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Blockbuster marketing campaign puts real tree sales on track.



For many, the holidays became a distant memory when the last of the Christmas ornaments were put away. And some of us breathed a sigh of relief.

But there is one group, at least, for whom Christmas is never really "over" ... and that was holding their breath in anticipation over Christmas 2004 well into January 2005.

SALES SPUR NATIONAL MARKET EXPANSION CAMPAIGN

In 2002, USDA USDA,
n.pr See United States Department of Agriculture.
 Ag Census data and annual Wirthlin Worldwide Wirthlin Worldwide was an influential political and business consulting firm founded by Dick Wirthlin. It operated from 1969 to 2004. It ceased to operate as a separate company on September 8, 2004 when it was acquired by Harris Interactive for a combination of stock and cash  consumer polls corroborated cor·rob·o·rate  
tr.v. cor·rob·o·rat·ed, cor·rob·o·rat·ing, cor·rob·o·rates
To strengthen or support with other evidence; make more certain. See Synonyms at confirm.
 that purchases of Real Christmas Trees Christmas tree

Evergreen tree, usually decorated with lights and ornaments, to celebrate the Christmas season. The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands as symbols of eternal life was common among the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews.
 the previous four years were decreasing. The data didn't go unnoticed by Chesterfield, Mo.-based association management company Drake & Company, whose largest client is a professional organization for the Real Christmas Tree industry.

Owned by Steve Drake, Drake & Company serves as the headquarters and staff of the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA NCTA National Cable & Telecommunications Association (fka National Cable Television Association)
NCTA National Cable Television Association (now the National Cable & Telecommunications Association) 
) and six other national associations. Among their services are membership development, meeting and conference management, general administrative and financial management, research, public relations public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most , promotion and marketing.

News of declining sales, coupled with indications that the supply of Real Christmas Trees would increase in the next three to five years, left NCTA with the million dollar question: What can we do to help growers and retailers sell more Real Christmas Trees during the holiday season?

The answer came in the form of an aggressive, research-based market expansion campaign designed to 1) recapture market share lost to artificial trees over the past 10 years and 2) to attract new consumers.

Funded by nearly $900,000 in voluntary contributions from Real Tree professionals, the multi-year campaign combines a variety of public relations programs, traditional media outreach and innovative marketing tools to supplement NCTA's ongoing promotional programs. All are focused on reaching Americans with the underlying message, "Nothing says Christmas more than a Real Tree."

On behalf of NCTA, Drake contracted with Alexandria, Va.-based marketing firm Smith & Harroff to design and implement key elements of the campaign. Elements of the 2004 campaign included a national contest for school-aged children and a nationwide cross-promotional program with a major motion picture released over the holiday season.

BLOCKBUSTER OF AN IDEA

Recognizing the link between families with strong holiday traditions and the preference for using a fresh Christmas Tree, last July Drake and his staff team began development of a cross-promotional program with Warner Bros BROS Brothers
BROS Benefits and Retirement Operations Section (King County, Washington)
BROS Barnes and Richmond Operatic Society (London, UK) 
. Pictures and the holiday movie The Polar Express featuring Tom Hanks Noun 1. Tom Hanks - United States film actor (born in 1956)
Hanks, Thomas J. Hanks
.

The movie opened nationwide Nov. 10, 2004, in effect putting Real Christmas Trees in front of 120 million people during the peak Christmas Tree selling season.

The emotional message of The Polar Express provided a direct link to the emotional connection of fresh Christmas Trees for parents and their children, the primary determinants of a Real Christmas Tree purchase.

"The Polar Express movie and our industry--major tree growers, lot operators and cut-your-own tree farmers in North America--share a common message: that the spirit of Christmas is alive, as long as you believe," explains Drake, who also serves as NCTA's CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer) The highest individual in command of an organization. Typically the president of the company, the CEO reports to the Chairman of the Board. . "It was our hope that children and parents across the country would slow down and spend family time together by seeing the movie and selecting and decorating a fresh Christmas Tree."

Warner Bros. Pictures placed the Real Tree message, NCTA logo and Web site on The Polar Express ads and posters sent to participants. In exchange, NCTA members helped promote the movie by offering discounts on the purchase of a fresh Christmas Tree. Those who brought in a movie ticket stub A small software routine placed into a program that provides a common function. Stubs are used for a variety of purposes. For example, a stub might be installed in a client machine, and a counterpart installed in a server, where both are required to resolve some protocol, remote procedure  from The Polar Express saved $3 at participating retail lots and choose-and-cut farms. Consumers could find participating locations on NCTA's Web site by typing in their zip code zip code

System of postal-zone codes (zip stands for “zone improvement plan”) introduced in the U.S. in 1963 to improve mail delivery and exploit electronic reading and sorting capabilities.
 and looking for Looking for

In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with.
 farms and lots with The Polar Express icon.

ADDING HORSEPOWER TO THE CAMPAIGN

One of the principal strategies for the 2004 Market Expansion Campaign was to seek partnerships to help Christmas Tree farmers and retailers take advantage of the opportunities for movie promotion.

That goal came to mind when Drake attended last year's Ag Media Summit in Tampa, Fla. He had a chance meeting with Gene Hemphill, industry affairs manager for New Holland North America North America, third largest continent (1990 est. pop. 365,000,000), c.9,400,000 sq mi (24,346,000 sq km), the northern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere. . The pair shared ideas for cross-promotion a number of times since first working together to staff a media room for the Illinois Soy-Corn Conference 24 years earlier. Would Hemphill be interested in teaming up with Drake once again?

As luck would have it, a sponsorship opportunity with NCTA proved a perfect fit for New Holland to reach the untapped lifestyle market segment--people from urban areas who buy and farm a few rural acres. "We entered into a market and type of public relations and marketing that we've never done before," Hemphill says. "Polar Express tied us to people who we normally wouldn't have as customers."

NCTA, New Holland and Warner Bros. Pictures came up with a marketing plan that proved a hat trick hat trick
n. Sports
1. Three goals scored by one player in one game, as in ice hockey.

2. Three wickets taken in cricket by a bowler in three consecutive balls.

3.
 for all three. New Holland donated a tractor, which Warner Bros. Pictures laminated with an image from the movie to become the Limited Edition "The Polar Express" Snow Plow/Mower. Warner Bros. Pictures ran an Internet drawing for the tractor, which in turn yielded a database of e-mail addresses that New Holland could use to reach the lifestyle market.

New Holland also agreed to sponsor NCTA's Help Santa Find the Perfect Real Christmas Tree National Contest--the association's other big promotion in 2004. Launched in November, the contest asked children to take a family photo in front of their fresh Christmas Tree and write a story about what made it special.

NCTA offered up to $20,000 in scholarships for the most compelling stories while New Holland provided an alternative prize--a trip for four to Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Entry forms were made available at participating Christmas Tree farms and lots and at New Holland's dealer locations.

A GRAND SLAM grand slam
n.
1. The winning of all the tricks during the play of one hand in bridge and other whist-derived card games.

2. Sports The winning of all the major or specified events, especially on a professional circuit.
 FOR REAL TREES

NCTA relies on annual Wirthlin polls to monitor issues and develop key messages. According to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 the consumer tracking poll, the 2004 selling season was a "grand slam" for Real Trees.

Wirthlin reported more Real Trees were purchased and at higher prices than in years past: consumers bought 3.7 million, or 15.8 percent, more Real Trees in 2004 than in 2003, the largest year-to-year increase since NCTA has tracked consumer purchases. Real Trees represented 75 percent of trees purchased, a 4 percent increase.

By the same token, 600,000 fewer new artificial trees were purchased and 5.4 million fewer were displayed. Consumers chose to spend 26 percent more for their Real Trees in 2004.

FULL STEAM AHEAD

Encouraged by these results, the Market Expansion Task Force continues to fine-tune its strategy for 2005, revising successful 2004 campaign elements while introducing new projects and strategic partners.

Warner Bros. Pictures and New Holland will continue to be part of that mix. Concepts for consideration include creating opportunities for Christmas Tree retailers to engage their local New Holland dealerships through New Holland Real Tree Days and packaging Real Tree messages with the DVD DVD: see digital versatile disc.
DVD
 in full digital video disc or digital versatile disc

Type of optical disc. The DVD represents the second generation of compact-disc (CD) technology.
 release of The Polar Express.

"We're really eager to work with the DVD promotion in November," Hemphill says. "This was a home run all the way, but our successes wouldn't have been as great had we not been working together." AM Rachel Plumb is a communications specialist with Winning Formula Communications, a Chesterfield-based PR and media strategies company.

2004 MARKET EXPANSION CAMPAIGN ELEMENTS:

The Polar Express cross-promotion and Santa Contest were just two of the elements of the 2004 Market Expansion Campaign that Drake & Company and Smith & Harroff created for NCTA. Other pieces of the multi-faceted campaign included:

Marketing Tool Kit/Local PR Kit: Real Tree professionals who made a minimum contribution to the Market Expansion Campaign received this resource with media information that enhanced existing program materials.

Marketer of the Year Contest: Tool Kits included an invitation to Real Tree professionals to apply for this best-practices contest. The winner had the pick of a free year's use of a New Holland Boomer tractor or zero-turn radius mower mower, farm machine used for cutting grasses and other hay crops. Mowers, drawn by or attached to tractors, or self-propelled, have superseded scythes. The mower is essentially an adaptation of the much earlier reaper. The first commercial mower was patented in 1847. .

Radio Public Service Announcements (PSAs): Prerecorded pre·re·cord  
tr.v. pre·re·cord·ed, pre·re·cord·ing, pre·re·cords
To record (a television program, for example) at an earlier time for later presentation or use.

Adj. 1.
 radio announcements in English and Spanish featuring known broadcasters were distributed to 800 stations. More than 180 stations reported airing the PSAs 13,608 times.

Viral Marketing An online advertising approach that functions somewhat like word-of-mouth. The "viral" refers to how quickly it propagates, but its purpose is not to cause damage like a computer virus, but to make an offer available to the masses.  Advergame: E-mailed to 800,000 Internet garners, these entertaining games were created to "subtly sell" real Christmas trees and yielded nearly as many "hits" on the game link through NCTA's Web site.

Viral Marketing Electronic Greeting Card: Real Tree professionals could personalize per·son·al·ize  
tr.v. per·son·al·ized, per·son·al·iz·ing, per·son·al·iz·es
1. To take (a general remark or characterization) in a personal manner.

2. To attribute human or personal qualities to; personify.
 this animated greeting card with their company name and mail it to customers and prospects.

Rachel Plumb is a communications specialist with Winning Formula Communications, a Chesterfield-based PR and media strategies company.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Doane Information Service
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Thinking Outside The Box
Comment:Blockbuster marketing campaign puts real tree sales on track.(Thinking Outside The Box)
Author:Plumb, Rachel
Publication:Agri Marketing
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Words:1431
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