With a slowing of plant sales growth (Hodges et al., 2009), competition among companies for consumers’ dollars has heightened. Sluggish demand indicates a maturing market, and an influx of brands is likely to occur at that time in an effort to differentiate products from competitors and enhance the perceived product value (Kotler and Keller, 2009). Branding helps to create the perception of added value and/or distinguishes a company’s products from competitors’. Differentiation and enhancing perceived value through branding may be fruitful actions for the company striving to increase sales. In horticulture, anecdotal evidence suggests that plant branding appears to be more prolific in the 21st century.
With >70% of all buying decisions made at the point of purchase, marketers increased their in-store marketing budgets from ≈3% in 2004 to ≈8% in 2010 (Ståhlberg and Maila, 2012). Marketers also use brands, which facilitate consumers’ buying decisions. In the mainstream marketing literature, some evidence suggests that consumers first identify necessary information, before it is cognitively processed, to arrive at a purchase decision (Lin and Chen, 2006; Olson and Jacoby, 1972). Part of that information identified and processed in the purchase decision includes brands. Therefore, it may be important for plant producers and retailers to know which pieces of information at the point of purchase, especially regarding plant brands, influence consumers in their purchase decisions. Although there have been some studies on state or regional brands (Collart et al., 2010; Whery et al., 2007), we still have little information regarding the impact that brands have on consumer perceptions or intentions to purchase plants. Therefore, a better understanding of consumer perceptions of plant branding could help growers, wholesalers, and retailers better manage the branded and generic products they grow, merchandise, and more effectively market products to consumers.
A maturing of the green industry (Hodges et al., 2009) has included weaker product demand particularly among younger aged consumers (Dennis and Behe, 2007). In light of industry concerns about this reduced demand (Hodges et al., 2009) and, at the same time, changing American demographics (Drucker, 2002), a more precise understanding of consumer perceptions of products is helpful to all marketers. Baby Boomers (most typically described as born between 1950 and 1965) have long been a core customer group for live plants (Dennis and Behe, 2007). However, younger age cohorts do not appear to be purchasing plants to the same extent, causing industry concern (Butterfield and Baldwin, 2013). More information is needed about the perceptions, attitudes, and behavior of younger potential customers to attract them to the products offered by horticultural professionals. Do younger potential consumers view the branded herb and vegetable transplants in the same way as Baby Boomers?
Federal funds were matched with state funds in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program to fund this research. This project was supported by the USDA National Food and Agriculture, Hatch Project Number MICL 02085, and by Michigan State University AgBioResearch.
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