Gardening Responsibly: launching a movement into the mainstream

Australians love ornamental plants in their gardens, but don’t realise that sometimes the plants they choose can ‘jump the garden fence’ and become invasive weeds, threatening biodiversity. More than 207 invasive plants impact 1,257 threatened and endangered species, costing $13.6B to the Australian economy every year.  

Gardening Responsibly – a NSW Government-backed community initiative that aims to combat invasive weeds that damage Australia’s unique biodiversity – approached Sefiani to create a campaign that would: 

  • Educate consumers on how Australia’s biodiversity is affected by weeds that often start out as garden plants 
  • Empower consumers to participate in reversing and preventing this damage by buying plants with the Gardening Responsibly label 
  • Increase consumer demand for ‘low-risk’ labelled plants in stores and encourage retailers to support this campaign 

The challenge:

Although there has been increasing public discourse about Australia’s natural landscape in light of climate change phenomenon, bush fires and flash flooding, the issue of invasive backyard weeds is one that is relatively unknown by comparison, which presented two-pronged issues to address: 

  • Sefiani needed to raise awareness of this issue, particularly through education directed at home gardeners that often mistakably contribute to this invasiveness through the plants that they plant themselves 
  • Sefiani needed to create a movement by enlisting the help of everyday Australians to gather public support that would instil long lasting change.  

The strategy:

In response to the challenge, Sefiani devised a strategy to grow a “Gardening Responsibly” movement in NSW with national relevance. 

Here, an integrated communications campaign was required to reach a mass audience. Through research, Sefiani determined the targeted audience segment that would enable to biggest impact to be females across NSW aged 25 and 55 years old. 

While expert and enthusiastic gardeners were already engaged with the issue, Sefiani needed to focus on consumers with little to no understanding of the problem. Our audience segmentation research showed that this audience comprised 50% of Australian adults and 64% of the total consumer expenditure in the gardening category. With this audience, Sefiani had an opportunity to create real and positive change.  

To address this audience, Sefiani took the strategic approach using the ‘GET-TO-BUY’ model, encouraging everyday Australia to care about protecting Australia’s biodiversity.  

The strategy was to GET home gardeners TO play a role in protecting Australia’s biodiversity BY educating them that garden plants can threaten native species. 

Sefiani then developed a multi-phased approach to roll out this campaign: 

1. ESTABLISH the issue of invasive weeds taking over 

This was executed within earned media by developing materials that explained the issue, making it personally relevant to the target audience, and presented the easy solution (look for the label).  

The earned campaign engaged: 

  • Mainstream gardening media including Better Homes and Gardens, Gardening Australia and ABC 702 Drive  
  • Newswires including AAP  
  • Mainstream top tier, broadcast, print and trade publications like The Australian and Australian Financial Review 

Additionally, Sefiani leveraged paid social media opportunities through a three-month paid social media campaign across Facebook and Instagram. This activity undertook the heavy lifting in terms of brand and issue awareness through engaging assets driving our audience to Gardening Responsibly owned channels to learn more.  

2. ENGAGE the audience on why they should care and help 

Sefiani engaged well-known influencer and television/radio presenter Mel Buttle to launch the initiative, leveraging her content creation skills and large following to bring our campaign message to a mass audience. 

A hero asset was created, telling the story of Gardening Responsibly in a humorous and engaging way. This was pushed across TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, platforms deemed most relevant to the identified key audience.  

The results:

Sefiani achieved widespread cut-through in positive high profile media coverage, social engagement and advertising reach – with a total campaign reach of 12.5m. As a result, the profile of the initiative was raised, generating consumer demand for gardening retailers to label plants and encouraging new purchasing behaviours when selecting plants.  

Not only was the campaign launch a success, but it also created real-world impact through the following tangible results: 

  • Over 10.5m earned media impressions with 153 pieces of coverage across online, print and broadcast including Better Homes and Gardens, Gardening Australia, 702 Drive & AAP 
  • Mel Buttle’s video gained 1.3m views and significant engagement across Instagram, TikTok and Facebook 
  • Paid social media campaign delivered 682,573 impressions and 5,817 link clicks across platforms 
  • An engaged community of 1,989 followers built from scratch across social media and database subscriptions 
  • Support from key influencers, including Australia’s most famous gardeners/media personalities Costa Georgiadis and Graham Ross and politician NSW Treasurer Matt Kean at the launch event and on social media 
  • High engagement across owned channels including Gardening Responsibly website and social channels 
  • Importantly, we generated consumer demand for low-risk plants to be labelled in-store, with 32 leading horticultural businesses now registered as suppliers, including Bunnings and Flower Power! Through an integrated campaign across earned, social and paid channels, the impact was clear – Australia is now on board with the Gardening Responsibly movement!  

Sefiani continues to be committed to this sustainability message, encouraging all home plant enthusiasts to continue being mindful of invasive weeds and take the necessary steps to prevent tarnishing Australia’s unique biodiversity.