Revisiting Collective Marketing

Our industry’s organizations have been talking about launching collective marketing campaigns for decades, but the stumbling block has always been figuring out how to raise millions of dollars to create national impressions through conventional advertising – television, print and radio. The popularity of interactive social media on the Internet has become a game changer in the marketing world. Financial barriers to entry are low. A hip and edgy small company can be more interactive than the most famous brands. It’s a level playing field.

The biggest investment would be paying for time and talent to cultivate online communities, one consumer at a time. The ideal marketing staff would be creative social media junkies who could find out who and where the influential bloggers and forums are to stimulate conversations and place stories inside and outside our industry. Yes, we want to continue to excite people who already love plants and flowers, but we also need to cultivate new people and future generations. We need to connect the dots in unexpected ways to match plants and flowers with their interests.

Facebook’s sweeping embrace by millions of people in all age groups has really gotten people excited, especially the sheer numbers in Baby Boomers and Generation Y. But I will continue to stick up for my generation, X. Sure, there aren’t as many of us and we’re really busy, burdened and financially strapped, but perhaps we need plants and flowers the most! We just don’t know it.

Most of this summer’s Seeley Conference at Cornell University in late June was focused on connecting with consumers in new ways. There also was a breakout workshop to brainstorm messaging that would be relevant to multiple generations. We can get started now if we can just agree on a message and get behind it. The message can be incorporated in all existing marketing efforts by supporters. An attainable pool of funds could be raised as seed money to get a grassroots campaign going through social media and public relations channels. Unlike traditional campaigns focused on numbers of impressions, this type would be very strategic and focused on building relationships and interactivity more so than impressions. It is also easier and more accurate to measure results from digital activities. It’s possible to know exactly who and how many people clicked on a story or responded. Metrics are measurable.

On the first day of the Seeley Conference, I will confess when some speakers presented social media as our marketing savior and were completely dazzled by Gen Y, I did sigh and roll my eyes. The World Wide Web is so vast. How are we going to target and engage consumers effectively and make a difference? Are we going to put up the next coolest video on You Tube that’s a viral, pass-along sensation? I was cynical. But then I did see some real examples that were encouraging and opened my mind to possibilities.

I was especially impressed with how far 1-800-Flowers has come in the digital world, even developing an application for iPhones featured in Apple’s ads. Now the company is trying to create the types of relationships florists used to have with regular customers in their stores but online. These customers have faces and personalities. So do the designers behind the arrangements. The “Spot A Mom” campaign encouraging consumers to praise all the mothers in their lives and buy multiple arrangements was a big hit.

Companies like Proven Winners are also ahead of the curve cultivating one-to-one relationships and inviting consumers in behind the scenes to help shape decisions.
The potential is definitely there. A grassroots campaign needs to be executed strategically and with passion. Just putting up a Facebook fan page and hoping people will come won’t deliver the results.

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