HANDLERS CUT DOWN 'THINK FLOWERS' CAMPAIGN

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Dissatisfaction with short-term returns led floral product handlers to vote to discontinue the National PromoFlor Council's "Think Flowers" campaign, a generic marketing effort that was intended to increase consumer awareness of flowers and boost floral sales."The handlers saw this promotion as short-sighted," said David Mears, president of Mears Floral Products, Springfield, Mo.,

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Dissatisfaction with short-term returns led floral product handlers to vote to discontinue the National PromoFlor Council's "Think Flowers" campaign, a generic marketing effort that was intended to increase consumer awareness of flowers and boost floral sales.

"The handlers saw this promotion as short-sighted," said David Mears, president of Mears Floral Products, Springfield, Mo., who has been serving as chairman of the PromoFlor Council.

Mears told SN in an interview after the project was voted down that floral handlers apparently decided the program was no longer worth the investment, although he thought that decision was a mistake. "They have no idea of what advertising is about. The wholesalers want to be rewarded yesterday for results for right now," Mears said.

For the past two years the campaign, created by a marketing order and funded through federally mandated assessments, had been using spokescharacter Buzz the Bee to inspire people to feel comfortable making everyday purchases of flowers. The goal was to expand the business beyond the typical floral holidays.

The first commercial featuring "Buzz" and the "Think Flowers" campaign was broadcast on national television in late February, 1996.

Mears said handlers proved unwilling to make the financial commitment necessary to see it through.

"They found it difficult to write the check; a lot of money and no immediate results. At times, I even had a difficult time writing the check, when we were experiencing a bad month. I wrote the check because I believed in what we were doing," Mears said.

He said the council has already been officially dissolved, and its offices will be closed down "within the next couple of months."

The campaign was discarded despite the fact that a study commissioned by the National PromoFlor Council indicated that the advertising was having a positive influence on flower sales.

The council had an econometric analysis conducted at the University of Florida in Gainesville by agricultural economist Ronald W. Ward to determine the campaign's effectiveness.

The study analyzed the campaign results using a consumer information database collected by the National Panel Diary Group, Rosemont, Ill., a consumer research firm.

Ward, who is a professor in the food and resource economics department, said in the report that "the statistical analysis shows that fresh-cut flower advertising and promotions have had a positive and statistically significant influence on demand for flowers.

"An estimated rate-of-return indicates that $6.6 of additional handler revenues were generated per dollar of PromoFlor advertising and promotion expenditures," Ward explained. "Subtracting out the cost of PromoFlor, a net gain of $5.6 in additional revenues per advertising dollar is realized at the handler level."

The study also indicated that the PromoFlor campaign helped the industry attract new consumers. "These additional buyers represent approximately a 10% increase in the number of buying households within the National Panel Diary Group database. This gain is directly attributed to 'Buzz' and the 'Think Flowers' promotions," Ward said in the study's summary.

Fresh-cut flower sales had shown a gain in households with incomes below $75,000. The highest income bracket ($75,000 and above) did not response as well to the "Think Flowers" campaign.

The council had disseminated the study's results to the floral industry, but handlers apparently were not convinced of the promotion's effectiveness.

"The wholesalers were not willing to stay the course, even though they were hearing great results. If only they could have invested three to four more years in this program, this could have been something," said Mears.