August 15, 2010
By Mark Cullen
Chair of marketing, Canada Blooms

Canada Blooms will be 15 years old this coming year. Over this period of time, the members of LO have invested heavily in it and grown it to be one of the greatest horticultural events on the continent — and by extension, the world.  

As a recent member of the board and current chair of marketing, I have some observations that may interest both LO members, who have personally contributed to this investment and others who hold an interest in it through LO membership.

LO owns 50 per cent of Canada Blooms with the Garden Club of Toronto (GCT) holding the other half. While both groups are equal partners, the fact is that the value of the Canada Blooms brand accrues to us, for the most part. We are the people who benefit from the strength of the public perception that Canada Blooms stands for the best in its class, as we do business with the public, or as vendors we support businesses that do.  

Our investment is not like a bond or an annuity. We cannot take it to the bank and demand a return on it, or borrow against it. I suggest that Canada Blooms is more valuable than that.

Return on our investment

When do we receive a return on our investment? Only when LO members support the activities of Canada Blooms and associate their company name directly with it, do the members and their businesses benefit.

The return that you receive on your investment is no accident.

I am not suggesting that you bet the family farm on Canada Blooms, but it is a wise member who carves some time from his schedule and puts aside resources to invest in it each winter and spring. Ask Tim Kearney, or Beth Edney (see stories in March and April, 2010 editions of Horticulture Review).

New opportunities

While the cost of entry was prohibitive to many landscapers, designers, retailers, vendors in the past, a new concept is evolving that offers an exceptional opportunity to willing participants of any size or means.

Recent developments have created a great opportunity for anyone and any firm that is a member of LO to make a valuable contribution.  

Arguably the grandest of all feature gardens at the 2010 edition of the festival was the LO Green for Life garden. With more than $300,000 worth of plants, professional design, materials and labour invested by over 40 LO member firms and 200 individual volunteers, a great deal was accomplished. And, contributors received a return on their investment.

The brand, Canada Blooms, is growing in value with every additional edition of the event. In fact, the value grows every time Canada Blooms is discussed in public and in the media.  

Think about this: when OEB, our public relations firm set out to gain media exposure at this year’s event, we could not have predicted that our media hits would more than double from the previous year. As a result, we experienced more than 23 million impressions (an impression equals one person exposed to our message). Sitting in their favourite chair in the comfort of their own home, they heard the good things about our industry by way of the Canada Blooms story.

To draw direct benefits from the Canada Blooms brand, all LO members need to invest in Canada Blooms and then associate yourself and your company with it.   

Recommended steps

If I was a landscaper, retailer or supplier to the trade I would:
  • Purchase bar-coded discounted tickets to the festival. I would give a pair to my 50 best customers this Christmas with a hand-written note, “Come to Canada Blooms and see how the best in the business do it! I appreciate your business.” The value is $18, but as an LO member, you will only pay $12. You will be charged only for tickets used. Contact Lisa Pascoe at 1-800-730-1020, or for more information.
  • Print ‘Proud supporter of Canada Blooms’ on all of my business cards, business letterhead, truck lettering, etc., and then I would be sure that my company DID support Canada Blooms.
  • Call my three closest friends in the business and challenge them to join me at Blooms for a co-operative garden installation.
  • Contact my three best vendors and invite them to make a contribution of products, or cash, or labour toward a feature garden.
  • Ask my accountant to come early on Saturday morning to help out and to bring a pair of steel toed boots.
  • Seriously consider reserving space in the expanded Marketplace to sell both products and services. It is important to note that our pre-sales of the marketplace are already 30 per cent sold out. Last year at this time, we were at zero per cent.   

Where is the value?

When Wayne Gretzky played his last game in the NHL, he was interviewed by Ron McLean during the second intermission and asked, “Why, when you could have played for any team in the NHL when you started out, did you play for a ‘B’ team in Edmonton?”

Wayne answered, “I knew the players, the coach and it was in Canada, my home. I knew that if I played for the love of the game, the money would come.”

Now is the time to sign up to participate in a feature garden or the Marketplace at Canada Blooms. Play for the love of the game and we all win.
Mark Cullen may be reached at

Festival reflects well on industry

Canada Blooms is a not-for-profit organization that has donated more than $600,000 to community horticultural projects. All plants at the end of the festival are distributed to the elderly in the Toronto area.

By the numbers
  • $7,700,000 total value of public relations of Canada Blooms over 14 years.
  • $4,900,000 total cash value of all advertising associated with the festival over 14 years.
  • 156 million total media impressions from all public relations since the inception of Canada Blooms.
  • One-million actual attendance at Canada Blooms in 14 years.
Value to L.O. members who do not plan on participating in this year’s event? Not much.

Value to those who do? Lots, depending on how you lever the value of the Canada Blooms brand and connect it to your own.