Teleflora President Thinks Outside the Box (of Flowers)

Teleflora is returning to the Super Bowl next year with a spot that resurrects the sassy, trash-talking flowers from this year’s ads. Shawn Weidmann, president of the online floral service, said TV viewers will see a lot more of the brand in general in 2010. Weidmann chatted about some of the brand’s growth strategies and why the floral industry is actually benefiting from consumer trade down. Excerpts are below.

Brandweek: You’re launching a new holiday commercial called “Christmas Pee” this week. What’s the thinking behind this spot?
Shawn Weidmann:
I never thought that I would, at any time in my career, have a campaign with the word “pee” in it. [The spot, via in-house agency Fire Station, shows a Dalmation peeing on an unopened box of flowers.] It started with a trade campaign we were running called “Save a Florist.” [In that campaign], we were raising awareness [within the floral industry] of how much business gets lost to “drop shipping.” We think it’s a really bad experience when you send flowers in a box to consumers. We have a lot of evidence that consumers just really don’t like that. Oftentimes, the sender of the gift never actually sees what they send.

BW: OK, so the brand’s selling point—the “Teleflora difference,” as you call it—is flowers artfully arranged and hand delivered in a vase. But are consumers as willing to pay up in a recession?
SW:
It doesn’t have to be any more expensive. When you look at some of our competition, they might have more SKUs at lower price points, but if you compare them stem for stem and [take into account] fully delivered costs, there is nothing inherently more expensive about getting a local florist to deliver a beautifully arranged boutique to you. We’re all kind of around the same range.

BW: Competitors like 1-800-Flowers.com have reported a drop in revenues due to weak consumer demand in a recession. How are you using marketing to drive sales in a downturn?
SW:
The real growth in this industry is online, so we’re pulling all the levers to grow our online business—and not just our online business, but our florists’ online business. We have directed [consumers] to local flower shops’ Web sites, and just competing online and making sure our search engine optimization and e-mail [marketing] are working. We’re not discounting any more now than we have in the past. We just try to make sure we’re out in front of people when it’s buying decision time, and we’re where they may be when they’re shopping online.

BW: Do you see any uptick in ad spending/consumer demand this holiday season?
SW:
[Search advertising] has gotten a bit more expensive this holiday. The rates have gone up for Christmas. It’s a little higher than what it was this same time last year. That’s because last year, we were predicting the gloom of Western civilization, and so, a lot of people were not aggressively advertising. A lot of our competitors weren’t out there buying terms. A lot were pulling back and trying to figure out what happened. But now we’re kind of at the levels we were at back in 2007. This year’s [holiday floral advertising season] looks a lot more like 2007 than 2008.

BW: You’re returning to the Super Bowl again next year and also investing in more TV advertising. Why?
SW:
We plan to do more TV [advertising] around every holiday to raise awareness. That’s been a huge success for us. It’s hard to calculate our ROI on things like the Super Bowl.
That’s just flat-out brand building. But all I can say is that we’ve grown every holiday this year versus the previous year [and so TV is paying off]. In terms of building brand awareness, consumers are aware of the Teleflora brand, but 1-800-Flowers.com and all of our competitors have better brand recognition than us. We still have a lot of fighting to do.