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Reminding Consumers To Buy Flowers Pays Off, UF Research Says

By:
Cindy Spence

Source:
Ronald Ward, (352) 392-9490

GAINESVILLE—Of course you’re planning to send flowers on Mother’s Day. It’s the second busiest flower holiday of the year.

But did you send flowers last week or last month? Or do you plan to sometime soon, just because? If so, chances are you’re under the influence of a plump fellow named Buzz, says a University of Florida economist.

Not sure you know Buzz? Well, he’s the bumblebee-man that has been showing up on television, in magazines and in personal appearances around the country to promote flowers.

You may remember one of his first commercials. Four men are playing golf and one is talking about what to get his wife for their anniversary. Buzz saunters up (never mind that no one is startled by the sight of a giant talking bumblebee) and suggests flowers, the same kind that were in her wedding bouquet, and voila, the problem is solved.

Buzz is the spokesbumblebee of the National PromoFlor Council, the marketing arm of the cut flower industry, which wholesales flowers to florists and other retail outlets. The industry decided in 1993 to assess itself a fee of 0.5 percent of gross sales, which goes into a kitty that the industry uses for research and promotion.

This past year, in its first year of operation, the kitty grew to $10 million, with enough to finance Buzz’s February 1996 debut, said food and resource economist Ronald Ward, of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“The promotion is built around Buzz and we’ve found that recall of this figure is phenomenal,” Ward said.

Ward’s econometric model also shows that Buzz’s popularity has translated into income for the cut flower industry. For every dollar invested in the Think Flowers campaign that features Buzz, consumers are spending more and the handlers are realizing $6.62 more per promotion dollar.

“Considering the return, we’re real pleased with it,” said Jim Wanko, chief executive officer of the National PromoFlor Council. “Dr. Ward’s model showed us that the increase was due to the promotion, that the promotion made it happen.”

Wanko said a Louis Harris survey showed that Buzz, although a new kid on the advertising block, already is as popular as the Energizer Bunny.

“Research shows us that advertising is cumulative, so in four to six years we could probably change this industry,” Wanko said.

Flower handlers will vote in June on whether to keep assessing themselves a fee to continue the promotion. In front of them will be Ward’s report.

Ward concluded that Buzz and the Think Flowers campaign attracted additional buyers for cut flowers and that buyers spent more per buying occasion.

Ward also interpreted the data by four income groups: under $25,000, $25,000 to $49,999, $50,000 to $74,999, and $75,000 and over. He found that only the highest income group was unmoved by the promotions. These people, he said, already buy more flowers than the other groups.

Ward found that in the lowest income group, households under $25,000, 70 percent of the gains were due to attracting additional consumers. In the other two income groups affected by the promotion the majority of buyers were spending more on each buying occasion.

Of the $6.62 in revenue generated by each dollar invested in PromoFlor, Ward said $1.98 was profit for the flower handlers, or wholesalers, that finance the promotion.

“That’s double,” Ward said, “an incredible return.”

Ward said that in 1996, in an average month, advertising increased the number of flower buyers by 10 percent.

PromoFlor’s Wanko said the campaign prompts consumers to do what they already want to do.

“We know that consumers love our product, everybody loves flowers. But apart from the flower-giving holidays it takes an ad to remind us to buy them,” Wanko said. “And it only takes 2 or 3 percentage point change to turn an average month into a Mother’s Day month.”

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