Ah yes, the nursery industry doesn’t really get it yet as a recent mailing proved so nicely.
Allow me to start at the beginning though.
One way to differentiate between Pre-Net marketing and Net-era marketing (at least right now) is to evaluate activities based on “scarcity” and “abundance.” For example:
Before the Net – news space and columns were scarce and tightly controlled by newspapers and magazines. Significant barriers to producing and obtaining news existed.
After the Net – unlimited news, unlimited sources and speed of collection and spreading enhanced by search and social media software. A cell phone is the only barrier to both producing and consuming news and social media sites consistently beat traditional news sources.
Before the Net – books and their distribution were controlled by a limited number of publishers. Getting a book published meant authors had to jump through numerous hoops. Retailing was small but moved to the large chains for best sellers starting the downward slide of independent bookstores.
After the Net – electronic publishing has gutted some genres, publishers and distribution are in disarray, consumers have unlimited choices for all genres from several major online distribution systems.
I’m sure you get the picture but what has this got to do with nurseries?
The catalog, cd of pictures and blumpf that rolled across my desk was gorgeous, well designed and illustrated. Very professionally done.
There was even a url for downloading any web-sized images I wanted to download to help promote or write about the plants. “Excellent” I say – this could save me some time humping cameras around to gardens and trial gardens looking for each one of these plants.
(note: I do reviews over a 2-3 year period for shrubs and perennials given they don’t do much in their first year from the nursery – so it really helps readers to see those initial pics before I get my own taken.)
I went to the website to check it out – clicked on an image for testing – and was presented with a license. It was a standare thou-shall-not-own these images text except for one section that read, “If an image is used on a website, its use must be restricted, meaning that it not be posted in a downloadable format.”
Well, I have to say I snorted out loud. There is absolutely no format or software that will stop a determined picture-nabber. None. And if anybody says they have one, what they have is something that will stop a rank amateur from downloading.
Nursery Attitudes Need Adjusting
But here’s the issue. Nurseries are still thinking scarcity and the public is firmly into abundance.
This attitude of protecting images from being shared online is based on scarcity and not the Net reality.
Before the Net – nurseries invested large amounts of money to take professional slides for their catalogs and they guarded them jealously to prevent competitors from using them. Photographers made an honest living meeting this need. Pictures were scarce.
After the Net – there’s an decent camera in every cell phone and photo-editing software to correct most mistakes. No, they’re not pro-level shots but frankly, it doesn’t matter as much as when the resources were scarce and websites don’t deliver high-resolution images in any case.
But Here’s What You Have To Know.
If all the things you need for marketing and sales that you used to use for controlling scarcity have disappeared, then the only thing you have left that’s scarce is your customer attention.
A person can only pay attention to so many things and with all the competition for attention, nurseries are only one small voice in the crowd. A very small voice at that to a limited market.
By restricting photographs (which are no longer scarce) nurseries are shooting themselves in the foot. They’ve just cut themselves off from all of the major social media systems (with the possible exception of Youtube) but Facebook, Twitter and (especially) Pinterest are made for photo-sharing. Pinterest and Facebook are two of my major website traffic sources and they should be yours.
Photographs are the new medium of attention. You pay for your customer’s attention with gorgeous pictures. And restricting their use in any way is simply scarcity thinking. The only scarce resource the nursery industry has to sell are the plants. Everything else you used to protect is now freely available online.
So will I promote this nursery’s plants?
Probably not. I only have so many hours in a day and my readers want pictures. I’m one of a thousand gatekeepers now who has an audience in the gardening world (albeit mine is larger than most) and my time is my scarce resource as I work to gain the attention and time of my readers. Given the option of working with nurseries who work with me to get my attention and save me time or those who want to protect a no-longer-scarce resource, you can see what I’m going to do.
Nursery marketing is simply feeling the impact of the Net in ways that other industries have been dealing with for a few years. Welcome to the world of information-abundance.