Highlights of the 2017 promotional campaign were presented to Christmas tree producers across the country via a campaign summary video.

“The video provides highlights and reach numbers for the campaign in an entertaining fashion,” commented 2017 Promotion Committee Chairperson, Mark Arkills. “Although plenty of growers engaged in the campaign during the season, but we know that many were too busy to watch the campaign in real time. This video helps to demonstrate how we reached consumers this past season.”

The video was presented at more than 20 state and regional Christmas tree meetings between January and March, reaching growers in at least 23 states. CTPB Industry Communication and Program Director, Marsha Gray, participated in question and answer sessions at these events to provide more details and to ensure growers had accurate information about the campaign.

“The campaign was a tremendous success,” stated CTPB Executive Director, Tim O’Connor. “With more than 260 million impressions between online reach, television advertising and media coverage, this was a homerun.”

In preparing for the campaign, the team developed and agreed on an overarching statement and three key messages that would be included in all campaign materials: A real Christmas tree is a choice you can be proud of.

  • Growing, using and recycling real Christmas trees is good for the environment
  • Buying real Christmas trees provides business for farmers
  • Selecting a real Christmas tree makes memories for families and friends

These messages were shared via a series of grower videos on social media, through more traditional media outlets (including a satellite media tour) and by engaging with social influencers. Our messages were expanded through a limited run of advertisements on the Hallmark Channel and a partnership with “The Real” television talk show. Partnerships at Christmas tree lighting ceremonies in four major markets provided an opportunity to share the campaign messaging with the media.

The campaign summary video is available to view on the organization’s website: www.christmastreepromotionboard.org/2017-campaign.

Consumer research provides insights

As a part of the promotional budget, CTPB funds consumer research to learn more about consumers’ attitudes about real Christmas trees, what motivates them to choose a real Christmas tree and the barriers that stand in the way of converting them to become real Christmas tree customers. Additionally, CTPB measures the effectiveness of its ad campaign and the specific messages used in the campaign to improve its results each year from these learnings. Consumer research is conducted in January immediately following the Christmas season and the ad campaign. In the January 2017 consumer survey, following the first ad campaign, CTPB learned some very important things that the January 2018 survey confirmed also held true for the 2017 Christmas season:

  • The type of tree young adults grew up with as a child is highly correlated to the type of tree they choose for their own families today. Unfortunately, most young adults today grew up with an artificial tree resulting in 64 percent of U.S. consumers having had an artificial Christmas tree in 2017.
  • The majority of consumers believe an artificial tree is better for the environment than a real tree. This belief is also highly correlated with the type of tree they had as a child and is reinforced by environmental education that cutting down trees is bad for the environment. Young adults today want to do what is best for the environment when they can, overcoming this barrier will require delivering strong messages about the sustainability of real Christmas trees and reversing these beliefs.

CTPB’s ad campaign was targeted at Millennial and Gen X families to deliver messages proven to be effective at overcoming these barriers. Our 2018 consumer research confirmed all three messages were highly effective in improving our target consumers’ attitudes about real Christmas trees and increasing their interest in having a real Christmas tree for 2018.

Research a focus for CTPB

The CTPB has firmed its commitment to Christmas tree production research by funding research projects and committing approximately $250,000 in funding thus far.

The first research project that is being funded by the CTPB is a continuation of the CoFirGE (Cooperative Fir Germplasm Evaluation project). Researchers from six universities are cooperating on evaluating performance of Turkish and Trojan Fir.

European fir species are emerging nationally as new and popular alternatives to traditional regional species due to their disease and insect resistance, acceptance in the marketplace and growth habits. The CoFirGE project is one of the most extensive research initiatives ever to be done in the U.S. with a Christmas tree species — over 30,000 trees are being evaluated on sites in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Washington and Denmark.

The CTPB has also provided funding for the “Development of IPM Strategies for Management of Slugs on Christmas Trees”. Slugs are one of the most important pests of Christmas trees grown in the Pacific Northwest relative to load rejections in Mexico, Japan, Hawaii and other Pacific Rim destinations. In order to develop effective tools for controlling these pests it is critical to know what species are infesting the target crop. Surprisingly this information is currently lacking for slugs in Christmas trees thereby making it very difficult to design effective approaches for their management. The plan is to sample in plantations for 12 months to determine the seasonal abundance of pest species and in year two, use this information to develop effective tools for both pre- and post-harvest management with the ultimate goal of minimizing slug contamination of exported trees.

Two other research projects being funded by the CTPB tackle the extremely costly issue of cone removal. These projects strive to reduce production costs, reduce time to market and increase tree value.

“Cultural Options for Reducing Coning of Fir Christmas Trees NCSU” is focused on herbicide application techniques to remove emerging cones. Recent research in NC has identified herbicides with the potential to selectively kill cones without damaging the rest of the tree. An application study will be conducted using backpack, hydraulic and mist blower sprayers to identify optimum equipment and application techniques.

The other coning project, “Cultural Options for Reducing Coning of Fraser fir Christmas Trees Michigan” focuses on two approaches; pro-active cone control (is it possible to keep the trees from coning) and re-active cone control (post-emergent treatment). This project evaluates coning and growth responses of Fraser fir trees treated with a plant growth regulator. It also initiates a new round of trials to further evaluate the utility of applying herbicides to developing Fraser fir cones to prevent cone development. This research project revealed an added bonus: Plant growth regulators (PGR) treatments reduced shoot growth and increased bud density in Fraser fir.

An immediate needs research project being funded by the CTPB is “Determining the Impact of Elongate Hemlock Scale on Shipped Christmas Trees into Florida.” This pest has been a leading cause of load rejections of cut Christmas trees from NC into Florida. In 2012, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported EHS entering Florida on cut Fraser fir. As incidence reports continued to increase, FDACS-DPI requested a robust host study of trees in the families Cupressaceae, Pinaceae and Taxaceae to alleviate regulatory and environmental concerns associated with EHS being shipped into Florida where it is not established. This study strives to determine the susceptibility of important Florida conifer species as potential hosts of EHS.