.5 million in reach.
THE PLANT LIFE BALANCE TREND REPORT
The first-ever trend report for the Australian nursery industry was developed and released by Plant Life Balance in December 2019, off the back of research commissioned to understand consumer behaviours when it comes to adding more greenlife to their home. The report was launched to a mixture of consumer lifestyle and horticulture media, as well as industry stakeholders. The launch briefing provided media targets with an opportunity to hear from experts about the expected plant-related trends for 2020. The report played a critical role in driving media engagement, content and key trend information back to industry.
THE PLANT LIFE BALANCE EVENT SERIES
In 2019/20 the Plant Life Balance event series was held in various greened businesses that brought together plant lovers to hear from and be inspired by other influential plant lovers, including industry. The events were oversubscribed and proved a success, generating media and ongoing social followers, however the program needed to be curtailed due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020. The Plant Life Balance event series was due to tour five states in 2020, however as COVID restrictions were brought in, this program was quickly adapted.
Greener Spaces Better Places
WORKING WITH STAKEHOLDERS
The industry previously invested in the 202020 Vision program, established with the goal of increasing green life in major urban areas by 20 per cent by 2020. In October 2019 the program was successfully rebranded to Greener Spaces Better Places, providing a longer-term platform and brand to continue to promote the benefits of nursery products across key audiences. This program initially focused on supporting influencers and decision makers, particularly business to business and local government audiences. It has now moved to engaging consumers and communities, aligning with the increasing green movement across Australia. The program has created and uses a panel of experts called the Living Network who help communicate the benefits and value of green life in the urban environment.
Levy-funded research outcomes have underpinned this marketing approach, with the program remaining a priority focus in leading and supporting activities that drive increased demand for green life products and services. The Greener Spaces Better Places program has enabled the nursery industry to maintain its position as the go-to industry providing beneficial solutions for how people interact with nature to improve their lives, health and environments.
Following the success of retailer and industry event kits, these were extended into 2019/20 to help key stakeholders continue to engage with content and promote reach. Both industry and retailers were able to order their kits to be delivered directly to them.
The focus of the program’s business stream for 2019/20 was to support the inclusion of urban green space into new Green Building Council of Australia rating tools for buildings and communities (with earlier work in the nursery's R&D program feeding into this – see www.bit.ly/ny16007). Excitingly, the latest proposed rating tools for ‘New Building’ and ‘Community’ have a Nature category. The new rating tools were expected to be released towards the end of 2020.
THE PRESS OFFICE
Running an ‘always on’, proactive and reactive media function for Greener Spaces Better Places ensured the value of more trees and plants was always in the spotlight. It included the daily monitoring, listening, evaluation and reporting of media conversations for intel and opportunities. This resulted in over 120 media articles and/or interviews with an estimated reach of over nine million impressions across urban greening decision-makers. It included prestige pieces through ABC TV and ABC online, Domain and The Conversation. Management of the Living Network advocate program is also run via the Press Office, which you can learn more about at www.greenerspacesbetterplaces.com.au/network.
Impact of COVID-19
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nursery marketing program met with key stakeholders such as Greenlife Industry Australia, the state Nursery and Garden Industry associations, and the Plant Life Balance and Greener Spaces Better Places teams, to ensure a coordinated industry response to the crisis.
The Greener Spaces Better Places and Plant Life Balance programs responded to the pandemic in four key ways: conducting a government ‘pulse check’ report; implementing a dedicated public relations and media campaign; pivoting the planned content for digital and social media; and creating dedicated resources for retailers to boost sales during the pandemic.
GOVERNMENT ‘PULSE CHECK’ RESEARCH
The purpose of this research was to understand the attitudes, concerns and needs of green space professionals at local and state levels of government, in relation to the COVID-19 crisis. In particular, the research sought to understand the state of urban greening programs, the key challenges to maintaining them, and immediate opportunities that existed to support green space professionals in continuing to deliver the health and wellbeing, environmental and economic benefits that vital green spaces provide.
MEDIA AND PUBLIC RELATIONS
Dedicated media campaigns for both the Plant Life Balance and Greener Spaces Better Places programs were implemented to emphasise the importance of living a life in green during COVID-19, whether by greening the home or by safely spending time in public green space (in alignment with official guidelines and directives). This quickly produced media campaign highlighted the importance of green space while social distancing, showing best practice case studies from key local governments. Additionally, a second phase media campaign was conducted in June 2020 based on the pulse check findings. A potential audience of over 600,000 government, business and industry decision makers were reached in titles such as Government News, 6PR, and Architecture and Design.
DIGITAL AND SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT
The Plant Life Balance blog and social media channels (Instagram and Facebook) also swiftly pivoted their content plans to feature targeted and appropriate COVID-19 messaging, around the themes of:
- Mental health and wellbeing, with a focus on gardening as therapy.
- Grow your own, encouraging Australians to supplement their store-bought produce with fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs from the local nursery.
- Things to do, providing inspiration of plant and gardening activities to relieve boredom.
- Physical health and happiness, with tips and tricks to create the healthiest space possible with plants.
- Getting outdoors, which reminded the audience that nature had not been cancelled and that it’s essential to switch off, step outside and give your mental health a boost through time in nature.
- Home tours. In a Plant Life Balance first, video interviews were conducted with green-thumb influencers, who filmed themselves as they toured their home and answered questions about how plants were helping them stay positive in lockdown.
Throughout the campaign, Plant Life Balance social channels ran ads with the objective of increased website visits, e-newsletter sign ups, and profile reach, targeting plant buying Australians to buy more plants while in isolation. The social channels also leveraged the COVID-19 blog content to drive more visitation to the Plant Life Balance website.
Plant Life Balance developed COVID and-beyond marketing support resources for nursery and garden centres around the theme, ‘10 ways to improve sales right now: plant marketing in the time of COVID-19’. These resources included a web page guide, a downloadable PDF and a case study video containing tips, ideas and inspiration to boost nurseries’ marketing efforts during COVID-19. Although the guide was specifically designed to help nurseries respond to the COVID-19 situation, these ideas will also be highly relevant once the crisis is over. The response from independent retail nurseries facing challenges from lockdowns, social distancing, changes to foot traffic into store and an increased demand for online solutions was incredibly well received, highlighting ongoing potential for marketing resources and knowledge sharing back to retailers in the future.
These marketing activities are strategic levy investments in the Hort Innovation Nursery Fund