Doug Platts is an experiential marketing advocate, a technology & data driven business leader, and a family man. We are thrilled to welcome him to the Gardenuity team as the Chief Operations Officer and excited about the experience and focus he brings to the company.
With a knack for creating successful growth engines and a love for gardening, Doug has a unique and experienced perspective on urbanization’s relationship to a greener world, how data informs gardening in the modern age, and how growing affects parenthood.
We sat down for a Q&A session with Doug to get his take on Gardenuity including his background, why he’s joined the company, and more.
Q: How did you get connected with Gardenuity?
Donna Letier, the CEO of Gardenuity, and I connected in November 2018 at the drinks reception of a dinner event. We immediately hit it off. Over the past year, we’ve been talking about different ways to grow the business and ideas on how we can introduce it as a lifestyle brand to the growing consumer base looking to bring a new dimension of wellness to their life. We explored ideas that don’t just require competing for our target audience’s attention through advertising online…we want to be ‘zigging’ while everyone else is ‘zagging’.
Whilst digital marketing is my background, I much prefer an experiential approach to marketing, using digital marketing activities to enhance or extend our core marketing efforts rather than relying solely on a positive response to a singular brand experience via an online ad.
Q: Speaking of your background, can you tell me a little more about it? Where you grew up? How you got to Texas?
Originally born in England, the early years of my life were spent in a tiny fishing village in the Highlands of Scotland. Later in life, I moved down to the south of England to finish out school and think about universities and careers. Just as the internet was getting into the hype cycle, I attended University of Sussex and studied computer science and information technology with a focus on digital commerce.
After graduating, I joined a boutique digital agency in Brighton which was acquired by iCrossing as part of their global expansion efforts. After a few years growing within iCrossing, we were then bought by the Hearst corporation — the company that owns Elle and Cosmo magazines, the San Francisco Chronicle, and various local TV stations. That journey took me to New York City where I worked as part of iCrossing’s global leadership team, as well as partnered with the Hearst leadership team as they moved their magazines, TV stations, and newspapers into the digital world.
It was actually my wife’s job that brought us to Dallas — she oversees the women’s leadership programs at the George W. Bush Institute. After a couple years working from iCrossing’s Dallas office, I came across Dialexa, a growing technology consulting firm (roughly 40 people at the time) that was looking to build their growth engine. I spent the past 3+ years there, refining their growth strategy, partnering with sales and discipline leads, and scaling marketing operations.
Q: What prompted you to make the shift from your previous job to Gardenuity?
After hearing about Gardenuity, I was specifically excited by their product offerings. Donna and Julie have put a lot of effort into a product that contains the perfect combination of technology and horticultural knowledge. Gardenuity’s container garden kits give customers the best possible chance of successfully growing vegetables, herbs, leafy greens, tomatoes, and more. Plus, Gardenuity delivers live, healthy garden goods to your door as part of a container garden business model.
Gardenuity is an exciting company to be a part of, that is having its best year ever, and the impact our product has on our customers’ lives is huge — mentally, emotionally, or physically.
Q: You’re bringing your experience in technology and digital marketing to Gardenuity. How will your perspective play out?
You can’t forget — Gardenuity is equal parts digital and technology brand and physical brand. Our product is about the
Digital is often how people find our brand and then, once they’ve found us, it’s largely how people engage with us. I’m doing a lot to make this side of the business run more smoothly and ensure that our customers understand how they can interact with us from wherever they are.
Q: What is your exact role in Gardenuity?
With any growing company, the role of the COO can be an ever-evolving set of responsibilities based on the immediate and near-term business needs.
Today my role is really focused on building out our growth engine and then scaling our operations:
- It’s discovering how we can define and scale a growth engine.
- It’s building out the brand with our target customers — through digital media, experiential marketing, and much more.
- It’s enhancing and scaling our digital presence through social media, our website, and our content.
Everybody in the company plays a part in these. Everybody is a marketer, everybody is a salesperson, everybody is a customer success person. It’s about creating and channeling alignment as well as looking at new ways to scale our approach.
Q: What do you mean by experiential marketing?
Experiential marketing is based on experiences with customers. Gardenuity has regular events that celebrate growing, eating, and spending time with each other — and this is a huge part of our marketing. It helps us get to know our customers and help them really understand who we are.
We’re also connecting with partners that want to surprise and delight their customers. There are all sorts of milestone events that aren’t celebrated. For example, we connect with realtors that, instead of giving their client a bottle of champagne when they purchase a house, they can give them a garden and really make their new house a home. We believe in making these experiences and moments that matter by giving gifts that matter — like a garden.
Q: How does data help drive business forward?
The data that we capture for Gardenuity Match, our technology solution to finding the right plants for our customers, is invaluable. We also continue to collect data to analyze weather patterns, etc. that allows us to be helpful throughout our customers growing time with their garden, ultimately allowing them to have a successful harvest.
Additionally, we’re always getting data from our customers to understand where our customers are, what their current preferences are, and what their future preferences might be. We use this information to identify opportunities to expand our product range and add new plants and vegetables that people can grow — for example, we just recently launched a new Taco Toppings garden kit.
Essentially, we focus on using data to help and understand our customers.
Q: You mentioned that you lived in New York City for a time. Right now, people are flocking to urban areas. How will mass urbanization affect a gardening brand?
As people are moving to cities, they want to create experiences in their home — whether their home is a tiny apartment or a full-blown townhouse. Gardenuity offers this. After all what’s more of an experience than live harvesting your herbs at the rooftop cocktail party you’ve hosted?
People also want to eat healthily — even if they live in a place where there is little access to high quality fruit and vegetables or it’s super expensive to buy organic. With Gardenuity, there’s a way to plant, grow, and eat your own tomatoes. Whether it’s because you want to eat more sustainably or because, like in my life, you want your family to engage in a healthy lifestyle, a balcony garden is a great idea.
Lasty, as urbanization increases, there are more people living in places with finite amounts of green space (New York, L.A., even Dallas to some extent). Gardenuity is a way to bring green to the concrete jungle, and a garden is a way to make an apartment feel like a home.
Q: What trends do you see in the digital and consumer spaces that makes now the right time to grow Gardenuity?
Twenty years ago, people went online to get away from their life. Now, people want life to take them away from their screens. While there’s a place for digital, we’re at a point where people are proactively stepping away from their screen to relish and enjoy the physical aspect of life.
There’s nothing more real life, connected, or down-to-earth than growing. And our container gardens are the perfect excuse to step away from your online life whether at home or in the office.
Q: How do you define success?
I think success is finding passion and excitement in your life, and creating happy customers and a happy business. Given that most people spend the majority of their time at work, you want to be able to enjoy your work as much as possible.
I’ve always been a fairly motivated person from a career perspective and I’ve partnered closely with my wife so that we can both be successful in our personal and professional lives. Even with a new child, we will continue to pursue our passions.
Q: You’re a parent! How has becoming a parent helped you embrace the importance of gardening?
Yes, I just had a baby boy 8 weeks ago. Obviously having a baby changes a lot of things — from how you can be spontaneous (or not), to decisions on how you want to live your life going forward.
My wife and I are healthy eaters, and enjoy exploring different restaurants and new recipes, and I’m eager to help my son understand the health (and taste) benefits of growing your own food. I’ve also been a heavy traveler and am very food curious. I want my son to be the same. I want him to eat sushi and the variety of vegetables and herbs that we grow, and I know growing will encourage this curiosity.
Q: What is your favorite thing to grow?
I enjoy a good cocktail, so I love the cocktail garden of herbs. My wife is also part Italian, and we love making fresh pasta. The herbs that pair with our Italian dinners (pestos, etc.) are delicious and super easy to grow, which makes them a good fit for us. And my favorite vegetable is broccoli which drives my wife crazy as I can just eat it with everything!