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2022 Sponsor Q&A with Steve Dionne of CalFlowers

For the second consecutive year, CalFlowers is supporting the Slow Flowers Summit, this year as a generous Presenting Sponsor. We welcome CalFlowers' support and are eager to learn more about their leadership role in the floral industry. Slow Flowers Society is an affiliated member of CalFlowers. Debra Prinzing recently spoke with CalFlowers' executive director Steve Dionne for an update on the organization's inspiring floral promotion effort:

Q. Tell us about CalFlowers, its history and mission: A. CalFlowers was originally called the Northern California Association of Flower Growers and Shippers and was formed in 1941. A group of friendly farmers came together to find more efficient ways to get their flowers to market, mainly to airports in San Francisco and San Jose. Since that time, there has been tremendous change inside the organization. We are now a national organization with members in all 50 states, with just under 900 members representing virtually every industry segment -- breeders, retail florists, transporters, wholesalers, importers and obviously, domestic farmers. A lot of our members are very involved with Slow Flowers and we're very proud of our association with Slow Flowers.

Q. We are grateful to CalFlowers for its financial and promotional support and partnership, so thank you from Slow Flowers Society and the Slow Flowers Summit! A. We very much value our association with Slow Flowers Society and we're proud of the work you are doing. You are a great example of how the CalFlowers board of directors chooses to support the industry. We're very, very generalized in our approach. We believe that a rising tide floats all boats, and that ties back into our aspirational theme, which is: "More Americans enjoying more flowers, more of the time." We choose to stay out of issues such as domestic versus import or local versus California-grown. We just want to see Americans enjoying more flowers.

Q. Earlier this year, CalFlowers unveiled a new flower branding and promotion campaign that took the industry by storm. We featured this project on the Slow Flowers Podcast back in March, but I'd like to ask you to give our Slow Flowers Summit audience an overview here. A. We created a brand called That Flower Feeling. This brand is designed to endure through numerous campaigns from now into the future. It has its own website with some good information on it, and links so consumers can watch videos and receive flower education. The first campaign is called "Flowers: Self-Care Made Easy."

Q. Having covered the launch, I can say that the branding and campaign are both fantastic! What is the back story? A. We drew from two pieces of information. First, about four or five years ago, CalFlowers commissioned a semiotic market analysis that took a deep dive into the culture around flowers in the U.S. The firm we used was behind the Got Milk? campaign. We looked at consumer demographics around flowers and tried to paint a broad cultural picture on what type of campaign might be effective. In the meantime, we had eyes on the European market and its campaign called "We Need More Flowers." Until we launched our campaign, I thought it was the best thing I had seen in terms of marketing and promoting the enjoyment of cut flowers. It's really outstanding, very emotional, very colorful. It's fun and edgy and it helped frame our thoughts about a potential U.S. flower promotion campaign.

Q. Can you describe the U.S. campaign? A. "Flowers, Self-Care Made Easy" is a response to a self-care theme we saw during COVID. Self-care is a burgeoning industry with younger generations and especially among women. It's all over the cultural zeitgeist. It's all over Tik-Tok and Instagram. We felt we could move fresh flowers into the self-care space, which contains a random conglomeration ranging from yoga, breathing and meditation to candles and everything between. What we already know from years and years of scientific studies is that flowers absolutely belong in the wellness space. We set out to communicate this concept in a funny, edgy and irreverent way, and to make the creative assets very sharable in terms of social media. And we think we accomplished that goal.

Self care has become a lot of work. You gotta pamper, practice mindfulness, balance life and work, and be awesome at all of them. Flowers on the other hand are self care made easy. They won’t replace working out or eating well. But they’re a spiritual tune-up. So treat yourself to a little off-the-shelf self care.
--That Flower Feeling

Q. Can you summarize the campaign's message? A. We wanted to demonstrate the lengths people will go to achieve their self-care goals. The whole idea of the campaign says: "You can basically try all these things like scream therapy, yoga, facial masks, green juices, or a home sauna, and here is how that might (disastrously) go. But the easiest path to self-care is just go buy yourself some flowers." It's very relatable.

Q. Who is your target audience? A. Ages 25 to 35, skewing more heavily toward women with a household income of $60,000 and up. Q. During our Slow Flowers Podcast interview earlier this year you shared many facets of this campaign (replay video is available here). How can floral entrepreneurs get involved? A. CalFlowers made the decision quite early on to give campaign assets to everyone for free, no strings attached. Anyone can go to our website,, request access to the partner page, and download all the marketing tools. There is a guide that outlines how to use the assets, which come in varying sizes and range from logos to images to films. Florists and flower farmers can add their own company logo to the graphics. This is a very creative industry full of creative minds. We look forward to seeing how people use the assets on their own platforms.

Q. Congratulations! When I first learned about the campaign, I worried that it wasn't going to benefit the Slow Flowers Movement because it doesn't promote domestic flowers. Can growers or designers whose brands are based on domestic flowers use the "Flowers: Self-Care Made Easy" campaign for their marketing? A. Absolutely. It's unorthodox because we're literally telling everyone in the floral industry, "Take all these assets for free and use them as much as you want in as many different ways as you want." The CalFlowers position is that if we create X% market expansion, it's going to affect everybody, including the people who transport the flowers, who import the flowers, and who grow the flowers. CalFlowers is motivated to support all these efforts inside the industry, Slow Flowers being a fantastic example.

Q. What's next for That Flower Feeling? A. Around 250 companies in the floral industry have downloaded the assets and are using them in their own channels, including flower farms, flower shops, and wholesale florists. It's encouraging to see the whole industry behind the movement and pushing out this message. We would love to see more companies become aware of this campaign and see the value of what we're trying to do. That leads to a more concrete issue, which is that CalFlowers will be launching a funding model to keep this campaign going into the future. It will be a voluntary funding model with suggested annual contributions based on company size, which will work within existing marketing budgets - maybe between one-tenth and one-hundredth percent of gross annual revenue. For smaller or newer flower farms, or a smaller retail florist, we might be looking at $20 per month or somewhere in that ballpark. This micro donation style of small contributions will be successful if enough people get behind it. This could add up to a budget that allows That Flower Feeling to stay in the marketplace and create entirely new marketing asset in the future.

Q. What long-range results do you envision? A. We envision a positive feedback loop where first, there is revenue growth across all segments of the industry as a result of the marketing efforts; and second, the industry continues to receive new, professional, polished marketing assets they can use to leverage their individual businesses. We've established That Flower Feeling Foundation, which will be the vehicle to collect funds. It will have all the appropriate and transparent accounting, so the industry can see how funds are being managed and what part of the budget goes to creative, what part is for digital media, agency fees, and other things of that nature. We hope to roll out the details by late June or early July. Q. What's coming up for CalFlowers? A. CalFlowers is well known for our Fun 'N' Sun Convention, which is an every other year event. This year it takes place during the last week of August at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. The convention theme is based around That Flower Feeling.


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