This blog is about how I am so lucky to be a part of the rise in popularity of one of the most amazing flowers in the world, the vanda. This is a showcase of how to turn a flower into haute couture. I want to mark the 10th anniversary of my partnership with Ansu Vanda and co-owner Steef van Adrichem and tell once again how creating a 'WOW effect' helps to promote also your business.
Like a Rocket Launcher
What does it take to create an event that will be talked about and written about? Which, like a rocket launcher, will take the business to another orbit? It takes a fine-tuned marketing strategy and, sometimes, a fluke. Only those who are ready to see it and use it correctly get it. That's how fate brought me as the founder of the consultancy agency Sobolj, and Steef van Adrichem, co-owner of Anco (nowadays called Ansu Vanda), together at the opening of Keukenhof park back in 2011.
Steef van Adrichem, a successful gardener and breeder of rare vanda orchids, already had an excellent reputation in the Netherlands and made ambitious plans to enter the international market. I already had quite some experience in marketing, and immediately understood what would help to make that breakthrough. My idea to combine high fashion with flowers in the shape of an event was sure to work.
Dutch Fashion Designer
I even knew with which Dutch fashion designers I would create such an unusual event. For five years I had been personally acquainted with well-known Dutch designer Monique Collignon; I was one of her privileged clients. So I plunged into the world of high fashion and luxury industry.
As a marketing professional, I knew exactly what kind of surprise to present on the show in order to intrigue this demanding audience; just how a woman feels in order to charm fashion fans like me. We needed flowers, special flowers. And when she saw the delightful vandas from Anco Orchidee, I realized that I had found them: luxury flowers.
The timing of the project was perfect. In the early 2000s, the popularity of orchids was skyrocketing. According to the Royal FloraHolland auction, 10 million orchids were grown annually in the Netherlands. But it was important for the grower to draw attention to his vandas, to stand out from the 500 varieties of orchids of different species.
The Monique Collignon couture show in Amsterdam, adorned with vanda orchids, was a sensation and a calling card for Steef van Adrichem. No one had ever done that! As you entered the hall, the audience was amazed by the huge floral decoration. A thirty meters long podium was decorated with 1,500 bright extravagant vanda orchids in colors ranging from pale pink to dark purple.
Symbiosis of Orchids, Models, and Dresses
But that was just the beginning. The audience froze in admiration as the first models came out on the catwalk. Chic couture dresses by Monique Collignon were supplemented by delightful accessories of vandas in the hair of the girls. Everything was thought out to the smallest detail: hairstyles (the result of a close collaboration between florist Pim van den Akker and the stylist hairdresser), the makeup of the beauties in the colors of vanda's velvet petals decorating them. The symbiosis between the orchids, the models, and the dresses was perfect. Everything worked for the perception of the image: sensual, elegant, and luxurious.
At the end of the fashion show, the delighted audience did not let Steef van Adrichem, who was surrounded by models, go without a storm of applause. The guests' delight and the exquisite beauty of the orchids were so great that after just half an hour there was not a single flower left from the catwalk decoration. Everyone wanted to take home a small part of the glamour of the evening.
After the show, the Anco company appeared in a completely new image and even changed its name to Anco Pure Vanda to emphasize its specialization on the queen among orchids - the vanda orchid. The photo content made during that evening became the basis for the promotional materials and a large-scale PR campaign, organized by my agency Sobolj. The vanda orchids by Anco Pure Vanda were much talked about in the international and Russian professional press.
The authoritative magazine Fiori & Fiogli published a huge article (nine spreads!) about vanda orchids and Steef van Adrichem in two languages, French and Italian. Should we be surprised at the increase in sales in these European countries? All in all, it was one event that went down in Anco Pure Vanda's history as the beginning of its expansion on the world market. But there was still a lot of work ahead.
To consolidate the success it was decided to hold one more fashion show in Milan, which I accompanied as a business consultant.
The next step was a masterclass in Novosibirsk in April 2012, organized by Russian wholesaler 7Flowers. The six hundred florists gathered at the event to learn the current wedding trends and hone their skills in creating arrangements and bouquets for special occasions. Especially for this event the company Sobolj held a casting among forty talented young Belgian florists, of whom the charismatic Stijn Simaes went to Russia.
The wedding bouquets created by this influential Belgian artist - who passed away too young in July 2016 - from Avalanche roses and vanda orchids became the standard of style. After the show, Stijn was lined up for autographs like a Hollywood star. The road to the Russian-speaking market was wide open.
The best example of how vanda orchids stepped from the catwalks into the private lives of their admirers was the international wedding of a Russian bride and groom from Germany. Let it remain a professional secret how I got the newlyweds' permission to publish photos of floral decoration of their wedding reception in the press... The florist turned the church hall into a colorful realm of orchids, the bride's favorite flowers. Choosing vandas to match the color of the main stained glass windows, he achieved an amazing harmony between the interior and the floral decor.
The final chord of the promotion in the Russian-speaking market was the international exhibition 'Flowers Expo' in Moscow. Its success for vanda orchids was already predictable because of the sensational projects (fashion shows, masterclasses, real weddings) and numerous articles in the media (Fleur Creatif, Fiori & Fiogli, Flowers).
Bringing Vandas to a Different Level
During our two years of cooperation, the Sobolj agency brought Anco Pure Vanda to a fundamentally different level. Orchids became popular not only as indoor pot plants but also as beautiful flowers for bouquets and compositions. Now the name 'Anco' and since 2019 its new name 'Ansu Vanda' are almost synonymous with 'Dutch grown vanda orchids'.
For the company Sobolj itself, this big project was the impetus for creating a new product: the online communication platform Flower Experience, which brings together in one bouquet all the secrets of flower marketing and PR. This blog has told you how I got there, and how a WOW effect helps to promote business.