I work in the marketing department at a local garden center here in Minneapolis. My job is to support the other members of the marketing team while taking on a few of my own projects. Because we’re a garden company, we’re seasonal. Most of the product we sell in our stores is only good for half the year or less. At Christmas time, we bring out spruce trees and all the decorations. At summer, our outdoor area gets overtaken by perennials, shrubs, evergreens, trees, and annuals. When Valentine’s Day approaches, our store gets refreshed to fit with the tune of the holiday.
All of this is to say that the marketing department always works one season ahead of the curve. We start preparing for fall in the middle of summer and start preparing for the holidays at the beginning of fall. When our fall materials roll into the stores, online, and in media, we’re already halfway done creating our seasonal material for the holiday season. It’s the nature of the type of industry we’re in, forever rotating our message for whatever season it may be.
Right now, in mid-September, we’re gearing up for the holidays. We’ve only just started thinking about what our holiday communications look like. Part of this early process is gathering ideas and inspiration for what all of it can look like. The whole team (all five of us) pull together photos, fonts, color schemes, and trends for what we feel the season’s communications could look like. During this process, an interesting question arose about Millennials and poinsettias. Do Millennials like them? Would Millennials buy them? If Millennials don’t like them and wouldn’t buy them, how could we market poinsettias for the Millennial generation?
It feels as if every company faces this question about the Millennial generation–the generation I belong to. I’m a Millennial through and through, so the question about how we could market poinsettias–a plant I really dislike for a variety of reasons (described below)–to Millennials became an interesting thought experiment for me.
Briefly, reasons I don’t like poinsettias and probably would never spend money on them:
- The common red color of poinsettias is a bit too commonplace in holiday décor. As
one of my Millennial friends said, poinsettias have become too oversaturated around Christmas time.
- They’re packaged in a plastic pot wrapped with a colored foil, which comes off as tacky. I’d never want to decorate my house with something like that.
- Because they’re a highly seasonal plant, I’m investing in only a month or two of enjoyment before they go out of season and it’s no longer culturally acceptable to have a poinsettia. I want to invest my money in something longer lasting.
- On that note, going back to the packaging described in #2, when it is time to get rid of it, I literally have to throw away the whole package–plant, pot, foil. I don’t get to keep anything. For $20 (or more), I’d want to be able to keep something from the purchase.
- They’re not trendy. My grandma might enjoy a poinsettia in a disposable plastic pot with a colored foil. It’s important to note, though, that my grandma and I have very different tastes in style and décor. Ergo, I would probably not buy something that my grandma would buy.
This, of course, is just the opinion of one Millennial gal. One of my female coworkers, who’s an older Millennial than myself, also shares my distaste for the Christmas plant. And to back my opinion up further, I asked my Millennial Twitter followers in a poll to answer the same question: Do you like poinsettias? The response was overwhelmingly “No,” with a few responses stating they didn’t even know what a poinsettia was. My Millennial Facebook friends had a similar reaction. While most said they didn’t like poinsettias for a lot of the reasons I listed above, a few did say they didn’t mind them if they came in a unique color. Some said they were fond of them because it reminded them of good childhood, holiday times.
Overall, however, the consensus appears to be that most Millennials (particularly women) wouldn’t buy a poinsettia around the holidays. So the question remains: How does a gardening company get Millennials–the largest generational group in our world right now–to like and buy poinsettias?
I don’t have the answer. But I do have an answer–at least what it would take to get me to buy a poinsettia.
The trick would be to make the poinsettia not just a holiday plant, but an everyday plant. We see Millennials buying more and more green plants to decorate their homes and small spaces for health and aesthetic reasons. A prime example: I just spent fifty dollars (!!!!) on a beautiful indoor houseplant because it was adorable and I had to have it. So now, in my apartment alone, I have six different planters and am always thinking about expanding my collection and getting more. With how health conscious most Millennials are, it makes sense why we gravitate toward green plants in our homes–they boost creativity, brighten our spaces, and provide cleaner air to us. If poinsettias could offer us the same thing, I think we’d start to notice them, (and the important bit) actually like them, and see their value in our homes.
A poinsettia is obviously not a green plant*, but perhaps it could function like one. Get rid of the staple red poinsettia, work some genetic engineering magic, and create a poinsettia that looks different but aesthetically appealing. Something like the poinsettia to the right. It’s got variegated leaves, but it’s important to note that there is still that staple red color in this poinsettia. Red isn’t always a turn off with the poinsettia. Paired with the pale green, the poinsettia looks new, refreshing, and unique. To me, this type of coloring would be perfect for the holiday season and everyday decorating. I wouldn’t feel tempted to throw it away once Christmas passed. I’d probably want to keep it because it looks pretty darn cool.
*Poinsettias actually do start as green plants and would stay a green plant if poinsettia growers didn’t manipulate the lighting during the full leafing stage. Once a poinsettia has gotten large enough, growers turn down the greenhouse light. Being deprived of light at this stage encourages “flowering” since the plant’s chlorophyll can no longer be produced. With no chlorophyll, the poinsettia’s leaves begin changing to their staple red color.
And on that note, I’d want my poinsettia already planted for me in a decorative pot. Some of us Millennials might enjoy buying a plant in a disposable container and repotting it into something longer lasting (on occasion I like doing this), but a large majority of us probably don’t have the right gear to do that (i.e., potting gloves, extra soil, a trowel, etc.) or the right space to do the messy work of repotting. Which is why it’d be nice if poinsettias came pre-potted in a longer-lasting, decorative container. It’d make it easier for us and would be added motivation to buy the whole package. When the poinsettia dies or it’s time to get rid of it, we’d be able to keep the pot, replant something else we’d like, or use the pot in a novel way as a piece of home décor.
That’s all how the product itself could change to better suit the habits and tastes of Millennials. A huge piece to making that initiative successful, however, is how the product is marketed. In a lot of my research (i.e., scouring the internet), I found that Millennials are more concerned with where their products come from than other generations. We like knowing if a product was locally produced, and we gravitate toward local companies who also sell their product locally. Along the same lines, Millennials are curious about how a product was produced. We’re more likely to buy something if we know a product was “Not Tested On Animals” or “Sustainably Harvested.” We tend to be more environmentally and socially conscious than other generations, so talking about a new product with this type of language could have a huge return and would build brand trust.
Then comes the presentation. This, of course, changes depending on the target audience. For myself, and perhaps others like me, I’d be more inclined to click on a product online if it was showcased in a similar room to my own apartment. I want to see how this poinsettia might fit into my own place before I make the investment. Rather than an up-close product shot with a generic screen background, give the product some real context and showcase it in a real home environment. In my own experience, these are the types of products I tend to gravitate toward, because they give the product a life and context. (A good example of this in action is Seea–a swimsuit brand. They have a healthy mix of studio photos and real life photos, so the buyer can get a sense for what a swimsuit would look like on them in the real world while looking at the product up close.)
With plants, this is important. Any plant–whether it’s a poinsettia, aloe vera, or a black-eyed Susan–is placed into an environment, and most people want to have a sense for how it might look in that environment before they make the investment. For some, it might be easy to imagine this plant sitting atop their window sill in the kitchen, but others might need the help of a photo for how the product can be placed and used.
It feels silly to be thinking so long and hard about poinsettias, especially when I have no control about what their future in the market looks like. Poinsettias are not my favorite, but that doesn’t mean they can’t become one of my favorite plants. With the right product evolution and the right marketing, I’d be inclined to decorate my house with a poinsettia as an everyday greenery item.
And, in all honesty, the staple red poinsettia will always be there. People will still buy it and decorate with it around the holidays. But why can’t it change into something else, too, to cater to a different, younger audience? The Millennials are changing lots about the way companies talk about their products, and that should be no different in this case. We’re a massive buying market, and if garden companies want to get us jazzed about poinsettias around the holidays, the poinsettia is going to have to be rethought. As the saying goes: out with the old, and in with the new.