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Marketing flower sales to new celebrations

April 16, 2014  By Gary Jones

It’s (another) dreary day here in Vancouver as I stare at a bunch of absolutely magnificent lilies in a glass vase.

It’s (another) dreary day here in Vancouver as I stare at a bunch of absolutely magnificent lilies in a glass vase. I marvel at how such an intricate display seems to appear from nowhere. It is “awesome” in the true sense of the word.

Personally, I love the clarity of the six-inch blooms displaying orange pollen-covered anthers attached to the pale green base of petals all set against the purity of a snow-white background. Yet, I know some folk would not care for white lilies in the home, shunning their presence as being reserved solely for more sombre occasions in family life. Or death.


So, I got to wondering about how we perceive the meanings of colours and how we link flowers to specific life events or festive days. Could this provide new opportunities for marketing cut flowers?

Right then, let’s start with colour. Lily white we all know. Most of us recognize that in Western traditions, white is related to weddings, brides, angels, hospitals, peace and purity while in many Eastern cultures it brings with it a sense of sadness, death and mourning or just a being of unhappiness1.

What about other colours? According to the Cultural Colour website, Western cultures see red as being a symbol of energy, excitement, love, passion, and of course, we link it to Valentine’s Day. Eastern cultures see it as bringing prosperity, good fortune and a symbol of joy. Chinese see red as the colour of good luck, celebration and vitality, happiness and long life. In India red is the colour of purity, fertility, love, beauty and wealth. In Thailand it is the colour for Sunday. Red in South Africa is the color of mourning, while it apparently means ‘beautiful’ in the Russian language.

Pink for Westerners means caring and nurturing and is feminine, except in Belgium where pink is used for baby boys. In the West, orange signals affordable or inexpensive items.

In the West, yellow represents happiness, joy, hope and cowardice but in Japan it implies courage and to Easterners it implies “sacred” and “imperial.” Green is lucky, a natural and regenerative colour in most western cultures, but giving a Chinese man a green hat indicates his wife is cheating on him – hardly lucky.

Depending on where you live and your background, blue is generally the safest colour, but it means anything from trust and authority, to peace and calm, to depression and sadness. Oh, yes, and in Belgium? It’s the colour for baby girls of course.

And so I began to wonder how we can expand our sales opportunities by taking a less ethnocentric worldview and seeing the possibilities afforded elsewhere by looking through a pair of different colour-tinted spectacles. And avoiding any cross-cultural faux-pas of course!

OK, what’s next? There might be another option for new markets – aiming for non-traditional annual celebration days. Yes, we aim for rose sales on Valentine’s Day. But what if we consider markets for different cultures? How about we try sales for recognized festive days like ‘Tet’ (Vietnamese New Year), Mexican Independence Day (Sept. 15), All Saints Day in Italy (Nov. 1) or Independence Day in India (Aug. 15)?

Perhaps these events risk alienating some members of society for whatever reason, so maybe we can aim for less controversial but lesser known calendar days.

For instance, did you know that
Feb. 28 is “Floral Design Day?” Or that May 3 is “Garden Meditation Day,” May 29 is “Learn about Composting Day,” and May 30 is “Water a Flower Day”? There are obvious sales opportunities there for our industry.

Failing all of these, maybe we can start our own days. After all, there are already some pretty obscure ones out there: “Appreciate a Dragon Day” (Jan. 16), “Submarine Day” (March 17), “Biodiesel Day” (March 18) or even “Frog Jumping Day” (May 13)2.

Go on, start your own!

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Gary Jones is co-chair of Horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langley, B.C. He serves on several industry committees and welcomes comments at

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