How does an international organization increase American consumer demand for a tried and true commodity product in the U.S.? The Flower Promotion Organization (FPO), a unique alliance between Colombian and U.S. flower growers, was created to develop and direct a US marketing campaign aimed at boosting cut flower sales. For years, flower marketers have been investing more than $50 million annually with little or no success of achieving this objective. FPO decided to turn flowers, considered a luxury or occasion-driven gift purchase, into a multi-purpose home improvement necessity. Would this groundbreaking approach sell more flowers? The answer is a resounding yes.
FPO launched the campaign in Fall 2000 in five U.S. markets. The overall goal of the campaign was to increase sales of fresh cut flowers among existing flower buyers by (1) creating awareness of home décor uses for fresh cut flowers and (2) changing attitudes from flowers as a gift to flowers as a simple, everyday way to improve one’s home and get creative.
The 30-month, $11 million campaign combines public relations, direct marketing, point-of-sale and advertising. After just three months of activity, the campaign has had a significant impact on consumer awareness, attitudes and behavior.
An analysis of secondary research showed that flowers are traditionally promoted as gifts, primarily during the holiday periods, and that women purchase 80% of the flowers. The majority of promotion efforts are funded by wire services designed to drive traffic specifically into traditional retail shops for these gift purchases. There is virtually no in-store support for mass-market outlets that sell flowers and no marketing efforts promoting the purchase of flowers for oneself or the home.
In defining the target, the FPO pondered whether to expand the category by bringing in new users or to entice existing purchasers to buy more often. We theorized that if we targeted primarily existing self-purchasers and encouraged them to buy flowers just once more, then we would exponentially increase flower sales even though they represent a relatively small segment of the potential flower consumer audience. Based on proprietary Omnibus research and the secondary data, the FPO elected to target self-purchasers and employ a slightly younger media skew (for a final target of women, ages 25-54), thereby targeting the self-purchasers directly and, over time, expanding this universe.
To effectively promote the self-purchase of flowers, the FPO had to adopt a positioning that would help consumers overcome their perception that buying flowers is self-indulgent and only for special occasions. So, the FPO tapped into the multi-billion-dollar home improvement category. Bringing flowers into the home décor arena encourages consumers to invest in them, and express their creativity and style.
The theme “Flowers. Alive with Possibilities.” suggests new, unlimited reasons for purchasing flowers. Under this creative umbrella, flowers are featured as multi-purpose solutions for home and office decorating that anyone can do. Focus groups validated the approach, with participants indicating that the campaign made them think of using flowers in new ways more often and fed their personal desire to be creative.
Focus groups and secondary research also indicated that there was a tremendous opportunity to stimulate incremental flower purchases by providing reminder messages and offering as many different decorating ideas as possible. Supermarkets and retail florists needed to prompt consumers to buy flowers while they are in the store. In addition, consumers in the focus groups said they often needed additional information to feel comfortable buying flowers more often – how to select them, how to use them and how to care for them.
The theme, “Flowers. Alive with Possibilities.” was transformed into a multi-faceted, integrated marketing campaign unique to the floral industry. Due to budget constraints we did not attempt to disseminate messages broadly across the nation (which most floral marketers do). Five pilot markets were selected based on consumer demographics, propensity to buy flowers for self versus gifts, geographic distribution and other criteria. The campaign was conceived, developed, tested and implemented in less than six months using a comprehensive list of tactics:
- Multi-media outreach in each market and nationally
- Television, radio, online and print ads that illustrate a variety of ways to use flowers throughout various rooms in the house
- A point-of-purchase program to drive store traffic and boost impulse sales. The materials provide simple usage ideas and selection, care and handling guidance.
- Local floral retailer participation
- Industry outreach to gain support on grower, shipper, wholesaler and retailer levels
After just three months, the campaign has had a measurable impact on consumer awareness, attitudes and behavior. Two independent studies commissioned to evaluate the effectiveness of the six-week effort corroborate the positive effect and indicate that the campaign is unequivocally impacting awareness of flower advertising, consumer attitudes towards flowers and flower purchases.
The first study, conducted by Ron Ward, Ph.D. of the University of Florida, assessed the impact of the campaign on consumer behavior. It showed:
Across the board there is a 20-25% increase in the frequency of cut flower purchases among existing flower buyers in lead markets when compared to the frequency of purchase without the FPO campaign in control markets.
The gains can be traced in large part to the FPO target audience, female fresh cut flower buyers ages 25-55, who show a 58% increase in the number of times they purchased flowers. This impact on the frequency of flower purchasing is further linked to those women buying flowers for their own use in the home or office, a key objective of the campaign. The second study is a custom research plan conducted by Prince & Prince Inc. of Columbus, OH. It was designed to evaluate consumer awareness, attitude changes and to help understand reasons for the behavior changes. It showed:
This impact on the frequency of flower purchasing is further linked to those women buying flowers for their own use in the home or office, a key objective of the campaign.
The second study is a custom research plan conducted by Prince & Prince Inc. of Columbus, OH. It was designed to evaluate consumer awareness, attitude changes and to help understand reasons for the behavior changes. It showed: