Fusion Gardening

Advertising Campaign | Regional Municipality of York

The Fusion Gardening® program was developed to help reach York Region’s water conservation goal of reducing water use to an average of 150 litres per person, per day, by 2051. The Region has had indoor water conservation programs in the past which helped to reduce individual water use to approximately 187 litres of water per day but in order to meet our target, we had to go beyond indoor water savings so we decided to focus on a few areas, one of them being outdoor water use. At its core, Fusion Gardening® combines beautiful landscapes, water efficiency and site specific stormwater management features like rain gardens, bioswales and permeable pavement that match a person’s vision of their ideal landscape. This leads to decreased dependency of treated water for irrigation, while making better use of existing rainwater gathered onsite. Our main communication goal was to educate single-family homeowners, living in high outdoor water-use areas, about Fusion landscapes and its associated benefits. Our main strategy was to create innovative and eye-catching marketing materials that would pique people’s interest and encourage them to learn more about the program

Target Audience
Our target audience was single-family homeowners that live within areas of high outdoor water use. Water billing records were used to determine areas where residents use a lot of water during the summer, and a pilot area was chosen to test the program before offering it to the whole Region. Kleinburg, Ontario, a community in the City of Vaughan, was chosen because it was among the highest outdoor water users and had a similar demographic profile to the other high outdoor water use areas so we felt it was a good place to test our marketing and program materials. Through market research, we found that the people who live in high water use areas are typically middle-aged families with large properties. They generally don’t place a lot of value in the environment and prefer if government doesn’t have an active role in their daily lives. Because of this, our marketing strategy focused on the beauty of the landscapes as opposed to the function and environmental benefit.

The values of our target audience presented a challenge because we are a government agency promoting an environmental program and people do not view us as experts on landscaping and gardening. Residents are more likely to go to a garden centre or landscape professional for advice. To engage people, we formed partnerships with retailers that we knew our target audience frequented. We displayed materials with beautiful imagery of fusion plants and stormwater management features, along with words that evoke an emotional response. We also attended community events to showcase the beauty of this type of gardening. One example of this is the Fusion demonstration garden that we had at Canada Blooms, Toronto’s largest flower and garden festival, which we created in partnership with Landscape Ontario and Peel Region. This gave us exposure to over 166,000 attendees and allowed us to promote how various features work and could be incorporated into home landscapes.

Through marketing materials, special events and retail partnerships, we were able to reach our target audience and create interest in the program. As an unintended outcome, we had other organizations reach out to us, looking to implement Fusion Gardening® in their Regions and municipalities. This demonstrated that the program resonated with people, even outside of our pilot area. By creating materials that appealed to the interests of the target group, we were able to grab their attention and share the environmental benefits without having them lose interest.

The pilot program is complete and we have been able to assess which program components have been successful and which need to be improved. The next step for the program is to expand into the rest of the Region, while still targeting high outdoor water use areas. Due to the interest from other organizations we are developing a “toolkit” of materials that can be shared with them to ensure the look and feel of the program is maintained, but can still be altered to suit the needs of their customers. York Region will continue to evolve the program as it impacts community behavior and monitor the effectiveness of our messaging.

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