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Marketing and Commercialisation at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Dr J.A. Jay, Marketing Manager, National Botanical Institute, South Africa

Home | Contents | Abstract | Introduction | Product | Market | First Marketing Plan | Six Products | Marketing Objectives | Commercialisation at Kirstenbosch | Conclusions

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An overview of the marketing and commercialisation initiatives undertaken at this world-renowned botanical garden is given in this paper. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden has achieved the status of the eighth most-visited tourist attraction in South Africa and was awarded the Satour Award for Visitor Attraction of the Year for 1996. This achievement came about mainly through constantly pursuing publicity for the Garden and the advantage of being in a particularly attractive position in the most popular city in South Africa for the tourism market. Current marketing strategies include targeting the local population with a specific drive to increase visitor numbers from previously-disadvantaged communities, and aiming to shrug off the elitist stigma of the past. Commercialisation activities at Kirstenbosch relate to the out-sourcing of shops, restaurants and the garden centre, as well as licensing the Kirstenbosch™ trade mark to certain identified business partners.

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Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, situated in Cape Town on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, is the flagship of the eight National Botanical gardens run by South Africa’s National Botanical Institute.

Kirstenbosch is a world-renowned botanical garden and enjoys the status of being the eighth most-visited tourist attraction in the whole country. In 1996 it was awarded the Satour Award for Visitor Attraction of the Year.

This is quite an achievement for a botanical garden considering its competition was Table Mountain, Kruger National Park, the Wine Route and Robben Island. Surprisingly, all this was achieved without a pro-active marketing strategy in place.

In October 1997, the National Botanical Institute’s first Marketing department came into being and the very first Marketing Plan for Kirstenbosch was drawn up.

The approach taken was to first review what we were starting with and the following describes the product and markets it served.

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The Garden, as seen as a “product”, had certain very clear and positive qualities:

1. Well known name both locally and abroad.

Kirstenbosch was well known, mainly due to the constant publicity obtained by a media officer appointed by a previous director.

2. Position, position, position.

It enjoys an advantageous position, close to the centre of Cape Town, on the slopes of Table Mountain, in a safe, leafy suburb.

3. Uniquely South African

Kirstenbosch displays only flora indigenous to South Africa.

4. Credibility

The credibility of what Kirstenbosch stands for means that the media allow it a lot of free publicity.

5. Beauty

The Garden itself is a truly beautiful place to visit.

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Close to 600 000 visitors per annum visit Kirstenbosch. More than 60 per cent are Capetonians and about 20 per cent are foreign. They are predominantly from the white population group, in the 25-60 age group. Attendance is strongly weather dependent.

First Marketing Plan: January 1998

The first marketing plan for Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden was drawn up in January 1998 with the input of staff from the Garden, Interpretation, Education and Marketing. This plan set down marketing objectives and described a pro-active strategy to achieve them.

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Six Products

The first challenge was to get to grips with what exactly we were marketing. This led us to conclude that in fact Kirstenbosch can be seen as a composite of six different products, which are listed below in order of importance.

1. Conservation area: Promotion and conservation of South Africa’s indigenous flora is the Garden’s primary reason for existence. It is therefore a champion of indigenous plants, as well as being a heritage site and an educator of the public.

2.Vehicle for Outreach: The social responsibility objectives of the Garden to reach out to surrounding communities ranked highly in the list due to the importance of this role. (Not only does Kirstenbosch bring school children to the Garden for environmental education, it also runs greening projects at schools in the townships).

3. Horticultural resource: Kirstenbosch needs to be seen as a horticultural resource for the gardening public.

4. Tourist attraction: Quite far down the list of priorities is Kirstenbosch’s role as a tourist attraction.

5. Beautiful park: Kirstenbosch is seen by many as simply a beautiful destination for a leisure outing.

6. Venue for events: Events such as concerts, corporate functions, weddings, and exhibitions, can be held at the Garden and provide a source of income as well as bringing people to the Garden who might otherwise not have come. Each of the above “products” has its own particular target market and these were identified (e.g. gardeners, tourists, etc).

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Marketing Objectives

Once each product and its target market was identified, realistic yet challenging marketing objectives were decided on for each of them. Some examples of these objectives are as follows:

1. Increase visitors from previously-disadvantaged communities: Our challenge is to change the demographics of the average visitor to Kirstenbosch by making them more representative of the South African population. A plan of action was drawn up which targets “influencer’s” in these communities, such as media representatives, community leaders and taxi operators (since transport to Kirstenbosch is a crucial issue).

2. Outreach into the community: The outreach programme is going from strength to strength and seventeen township schools are taking part in greening projects. The community gets involved in planting indigenous gardens at the schools through workshops co-ordinated by Kirstenbosch staff. Marketing actions include fundraising for these projects and obtaining ongoing publicity for the programme.

3. Increase visitor numbers over the winter months: Visitor numbers are very seasonal and drop off quite dramatically over the winter months, yet the Garden’s primary target market, the Cape Town population, is still here and need to be persuaded to visit the Garden. A pro-active schedule of “Winter Marketing” activities such as children’s events, talks, slide shows, two-for-the-price of one promotions and winter concerts was drawn up and carried out this year, with favourable results.

The marketing budget is very small so very little paid advertising is possible. The main marketing tools used are free publicity, promotions and events (preferably sponsored). Thus the first Kirstenbosch Marketing Plan laid the framework for a programme of action for the year, aimed at achieving the marketing objectives.

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Commercialisation at Kirstenbosch

Commercialisation of resources at Kirstenbosch is being carried out simultaneously with the Marketing Plan. This involves:

a) Outsourcing of commercial operations such as the shop, restaurant, garden centre and coffee bar to independent operators. Kirstenbosch receives a percentage of the turnover of these operations. They must therefore be managed to monitor income and ensure they market themselves as well, instead of relying on the “captive” market at the Garden.

b) Licensing of the Kirstenbosch™ trade market is a relatively new area we are moving into. Strategic alliances are being struck with carefully chosen business partners who are licensed to use the Kirstenbosch™ trade mark on products such as plants, seeds and gift items, in return for a royalty paid to Kirstenbosch

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The above marketing and commercialisation strategies lay down pro-active plans to increase income to Kirstenbosch and thus make the Garden less dependent on its government grant. We have set ourselves an ambitious target to become 50% independent of the grant by the year 2005 and all efforts will be directed towards this goal.


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Copyright 1999 NBI