Good landscape management practices can positively affect water availability and quality, whereas improper management can degrade water quality in local and larger water bodies and contribute to water scarcity (Saurí, 2013; Shober et al., 2010). Horticultural educators, such as extension professionals, focus on decreasing the impact of landscape management practices on water resources (Bradley et al., 2016). Researchers have recommended landscape educational programs target people with irrigation systems because they tend to use more water and have greater potential to positively affect water resources (Bremer et al., 2012; Warner et al., 2016).
People who work on water issues need innovative strategies to promote the adoption of research-based best landscape management practices and they have increasingly turned to innovative approaches to changing consumer behaviors (Saurí, 2013). Extension professionals may incorporate principles of an underused behavior change strategy, social marketing (Warner et al., 2016), which is the “adaptation of commercial marketing technologies to programs designed to influence the voluntary behavior of target audiences to improve their personal welfare and that of the society of which they are a part” (Andreasen, 1994).
The social marketing process is structured by a number of calculated steps beginning with identifying the problem and then conducting substantial audience research to identify the audience’s values, perceived barriers, and benefits to change (McKenzie-Mohr, 2011). Social marketing strategies, informed by the audience research (McKenzie-Mohr, 2011; McKenzie-Mohr and Schultz, 2014), are designed to encourage behavior change by presenting an exchange with competing behaviors desirable to consumers based on their values (Lee and Kotler, 2011). The concept of product benefits, or combinations of concrete product characteristics, is used frequently in traditional marketing to appeal to customers’ values and create greater need for the product (Vriens and Hofstede, 2000). The “benefits desired from a product is the most practical way to understand an audience, because direct connections can be made between the motivations of an audience segment and their purchasing behavior” (Salmon et al., 2006). Following these principles, we sought to identify the benefits home irrigation users believe their landscape provides to guide future social marketing campaigns to change landscape management behaviors. The perceived value people placed on their urban landscapes was highlighted to determine if there was a relationship between landscape benefits and irrigation and fertilization best practices.
The research described in this manuscript was conducted as a possible foundation to inform social marketing campaigns to encourage good irrigation and fertilization practices among urban residents. The purpose of the study was to identify how home irrigation users perceived landscape benefits, and to determine whether these benefits influence irrigation and fertilization best practices in the landscape. The specific objectives that guided the study were to describe home landscape users’ perceived landscape benefits, identify relationships between perceived landscape benefits and irrigation best practices, and to identify relationships between perceived landscape benefits and fertilization best practices.
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