Project Description

Case Study: National Christmas Tree Association

The Problem

Beginning in the late 1980’s, purchases of Real Christmas trees had dropped steadily over a twelve-year period. Even more alarming, Real Trees were losing market share among young adults and sales of artificial Christmas trees were increasing year after year.  In an effort to halt these trends, NCTA formed a Market Expansion Committee composed of industry volunteers and key staff of its association management company (Drake & Company). Following a nationwide search, NCTA selected S&H to create and implement a marketing plan.

The Solution & Measurements

S&H implemented a variety of promotional activities aimed at audiences most likely considering the purchase of a fake tree versus a real tree. These activities included:

“Earned” Media Coverage from NCTA’s PR Efforts

  • 23 million readers           Key Real Tree messages in Mark Trail comic strip
  • 10.6 million readers        USA Today (2 major Real Tree stories; 2 smaller stories)
  • 8.1 million viewers          White House Real Tree featured on NFL Sunday Football & HGTV program
  • 8.3 million viewers          Tree care tips communicated through General Motors satellite media tour
  • 2.5 million viewers          Queer Eye for the Straight Guy program about a family buying and decorating a Real Tree
  • 925,000 readers               7-page Real Tree feature in December issue of Midwest Living

Advergame: Attack of the Mutant Artificial Christmas Trees

  • 8 million listeners, Kim Komando’s “Cool Sites” mention on her show and USA Today column
  • 1,180,000 game plays

The Polar Express Movie

  • 3 million households reported hearing or reading about The Polar Express-Real Tree coupon offer
  • Promotion mentioned in publications such as Los Angeles Times andLakeland (FL) Ledger; Northwest (AR) Democrat Gazette and New York Times, Topeka Capital-Journal and Toledo Blade; Cincinnati Post, CNBC and others.

Radio Public Service Announcements (PSAs)

  • 8 million listeners on 184 radio stations airing the PSA 13,608 times

NCTA Website

  • 8.01 million    Hits on the NCTA Web sites (up 36%) and a 44% increase in number of unique visitors (consumers, media, others)

Industry Participation

  • The number of donors increased from 888 to 1,289.
  • Donated promotion funds increased from $187,500 to $888,937.
  • Donors came from 42 states and D.C.; 6 Canadian provinces, Mexico and Guatemala.
  • Support of Corporate Partners: Organizations providing cash or in-kind support increased dramatically.

The Results

A Dramatic Increase in Purchases & Profits

  1. Consumer purchases of Real Trees increased 3.7 million (15.8%) from 23.4 million in to 27.1 million over a one year period.
  2. Consumers reported paying 26% more for a Real Tree (from $33.80 to $42.60 per tree).
  3. The market share of Real Trees increased 4.2% from 70.9% in 2003 to 75.1% of trees purchased.
  4. Consumers reported purchasing 600,000 fewer artificial trees.
  5. The total value of the Real Tree industry increased 46% from $790,920,000 to $1.15 billion … an increase of $363.5 million in total value.
  6. Among targeted age groups, purchases of Real Trees increased 6% among 18 to 29 year olds and 5% among 30-39 year olds… a dramatic reversal of the prior trend.

The Marketing Expansion Campaign produced even greater success the following year, as sales of real trees reached record highs.

In 2007, S&H won the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil Award of Excellence, the Gold SABRE Award (“Superior Achievement in Reputation and Branding”), and the American Marketing Association’s (AMA) Marketer of the Year Award, all for the NCTA Market Expansion Campaign. The marketing program for Real Trees also became a case study in a collegiate level book, Consumer Behavior (2006, Thomson, South-Western)

“Smith and Harroff is the best thing that ever happened to our association. Under S&H sales of real Christmas trees jumped from 22 million to 33 million in just three short years. These results were much greater than we ever thought possible. Their marketing program won several prestigious industry awards and was written up as a case study in a collegiate marketing textbook. But what really impressed me was the dedication the staff at S&H has had for our industry and product.”

— Irwin Loiterstein
Chairman, Market Expansion Committee
National Christmas Tree Association