Who knew that there would be so many parallels between how to market avocados and the marketing of flowers?
Yet, when California Avocado Commission‘s Vice President of Marketing Jan Delyser speaks on avocado marketing, you can’t help but translate what her experience and expertise suggests for how to increase awareness and sales for California Grown Flowers.
So, it was a real privilege to have had the opportunity to hear Jan share her experience and expertise as our keynote speaker during the opening dinner at the Fun ‘N Sun floral convention in Santa Barbara last week. As the CEO/Ambassador of the California Cut Flower Commission, I was listening intently for what more we could be doing to replicate the success the California Avocado Commission has had in maintaining a brand premium in the marketplace for their growers. The similarities between the industries were eye opening and inspiring. Like California grown flowers, California avocados growers face steep competition from imports. Imported avocados have more than tripled over a 15 year period, dramatically shifting consumers access to avocados from local to imported. Like California Grown flowers, California Grown avocados are also challenged by brand awareness and “commodity anonymity.” With a super-majority of product now coming in from other countries, it can be difficult to get retailers to market the unique qualities and attributes of one region over another. And like California Grown flowers, California Grown avocados are challenged with educating a consuming public that their is a difference, “not all avocados are created equal,” and that origin does matter when buying an avocado.
After hearing Jan speak, I decided I’d compile my notes and share the 5 things that I believe we (us flower folks) can learn from what the California Avocado Commission is doing in order to focus efforts in the promotion of California Grown flowers as a brand premium that we know the consuming public would prefer if given the choice. I believe these 5 areas of focus are just as applicable for retailers, designers and florists, as they are for our California flower farms and the California Cut Flower Commission:
1. Focus on Authenticity
The Avocado Commission is doing a tremendous job bringing the stories of their growers to consumers. Research has shown that consumers care deeply about the economy and jobs and therefore prefer to support their local farmer. The Avocado Commission has worked hard to help retailers educate consumers and provide an authentic connection between the fruit being purchased and the growers who produced it. The Avocado Commission has developed a series of videos and radio commercials that feature these families who have been growing avocados on their property for decades. The videos help establish an authentic connection with the California avocado that cannot be replicated by imported fruit.
2. Focus on Origin
One thing that Jan makes sure you know about avocados is that origin does matter. Avocados are good, but California Avocados are the best. For all of the reasons you might suspect – quality, freshness, sustainability – California avocados deserve to drive a brand premium because of their proximity to market, freshness and the high standards involved with production. Jan also shared that there was a time with the California Avocado Commission had stopped pushing origin based branding, “the California Avocado,” and as a consequence they saw a very sharp decline in consumer awareness of the California avocado. Jan encouraged us to make sure we maintained our efforts to educate our industry and consumers that California flowers are the “local” choice. The lesson to be learned from the Avocado Commission’s experience is not to give up on pushing California and local and that people do care where their agriculture comes from. So, don’t give up, origin does matter!
3. Focus on Branding
With a share decline in consumer awareness between 2004 and 2007, the Avocado Commission decided to ramp back up their promotion and marketing efforts, redeveloping their brand to better connect with the discerning consumer, highlighting shared values such as:
It was great to hear how the Avocado Commission concluded that its most important attribute for the brand was origin and that they set out to insert the “CA” back into the “AvoCAdo.” From there, the “Hand Grown in California” campaign was launched.
4. Focus on Education
Jan had so many examples of their efforts of educating not only consumers, but also their industry partners and retailers on the virtues and values of promoting and providing consumers with local, hand grown, California Avocados. Knowing that their target audience mindset was evolving and and there was a growing preference for their food to come from closer to home, the Commission’s job was to connect the dots and educate consumers to understand that California’s avocados were that local choice. I also enjoyed hearing how at one time avocados, generally, were considered to be unhealthy, but with research and some help from Angie Dickinson they were able to rebuff those false claims. Now its consider a “Superfood!”
#5 You Can Do It Too
One thing that Jan did acknowledge during her presentation was that she did understand that the Avocado Commission has had the benefit of time and resources to help develop the success they are enjoying today. With approximately a $9 million budget, the Avocado Commission is able to purchase media to advance the California Avocado brand and educate consumers. However, Jan wanted to make it clear to the our audience (the California floral industry) that in today’s marketplace, with the advent of resources such as the internet and social media, we don’t need a large budget to get this job done for flowers. Even without a lot of money, California can increase consumer awareness and preference for its flowers. Jan then offered three suggestions on how to seize the opportunity to promote California Flowers:
- Raises Awareness of the Growing Regions
- Label California Grown Flowers
- Establish California flowers as a premium brand compared to imported brands.
It Makes a Difference
Jan’s presentation and encouragement couldn’t have been better timed. With a nationwide audience of flower buyers (wholesalers and designers), increasing consumer demand for all things “local” or “Made in America” and the growing “Farm to Table” movement, I believe there is no better time then the present for our local flower farmers to make the efforts necessary to win the hearts and minds of friends, neighbors and the general public with locally grown flowers. In my opinion, there is no reason that the centerpiece on your table should be any less local then the food on your plate. Choosing to buy local, American Grown, California Grown flowers does make a difference.
A copy of Jan’s complete presentation (minus the awesome TV and radio commericals she shared) can be found here: 2013 cac presentation fun ‘n sun (7-17-13)
What other things could we learn from the efforts and activities of the California Avocado Commission? Do you see the connection between the local food movement and flowers?
Please leave your thoughts and comments in the comment box below.