Branding Your Garden Center – Finding Partnerships That Work

At the recently concluded Garden Center Group Fall Event in Cincinnati I had the opportunity to experience the power of collaboration between IGCs and the service providers and sponsors that support them. It sparked an interest in diving a bit deeper into learning more about how Group garden centers were exceeding industry standards in sustained growth, increased sales and profitability. It also got me to thinking about what the potential for growth would look like with a stronger alliance between brands and IGCs. After all, we all have the same goal – a strong, vibrant and growing IGC community.

Danny Summers said, “We are fortunate with the way The Fall Event format has developed over the past 24 years in bringing our Group Centers, our Service Providers and our Sponsors together in a collaborative position to help each business to higher levels of success.”

At the event I had a chance to visit some outstanding examples of garden centers getting it right. Tour stops included a variety of retailers like Burger Farm & Garden Center, Natorp’s Nursery Outlet, Benken Garden Center & Florist, Bern’s Garden Center and White Oak Gardens. I wanted to share an example of how White Oak Gardens collaboration with parnters like Proven Winners, service providers like Sid Raisch, and designer Allison Steele helped them undertake a transformation that blossomed into a brilliant case study for effective business branding.

White Oak Gardens: A Testament to Strategic Brand Evolution

White Oak Gardens, located in Cincinnati, stands as a good example for what persistent and strategic branding can achieve. Their journey of transformation began in 2010, when they collaborated with design experts like Allison Steele. This partnership gave rise to a refreshed logo, harmonized e-newsletters, cohesive in-store posters, and promotional postcards. Every element was carefully curated to present a unified brand narrative to their customers.

Their branding endeavors didn’t stop there. The garden center underwent a revamp that saw its brand extension into evolve into new staff uniforms that resonate with the established brand ethos, alongside a revamped front signage embedded with a digital component, echoing their brand’s distinct imagery. By maintaining a consistent brand identity for over a decade, White Oak Gardens not only solidified their brand, but they also enhanced their market position, culminating in their transformation into a Proven Winners Destination Garden Center. This collaboration with Proven Winners, Home Nursery, Walter’s Gardens, and Four Star Greenhouses, substantially fortified White Oak’s market foothold, resulting in impactful product displays and robust marketing support, making them a standout on the tour.

Proven Winners: Empowering IGCs Through Collaborative Branding and Marketing

White Oak Gardens stands as a testament to the collaborative power of strategic partnerships, especially with leading brands like Proven Winners. Recognizing the potential in White Oak Gardens and several other garden centers, Proven Winners initiated their Destination Program, aimed at fostering garden centers that dedicated spaces exclusively to the brand. This commitment not only brought co-op funds for creating these specialized areas but also ensured the garden centers had prominent visibility on Proven Winners’ digital platforms.

But the collaboration didn’t stop at mere visibility. Proven Winners further strengthened the brand identity of garden centers by offering customized signage and Point-of-Purchase (POP) materials. For White Oak, this meant co-branded signage that aligned with their brand ethos while promoting the extensive Proven Winners range. This individualized branding approach ensured that each garden center, while showcasing Proven Winners, retained its unique charm and appeal.

Jessica DeGraaf at Proven Winners expands on this concept: “At Proven Winners, we believe that IGCs are the lifeblood of our industry. Our primary aim is to build long-term relationships and to become a strategic partner in their success. We know that every garden center is different and take a very holistic approach as we partner with them.  We focus on crafting programs and support tools that help the garden center to connect, engage and inspire consumers at a hyper local level. White Oak Gardens is a phenomenal example of partnership and we’re absolutely thrilled to continue to grow with them!”

Moreover, the Connect+ Marketing Solutions from Proven Winners played a pivotal role. It allowed White Oak Gardens to amplify its outreach through social media campaigns and co-branded videos, resonating with a wider audience and echoing the quality and variety that both brands, White Oak and Proven Winners, bring to the table.

Tom Kegley On The Elements Of Brand Development

In his zoom session at the Fall Event Tom Kegley, a seasoned expert in marketing, with an extensive background in nursery and greenhouse grower promotions, offered invaluable insights into the nuances of brand development. Tom illustrated his strategy on brand development with work he did with America’s Best Flowers. Since the passing of Ed Knapton, the company has closed, but even though the branding project was done years ago, Tom’s work still resonates. With Tom’s extensive work with large growers over the years he is a strong advocate for effective partnerships.

In my communications with Tom he acknowledges the tremendous efforts and investments made by leading companies like Proven Winners in crafting engaging display resources tailored for garden centers. Tom often advises retailers to harness the tools and assistance offered by their grower vendors. After all, these resources are designed with the retailers’ success in mind. By synergizing these readily available tools with a garden center’s unique brand identity, retailers can achieve a harmonious brand resonance.

In his Fall Event presentation, Tom emphasized the critical nature of consistent brand representation. He accentuated the importance of seamlessly integrating the garden center’s brand across all marketing channels – from in-store signage to digital communication. This consistent and coordinated approach to branding, Tom believes, is the cornerstone of a robust brand image, irrespective of the business’s size.

“Group members can enhance their branding efforts by taking advantage of the wealth of retail resources offered by the Group’s plant suppliers and affiliate service vendors and providers. The Garden Center Group is the model industry forum for retail collaboration and partnership with the common goal of success for all.” – Tom Kegley

Sid Raisch & The Power of Unique Branding

Sid Raisch of Horticultural Advantage has a keen eye for identifying standout brands in the industry. During his talk at the Garden Center Group Fall Event, he underscored the importance of garden centers that make the brave leap to differentiate themselves. Sid explained: “One such standout is an intriguing garden center in Ohio: Groovy Plants Ranch. Owners Jared and Liz Hughes have hit several veins of GOLDEN opportunity with succulents, houseplants, and perennials along with pottery and very few hard goods.The thing with Groovy is that they chose a theme from the beginning. illustrating the potential of unique branding.” A separate example Sid showcased was Dothan Nurseries. Under J D Boone’s leadership, Dothan undertook a notable rebranding. The new brand identity, complete with a fresh logo and appearance, mirrors J D’s personal style and taste. It’s a vivid example of how personal touches can deeply resonate with a brand’s essence. As Dothan Nurseries brings this new identity to life, Sunrise Marketing is stepping in to assist with the creation of in-store signage that complements this renewed identity.

In summary, there is still so much untapped potential. The challenge is presenting these ideas and strategic partnerships to the larger IGC community. At Sunrise Marketing our goal is in helping the IGC community take advantage of the work that key suppliers, service provides and sponsors are making available to help them polish their brand and grow their business. In the end it is truly a win-win for all.