The Landscape Lighting Industry’s Awareness Problem

The Landscape Lighting Industry’s Awareness Problem

By Mike Gambino

fresh ideasThis week’s blog article is geared more to my fellow colleagues around the country and world who design and install landscape lighting systems professionally.

While the home improvement  industry overall has finally caught a break in the form of a better economy, an improving housing market and consumers willing to spend a little more, there’s one area that some say has yet to blossom to its full potential: the professional custom built landscape lighting system industry.

The landscape lighting industry is in need of an “awareness of relevance.” In this article, we explore the subject a little more and look to the challenges the industry faces.

Top-of-mind awareness has always been a challenge for our home improvement niche. When people see professional landscape lighting products and creatively designed landscape lighting systems they fall in love with them, but unless they know someone who has one, they aren’t entirely clear what we mean when we use the term “high performance landscape lighting system.” Often, what they picture in their mind and what we actually design and install and market are not aligned. In the recent past, much of the industry’s marketing has been online, each of us professional landscape lighting designer builders competing for those who already know of us and are searching for information. There has been very little third party promotion (such as industry associations) during that period and as a result, top-of-mind, unaided awareness has further declined. As I mentioned, our visibility has never been great when compared to traditional competitors in the discretionary income product space. With declining awareness comes declining relevance, meaning there are often many other things ahead of us on the wish list.

Again, there was never really all that much marketing to the end consumer to begin with when compared to other consumer home improvement categories. While some of us have outperformed the market the past few years, in aggregate I believe our industry hasn’t grown. This reality comes at a time when housing has grown, new auto sales have come some ways back and the stock market is at record levels. This is why I believe our industry has issues to overcome besides diminished consumer spending levels.

Has the public’s perception of landscape lighting changed significantly?

What my experience tells me is that what most people “know to be true” about landscape lighting simply isn’t. For example, professionally designed and installed landscape lighting systems are more expensive than average consumers think they will be, but they are also easier to buy, have installed, maintain and own than they believe they will be. This really hasn’t changed much. I won’t say it’s worse, but it is also not better. Personally, I don’t believe the term “outdoor lighting” serves us well as it’s too broad. I know we all gradually moved away from “Garden lighting” because we didn’t think it was an apt description, which is true, but the term “Garden lighting” also has some perception problems and confuses some folks as they equate gardens to an area of the yard dedicated to growing vegetables. It’s not proven, and I am unaware of any research that confirms it, but I have talked to hundreds of people over the years, and the reaction I get to the term is mixed at best.

IMG_2880How can the landscape lighting industry change or rebuild its image?

I would say change, not rebuild. It’s not that we need to replace bad messages with good ones, but collectively, we need to replace no messages with some! That said, some of our industry’s former messaging about safety, security and beauty and the like, aren’t going to get it done. People know all that already, and their response to those types of images and messages is increasingly “no.” There are some more current, effective and compelling ways to market these wonderful, legitimate products, and custom built systems, those are what is worth pursuing. It’s time for a fresh start, it’s time to re-introduce landscape lighting as absolutely essential for the times we’re living in today.

What can fellow landscape lighting professionals due do to help increase awareness?

Promote professionally designed and installed lighting whenever and wherever possible.  By way of blogging on websites such as this, public speaking events on the local market level, getting photos of custom projects published in newspapers and magazines that interested homeowners read. When people see what we do and what we have to offer, they fall in love with the idea of a better way to relax and enjoy their homes.

I have owned and lived in four homes since I started my landscape lighting career in 1990. At three out of those four homes I totally demolished the landscaping and custom built new from scratch. Each one of those landscapes had the lighting designed first and the landscaping built around the optimization of the lighting system. Design layout of trees and plants was done with careful consideration so they would be the best types and species to illuminate after dark. Placement of plant materials were also secondary to fixture placement in order to get the best effect. The budget for the lighting was sufficient so that I would get instant gratification even if that meant taking from the plant budget and buying smaller sizes to start with. Plants grow and develop over time. Landscape lighting should be comprehensive all encompassing and enjoyed from the first day its installed. Most projects are not reverse engineered this way. Maybe someday they will be.

The custom aquarium building industry receives major recognition and awareness from the Animal planet television program “Tanked” and “Fish tank kings ” program on National Geographic wild channel.

Then recently tree house builders with a show called “Treehouse Masters” on Animal Planet and now the pond builders with their own show which will be starting soon congratulations to them all. They do beautiful work and their programs are very interesting.

Maybe someday custom landscape lighters will be featured and the world will see the beauty that we are also capable of.

This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .

Blog articles may be published with permission on other websites without editing or removing links.




  • Mark Carlson
    Posted at 06:40h, 15 June Reply

    Another excellent article Mike….thank you for posting. Our industry does face many challenges and you are absolutely right about this awareness issue. We are lacking direction and understanding of what it means to be a professional in this specialty.

    I believe you are correct on having those of us who “get it” and treat this craft as an art, gain these public exposures to identify this ability. Our trade organizations have not been effective to reach the public. We are most likely going to have to address this on our own.

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