3 Marketing Lessons from FTD

FTD - Flowers by Wire logo

FTD turns 100 on August 18th

I vaguely recall the FTD Mercury Man logo as a child.  Perhaps it was on the company’s many Rose Parade entries my Mother insisted watching or maybe it was a TV ad.  Regardless, I just remember the funny looking guy with wings on his feet.  Over the years, I’ve used FTD florists without much thought as to the company’s history or it obvious ability to survive when so many companies have turned to dust.  So, as a professional marketer, I find myself wondering why, rather how did FTD navigate through all of the ups and downs over the last 100 years?  Perhaps, more importantly, what are the lessons for today’s small business?

I reviewed the company’s history and a fun little walk-back-in-time video to find out more.  Link is below.  It is a truly remarkable story.  From Flowers by Wire, to Florist Telegraph Delivery, to Florist Transworld Delivery. FTD’s product was originally delivered by horse and buggy.  Today customers order online or through the telephone on what is referred to as the floral super highway  that processes approximately 15 million orders and messages annually.  From 15 original florists in NYC to a network of over 45,000 florists in a 145 countries around the world.

These strides over these many years may have been the result of external pressures from the independent florists it represented or insightful leadership or a combination of both.  Whatever, FTD is an excellent example of how any company, how your small business, can survive and prosper.  What are the lessons?  Undoubtedly, there a lot , but from my outside perspective looking in, it appears there are at least three big take-aways.

  1. Consistency in the things that matter (i.e. mission and branding) – The company’s mission to support independent florists apparently has not wavered nor has its branding.  Sure, updates to the company name and that sexy guy in tights and wings on his ankles have been made over time.  But the changes do not appear to capitalize on fads. Rather,  they appear to be strategic moves to ensure the company’s long-term future.   When times get tight, like now, there is a tendency for today’s business owner to begin to waver and second-guess their concept, their business.  FTD’s consistent commitment is an strong example that remaining true to one’s concept can pay off in the long term.
  2. Continuously upgrading to meet customers’ wants and needs – I recall  several decades ago, FTD’s product selection was  very limited.  Today, a customer can choose from a wide array of flowers and displays and still fit their pocketbook.   Many small companies forget or ignore that customers like options.  One-size-fits-all approach to product offerings just doesn’t play.
  3. Ability to adapt to new technologies – From a horse and buggy to high tech global networks is no small feat and should serve as an invaluable lesson to small business today.  There are way too many retailers and service business owners ignoring their web sites, social media technologies and mobile marketing simply because they don’t understand them.  While web sites get old and useless and dollars are continuously wasted using ineffective and dated marketing tools, customers move on.  And, well, businesses die.

Will your business be around for 50 or a 100 years?  What three steps could you take this month to ensure your company’s long-term future?

Feel free to share your opinions and your insights as well.

FTD’s History and Video

Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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