Over the course of my 5 years at the California Cut Flower Commission I have had the privilege of working on behalf of a great group of hard working family farms. I took the job at the Commission right at the time the economy was heading into this recession we still find ourselves in today. Therefore, I believe that in many ways, its safe for me to say that these last five years have probably been the most difficult years for California’s flower farmers since the Commission’s inception in 1991. In fact, you can see it in their numbers.
Despite some of the suggestion I heard from industry veterans, the cut flower industry is not recession proof. Flowers are certainly affordable, even for the most modest of budgets, but when the economy tanked, so did things like corporate event budgets and wedding budgets, two important segments of business for flower farmers.
It would have certainly been easy to become fixated on this uncontrollable issue. Button down the hatches, slash promotion budgets and hunker down. Instead, after an initial S.W.O.T. (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of Commission’s assets, one very significant opportunity stood out among others; an old blue personalized California license plate that read, “CA Grown.”
With limited resources for marketing and advertising and even less resources looking to be available on the horizon, the Commission began working with its farms to encourage the adoption of this little blue license plate and leverage its established consumer and industry brand presence for California Grown Flowers. Of course the Commission could have continued to promote California Grown Flowers without a recognizable brand image, we’d been focused on industry specific promotions for some time, but none of those promotions would be as meaningful if you didn’t have something that consumers could identify and therefore help motivate retailers. And where developing a brand for a commodity like flowers would likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop and implement, the Buy California Marketing Agreement had already done the work and made this little license plate logo a big opportunity for those of its members who might choose to use it.
Over the next 5 years, the “CA Grown,” license plate became the focus of the Commission’s promotion efforts, often overshadowing or outright replacing any kind of Commission branding all together. While there were some farms who had been licensed for some time, the CCFC also began purposefully encouraging its farms to become licensees of the “CA Grown” logo themselves and to use it on any consumer facing products. During this same 5 year period, the cut flower industry became the largest group of licensees of “CA Grown” in the Buy California Marketing Agreement.
Today, you can find the “CA Grown” logo on the sleeves of California Grown Flower bouquets as far away as Washington DC. Retailers who had previously showed reluctance to labeling sleeves of flowers, found that it improved sales. Those same retailers have now begun encouraging its use with the farms they buy from. One of our farms shared with me that a mass market customers of theirs told them that, “if you really want to start moving units [aka flowers] through our store, you’d better get that label [read: CA Grown] on your sleeves.” The next day, the farm called us to become a licensee.
There are a lot of reasons why I believe the “CA Grown” logo has been an effective brand for our farms and their flowers. However, let me share with you just four reasons why the CA Grown logo continues to be an important tool for increasing the sales of California Grown Flowers:
- Local Matters – Buy local, Locally Grown, Made in the USA, all represent the increasing interest by consumers that look to support products grown or made in the U.S.A. The CA Grown logo has served to educate and identify with this growing group of patriotic consumers who seek to support locally the local economy by shopping and buying things that keep more of the dollars here in the United States.
- Its Simple – Its simple to use and easy to identify. Our farms have always marked their sleeves, so including CA Grown was an easy way for our farms to work together to brand their flowers, “CA Grown.” This mark has then made a simple way for consumers to quickly identify the “local” product and make their selection.
- Its Recognized – The CA Grown label and brand has been a consumer facing brand for over 10 years. During the Schwarzenegger years, it enjoyed celebrity endorsement. While California’s cut flower farms maybe be the largest group of licensees, many other commodities use it on their products, such as grapes, strawberries, tomatoes and blueberries.
- Its Needed – Flowers are not required to provide “country of origin” labeling. Therefore, consumers are not provided with an easy way to know where their flowers are coming from. The CA Grown label serves as a voluntary program for our farms to label their flowers by origin, thereby giving consumers the information they need to make an educated purchase.
I could go on, but I think these four reasons will continue to drive the future success of the “CA Grown” brand for floral and continue to help our farms sell more flowers while educating people on why California Grown Flowers are America’s Flowers.
Where are you seeing the “CA Grown” logo being used effectively for floral?