The online platform Into Green was launched five years ago, during the Tradefair. That was no coincidence, as the Tradefair is the exhibition for professionals who work with houseplants. The project was an excellent and unique collaboration between the sector associations VHG (horticulturists and interior landscapers) and VGB (trade in plants and flowers). For years, the two associations had seen how studies increasingly demonstrated that plants are so much more than just pretty, more than trendy style elements which, by definition, are vulnerable in market terms. Plants were shown to purify the air by absorbing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), consequently making people healthier. Other research revealed that plants make people feel calmer and happier. Which is wonderful, or would be, were it not that nobody was aware of that.
A lot of hard work was done both online and offline
Into Green developed into an online magazine/website full of inspiring, research-substantiated articles aimed at getting the message that (indoor) plants make people healthier and happier on the agendas of professional target groups. Professionals such as architects and property developers but also, and surprisingly perhaps, colleagues in our own sector: growers, traders, florists, horticulturists and interior landscapers.
So, in the early days of Into Green, we went to countless meetings and trade fairs where these ‘home’ target groups gathered. We always started our presentations by asking a few simple questions: how much time do you think the average person spends indoors? And, how many houseplants do you have at home? Followed by: how are they doing? Hardly anybody knew that, on average, people nowadays spend 90% of their time indoors, and the number of people with happy houseplants was often disappointingly low or even zero. What’s more, many people were even proud of the fact because houseplants were considered old-fashioned, more your grandparents’ kind of thing, like floral curtains and embroidered tablecloths.
Five years on, things are very different. Out of interest, we recently asked the same questions once again and now there is always someone in the audience who knows the right answer and at least half of them put their hand up and have thriving houseplants at home. Today, people know what plants do for them and that alone makes them happy. In marketing terms, you could say that this message has grown beyond the hype and into a more permanent trend.
It’s not about target groups, it’s about fans
Initially, we struggled to define a target group strategy. Who were our target audience, exactly? Architects, HR managers, the healthcare sector, the educational sector? There are so many different target groups, and different approaches to each of them, how do you know which professionals to target and what do you do with the other groups? We eventually decided to abandon the whole target-group concept and to focus more on creating a consistently appealing message that everyone in the professional world could understand and appreciate. So we had designed the website to serve different target groups which, to be honest, we subsequently used less and less. Because, time and again the best ideas proved to be ideas that work in every kind of indoor space, be that an office or a hospital, for example. More importantly, the key is to create fans rather than target groups, followers who are so inspired by the message we convey that they are only too willing to help us spread it. So we asked them to be the ones to proclaim ‘We are Into Green and we approve this message’. And it worked.
Independence was a great strength
For five years Into Green was a ‘slow’, independent magazine. We may not have had a large editorial team and were never able to publish very much very quickly but we did have the freedom to only publish quality content and to really focus on research. Moreover, we never have to use sponsored content. Our own professional curiosity always played a decisive role in determining which articles we did and did not publish. Interestingly enough, the top ten of most-read articles on our site at any one time, almost always included some of our oldest articles (link). These are the articles that convey the core message and that clearly still appeals. In other words: the message is not complicated and expressed well in these articles.
What are we leaving behind and where do we go from here?
It’s always a shame when something good comes to an end but a project is by definition temporary. Fortunately, we know for a fact that we have got our message across and are pleased to see the growing recent interest in and attention to the wider concept of well-being and green, both in research and in practice. Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are flooded with fantastic jungle-blogged and vlogged houseplant content. Ever more offices, hospitals and hotels are being given amazing green makeovers, with lovely living walls and beautiful indoor gardens. Indoor and outdoor green spaces are increasingly being designed as one, and plants are also used more and more for such things as water purification. The sector faces just one major, sector-wide problem and that is finding enough staff. While we are leaving the Into Green concept behind us, we will most certainly continue as a network for green enthusiasts, through the following channels:
The Netherlands is big when it comes to green but is, of course, only a small country. Over the past years therefore, interior landscapers have increasingly come together on an international level via the European Interior Landscaping Organisation, EILO. Many of the Into Green articles have also been translated into English and published on the EILO site. EILO also organises an interesting annual competition and fantastic excursions to various countries in Europe. In addition we plan to tackle several major issues internationally. Issues such as sustainability and the aforementioned staffing problems.
The message that plants make people healthier and happier is actually much broader: nature makes people happier, naturally, and nature is more than plants alone. A naturally designed building or working environment also includes such things as natural daylight, not too much noise, encouraging physical activity, and surrounding people with healthy food. Via Natural Works, we intend next year to gather knowledge and develop means of conveying this message to as many employers and employees as possible and inspiring them to actively put into practice. Once again, we will involve our members.
Coming soon: the living building
VHG has recently reorganised itself in domains. One of these is Building-Related Green; a domain in which roof and façade planting specialists work together with interior landscapers to create a green concept for the building as a whole and a corresponding market identity. This will be called ‘The Living Building’
Thank you all!
We look back at Into Green with great pleasure and thank all our partners for the pleasant green collaboration; a collaboration we hope to continue working on new projects, with current and future partners, existing and new knowledge.