National Christmas Tree Association
Purchases of Real Christmas trees had dropped steadily over a twelve-year period (from 35 million in 1990 to 22 million in in 2002). Even more alarming was that Real Trees were losing market share among young adults and that sales of artificial Christmas trees were increasing year after year. In an effort to halt these trends NCTA formed a Market Expansion Committee composed of industry volunteers and key staff of its association management company (Drake & Company). Following a nationwide search, NCTA selected S&H to create and implement a marketing plan.
Smith & Harroff helped evaluate ongoing research commissioned by the industry to help craft strategies. From that research and dialogue with industry members, the Market Expansion Committee established the following Campaign Strategies:
- Target messages to: (a) Young adults (18-39 year-olds); (b) First-time home buyers; (c) Special market niches such as Hispanics and the Gay community.
- Make efficient use of media including: (a) Earned media with emphasis on targeted audiences; (b) Public Service Announcements (PSAs); (c) Marketing tools that industry professionals could implement locally on their own.
- Integrate the Campaign with other communications tools including the NCTA Web site, the Youth & Schools program, recycling programs, etc.
- Seek partnership with corporations and other organizations to expand the reach of the Campaign.
One of our marketing tools was the creation of a “Help Santa Find the Perfect Real Christmas Tree” contest (offering college scholarships and enlisting volunteer celebrity judges). We also created a Viral Marketing advergame “The Attack of the Mutant Artificial Christmas Trees” that became popular with young people. We produced and distributed radio PSAs in both English and Spanish. We developed a Marketing Tool Kit that was distributed to 4,000 Christmas Tree professionals.
In an effort to reach out to companies and organizations to generate additional support for the Real Tree campaign we participated with Warner Bros. Pictures on a Christmas movie starring Tom Hanks (The Polar Express). Other partners were the New Holland company and General Motors.
A Dramatic Increase in Purchases & Profits:
- Consumer purchases of Real Trees increased 3.7 million (15.8%) from 23.4 million in 2003 to 27.1 million in 2004.
- Consumers reported paying 26% more for a Real Tree (from $33.80 to $42.60 per tree).
- The market share of Real Trees increased 4.2% from 70.9% in 2003 to 75.1% of trees purchased in 2004.
- Consumers reported purchasing 600,000 fewer artificial trees.
- The total value of the Real Tree industry increased 46% from $790,920,000 to $1.15 billion … an increase of $363.5 million in total value.
- Among targeted age groups, purchases of Real Trees increased 6% among 18 to 29 year olds and 5% among 30-39 year olds … a dramatic reversal of the prior trend.
The Marketing Expansion Campaign produced even greater success in 2005, as sales of real trees reached record highs.
In 2007, S&H won the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil Award of Excellence, the Gold SABRE Award (“Superior Achievement in Reputation and Branding”), and the American Marketing Association’s (AMA) Marketer of the Year Award, all for the NCTA Market Expansion Campaign. The marketing program for Real Trees also became a case study in a collegiate level book, Consumer Behavior (2006, Thomson, South-Western)
“Earned” Media Coverage from NCTA’s PR efforts:
- 23.0 million readers Key Real Tree messages in Mark Trail comic strip
- 10.6 million readers USA Today (2 major Real Tree stories; 2 smaller stories)
- 8.1 million viewers White House Real Tree featured on NFL Sunday Football & HGTV program
- 8.3 million viewers Tree care tips communicated through General Motors satellite media tour
- 2.5 million viewers Queer Eye for the Straight Guy program about a family buying and decorating a Real Tree
- 925,000 readers 7-page Real Tree feature in December issue of Midwest Living
- 8 million listeners Kim Komando’s “Cool Sites” mention on her show and USA Today column
- 1,180,000 Game plays
The Polar Express movie:
- 4.3 million households reported hearing or reading about The Polar Express-Real Tree coupon offer
- Promotion mentioned in publications such as Los Angeles Times and Lakeland (FL) Ledger; Northwest (AR) Democrat Gazette and New York Times, Topeka Capital-Journal and Toledo Blade; Cincinnati Post, CNBC and others.
Radio Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
- 50.8 million listeners on 184 radio stations airing the PSA 13,608 times
NCTA Web site:
- 8.01 million Hits on the NCTA Web sites (up 36%) and a 44% increase in number of unique visitors (consumers, media, others)
- The number of donors increased from 888 in 2003 to 1,289 in 2004.
- Donated promotion funds increased from $187,500 in 2003 to $888,937 in 2004.
- Donors came from 42 states and D.C.; 6 Canadian provinces, Mexico and Guatemala.
- Support of Corporate Partners:
- Organizations providing cash or in-kind support increased from 2 in 2003 to 9 in 2004.
“Smith and Harroff is the best thing that ever happened to our association. Under S&H sales of real Christmas trees jumped from 22 million to 33 million in just three short years. These results were much greater than we ever thought possible. Their marketing program won several prestigious industry awards and was written up as a case study in a collegiate marketing textbook. But what really impressed me was the dedication the staff at S&H has had for our industry and product.”
– Irwin Loiterstein
Chairman, Market Expansion Committee