EVENT REPORT

Show's Guerrilla Campaign Blankets City With Flowers

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society used unexpected floral displays to build buzz—and sell advance tickets—for the Philadelphia Flower Show.

By Amy Carniol March 11, 2014, 7:15 AM EDT

Photo: Adam Kantorski

How do you generate excitement for an event that's been around for more than 100 years? For the organizers of the Philadelphia Flower Show—which, at 185 years, is billed as the oldest and largest of its kind in the country—the solution was to blanket the city with blossoms. The “flower bombing” campaign included two facets: a window-decorating contest and pop-up guerrilla marketing events.

Produced by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Flower Show draws thousands of spectators to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, while artists, florists, landscapers, vendors, and even chefs clamor to participate. The theme for this year’s show was “Articulture,” focused on the fusion of art and horticulture.

For the first component of the initiative, as in years past, several local stores and venues dedicated their window displays to promote the show. These “flower bombs” generated buzz for the Flower Show throughout the Philadelphia area. Displays were judged in a variety of categories, including Most Artistic, Best Use of a Flower Show Poster, Most Inspired, and Most Colorful Palette. Official judges ultimately made the final decisions, but the public was invited to give input via an online poll.

And while the window competitions have been a staple of the Flower Show for years, the guerrilla marketing component was new for 2014. In the weeks leading up to the show, the society adorned local sites with floral decor and promotional materials for the show. The marketing team decorated newsstands all over the city and even hit 6ABC, ABC's local affiliate and a Flower Show partner. The stunt involved covering the studio with floral arrangements touting the event. Similar feats involved “bombing” several local malls, including the Shops at Liberty Place in Center City. Various local florists provided the arrangements.

“These nonviolent explosions of beauty around the city helped promote the show and also brought beauty to the city in the midst of a brutal winter,” said the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's communications director, Alan Jaffe.

One of the most interactive elements of the campaign occurred over Presidents' Day weekend, when the society reopened its summer pop-up beer garden in a vacant lot on Broad Street, one of the city's most trafficked locations. “It was the most popular [summer] garden we've ever done,” Jaffe said. The garden's decor promoted the Flower Show, and despite a snow-covered ground and frosty temperatures, more than 2,000 people came out to enjoy the space over the long weekend. A major difference between the pop-up garden and its summer counterpart was—thankfully—the addition of heated tents. “It was a definite success,” Jaffe said.

The society also used social media to generate buzz for the events. Certain “flower bomb” locations and surprise events were revealed first on Facebook and Twitter. The digital channels were also used to distribute free tickets.

The stunts generated a substantial increase in advance ticket sales for the show; the projected total attendance was 230,000 for the show's nine days.

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