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Strong Brands have Staying Power

Changes are inevitable as our industry evolves. This makes consistency and dependability for your operation more important than ever.

What gives some brands staying power when others seem to fade away?

It’s not unusual for growers and retailers to handle different plant brands.  And it’s common for garden retailers to sell their own brand-name plants — sometimes, only their house brand and sometimes with other national brands.  But how do you know which brands to support?

Several plant brands have entered the marketplace since Proven Winners® was established in 1992.  Like other consumer brands, certain brands have serious staying power, while others may not.

Marshall Dirks
Younger customers are looking for a brand with a strong identity, and much more.


Why Brands Stay Strong                  

Branding studies show that while new products and services constantly enter a market, there are some truths of branding that you can use to assess their future strength.

Today’s gardeners are a mix of older and much younger customers, and because those younger ones have different values and expectations than established gardeners, the industry rightly focuses on what attracts millennial and other young buyers.

Proven Winners & Four Star:
Dedicated to the Industry

The debut of Proven Winners® as the first national plant brand 25 years ago was a huge step in reaching out to the general public.

Through the years, Proven Winners has invested widely in consumer and industry advertising via print, media and social media to build strong consumer demand for its products.  It showcases lifestyle ideas for gardeners at garden shows and events like the Outdoor Living Extravaganzas.  Through its website, social media, and coordination with garden retailers, the organization continues to inspire and educate consumers on how to garden successfully.

By continuing to introduce new plant varieties bred for easy maintenance and resistance to disease, Proven Winners drives innovation.  It has invested in marketing and education for growers and garden retailers, and offers free training for retailers and their staffs. 

Several amazing Proven Winners introductions have been best sellers for years, with great consumer popularity and longevity in the market.  We’ve selected these as our Classic Collection.

Now in our 40th year, Four Star is proud to stand behind this amazing brand. The Classics Class of 2017 boasts several favorites, including: 

Supertunia® Bordeaux™ Petunia
Best seller for 11 years

Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum® Petunia
Best seller for 11 years

Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® Sutera (Bacopa)
Best seller for 17 years

Loyal customers are said to spend 33% more than new customers, so how can you capture that loyalty in today’s ever-changing market?  Younger customers are more unpredictable and they look for more from the typical transaction, whether that is in a big box, a specialty clothing shop or a garden retail store.

According to the marketing experts at Liquid Agency, younger consumers are looking for brands with a strong identity, but they also want more -- information, meaningful experiences, connection.  They call this a ‘kinship economy,’ and recommend both retailers and producers “put the consumer at the center of every engagement strategy…. It’s the power of the consumer that matters.”

What are your customers looking for? Do they want brand-name plants, and if so, why?  Brands like Proven Winners are built on the idea that consumers will be successful growing those plants, and it supports that idea by offering lifestyle ideas, workshops and ways to enjoy growing plants.

“The success of an educational gardening site like Garden Answer, which is sponsored by Proven Winners, is a good example of how interested consumers are and how the brand responded,” says Tom Smith, Four Star President.  “They’ve attracted younger people with a Facebook page, YouTube videos and other social media outlets.  Last year, they got more than 216 million views and the audience is still growing.”

As Garden Answer’s Laura LeBoutillier noted in an article on Bloomreach website, Proven Winners didn’t tell them what to show or how to sell their products, but wanted them to have editorial control.  “They asked us, ‘How can we enable you to inspire people to want to garden?’” she said. 

Strong brands create trust

We know that brands play a major role in helping consumers make purchasing decisions, because a great brand is the product’s promise fulfilled.  McDonald’s rise to power came because it consistently delivered its promise of inexpensive fast food everywhere.  Mercedes thrives because it consistently produces high quality luxury performance cars.  Angie’s List captures new customers because it continues to solve homeowner’s problems, by providing a source for dependable contractors.

While a strong brand positions a product (Rolex = luxury watches), they also dominate because they make the purchase decision easier. A Harvard Business Review article* says that the buying process favors brand-name products, especially over time as knowledge of the name becomes even stronger with consumers.

The same article points out that this national brand notoriety also builds value for the retailers who carry them.  “Retailers cannot afford to cast off national brands that consumers expect to find widely distributed; when a store does not carry a popular brand, consumers are put off and may switch stores….private-label products…just do not have the traffic-building power of brand-name goods.”

Strong brands are leaders

Innovation and industry leadership are two important elements for growers and retailers to consider when assessing a brand.  Apple’s innovation is essential to its success.  Brands that invest in employee training, scholarships or community outreach are investing in the future.

Which plant brands do you see in an industry leadership position? Which invest in the industry’s future and sponsor outreach to consumers in a multitude of ways? 

“Proven Winners has continued to focus on what is best for consumers in the long run,” said Smith.  “I see a huge gap in consumers’ awareness of other brands, but their awareness of Proven Winners is as high as it has ever been.”

Strong brands are consistent

Ask any marketing expert and they’ll tell you to look at consistency as a key feature of a strong brand.  Imagine Starbucks branching out into publishing, or Boeing designing and selling clothing!  These and other great brands stay focused on what they do best and it keeps them strong.

The best brands in our industry are dedicated to the continued success of the growers and retailers in it, and focus their efforts on partnering with them to ensure a long-term benefit.

Look closely at the plant brands in the industry, how they market themselves and the brands your customers seek.  You’ll see that some clearly have a loyal following and a brighter future.

Brand versus Private Labels: Fighting to Win,” John Quelch & David Harding, Harvard Business Review, January-February 1996.

For more information about the Proven Winners brand and Four Star Greenhouse, contact us at 734-654-6420 or

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