3 Marketing Lessons: How the Dutch Flower Sector Conquered the Vatican

Charles Lansdorp explained to me how unity and cooperation often lead to greater success than pursuing your ambitions alone.

By: WING CHEUNG | 06-12-2023 | 6 min read
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Wing Cheung blog about Vatican header on Thursd

As a marketer, I regularly come across fascinating stories that can broaden my view of marketing. One such story is that of Charles Lansdorp, the liaison between the flower sector and the Vatican. For that reason, he is also called 'Mr. Italy' of the flower sector. During a recent lunch with him, I gained insights that are too valuable not to share. Because many marketers should appreciate what Charles does in the flower world!

Meet Charles Lansdorp

What makes Charles Lansdorp so special? Well, here are a few reasons:

First of all, Charles belongs to the select group of Dutch people who have been participating in the Easter project 'Flowers for the Pope' in Rome for years. You will soon read how the flower sector achieved this.

But that's not all: He has also received the prestigious Garofano d'Argento ('Silver Carnation') in Italy. This award is awarded annually to individuals who make a significant contribution to the Italian flower industry. Charles won this prize as a representative of the Dutch flower sector in Italy. This is special because the Netherlands is an important competitor of Italian flower growers.


Charles Lansdorp wih Avalanche Roses
Charles Lansdorp
Photo by


You will undoubtedly agree: that is a remarkable achievement. For those reasons, I wanted to know more about him. During an unforgettable lunch with him, he revealed 3 wise lessons:

  1. Add as much emotion as possible to your products and services
  2. The collective as the key to flourishing success
  3. Always invest in marketing = always score

What is Mr. Italy's secret when it concerns the 'growth and flourishing' of his career? 

1. Add as Much Emotion as Possible to Your Products and Services

We humans like to believe that we are rational beings, but often we are not. It is not without reason that the proven Cialdini principles are so effective when it comes to convincing customers, for example.

Charles emphasizes the importance of emotion in marketing. Let's stick to the flowers for a moment. Why do you buy flowers for someone? Just take a look:

In other words: every time we give someone flowers, we are actually showing how we feel. And you can use that fact in your marketing: once you know what emotions your product or service evokes in people, you can use that to your advantage.

Charles not only uses emotion consciously in his marketing but also as a powerful tool for a positive impact on society.

Grandparents Day: A Wonderful Idea Against Loneliness

About ten years ago, Charles noticed that more and more Dutch elderly people were struggling with a feeling of loneliness. And that touched him. That's why he decided to do something about it.

Lansdorp is now one of the initiators of a special Italian day for grandparents. This day is known as Festa dei Nonni ('Grandparents Day'). This is an official holiday on which (grand)children show their appreciation for their (grand)parents. Charles saw this as the ideal opportunity to bring 'Grandparents Day' to the Netherlands.


Charles Lansdorp meeting with elderly people
Charles Lansdorp meeting with Dutch elderly people in October 2023
Photo by Speelotheer Pip & Zo


But there was a challenge: how do you create a stronger connection between the old and young generations in our society? In Italy, grandparents almost always live close to their (grand)children and visit each other all the time. In the Netherlands, the culture is slightly different.

Fortunately, he soon found the solution in his own profession, because flowers turned out to be the source of inspiration: “Flowers are products that convey an emotion,” says Charles. “They bring joy, love, appreciation and connection. That makes them a perfect way to connect with the elderly."

And so the Grandparents Day foundation was born. Every year it organizes a large-scale flower campaign for Grandparents Day. In this way, flowers play an important role in reducing loneliness among the elderly.

Oh yes, in 2021 Pope Francis decided to launch a World Day for the Elderly. The Grandparents Day Foundation was asked to take care of the flowers. Thanks to a Dutch gerbera flower, young and old connected in a special way that day.

So this is a wonderful example of how someone combines his sincere social commitment with a modest brand promotion. At the same time, it also shows how you can use a product smartly by linking it to a deeper emotional meaning.

In what way(s) do you add emotions to your products and/or services to achieve your goals?

2. The Collective as the Key to Flourishing Success

Everyone undoubtedly remembers the famous words: "Bedankt voor de bloemen" ("Thank you for the flowers"). This was the Pope's annual Dutch expression of thanks to the Dutch floriculture sector during Easter. Every year, the Dutch floriculture sector ensured that St. Peter's Square in Rome was beautifully decorated with thousands of flowers, bulbs, and plants.

But imagine if those flowers came from five different, competing growers. Would the Pope then thank each individual supplier individually, do you think? That seems highly unlikely to me.

"A collective usually works better than an individual," Charles underlines. "By working together with several Dutch floriculture companies, we managed to position the Netherlands internationally as a flower country." With the positive result that the Pope thanked the Netherlands for the flowers.


Dutch flowers arriving in the Vatican
Dutch flowers arriving at the Vatican's St. Peter's Square in 2019.
Photo by Florale Vormgeving Paul Deckers.


But of course, this collective achievement also brought considerable fame to every floriculture company involved. Moreover, this collaboration strengthened their international competitive position.

Unity and cooperation therefore often lead to greater success than pursuing your ambitions alone. A great lesson that is certainly applicable in the marketing sector!

3. Always Invest in Marketing = Always Score

In every market, there is of course supply and demand. Sometimes there is a lot of demand for a product or service, and sometimes there is a lot of supply. Most companies mainly invest in marketing when demand is high. Initially logical, because in a demand market, it is easier to attract new customers and generate more turnover.

But as soon as the demand market shifts to a supply market, you usually see that less marketing budget is released.

And that, according to Charles, is a missed golden opportunity: “It pays to consistently invest in marketing, even when demand is lower than supply."


Okay, interesting. Why? Charles' vision is as follows:

In a demand market, the product sells itself. There is a lot of demand, so customers are already convinced of the value of your product/service. But: a supply market offers you the perfect opportunity to convince customers of the value of your offer. It is the perfect opportunity to distinguish yourself from competitors. The unique value of flowers, for example, is that they connect people. And right now it is necessary to connect generations for more solidarity. We do this through our flowers and plants.

With good marketing, you show why your product or service is the best choice at such a moment. And if the market later turns into a demand market again, you will immediately be at the top. I can only say one thing: this lunch with Charles Lansdorp was tasty and valuable.


Header and feature image by @vaticannews.


What is the Grandparents Day Foundation?

The Grandparents' Day foundation organizes various initiatives to draw attention to the loneliness problem and to show more appreciation to the elderly: "Grandfathers and grandmothers deserve to be put in the spotlight," says Charles Lansdorp. “Grandparents play an important role in the lives of the younger generation.”

On Grandparent's Day, which we celebrate on the first Sunday of October, the foundation organizes fun activities where young and old meet. For example, lonely elderly people are surprised with flowers; they organize flower workshops for grandparents and grandchildren; and special activities take place in nursing homes.

A bunch of flowers is a symbolic gesture of love and appreciation. It can be a reason for a good conversation, or for a moment of togetherness. These types of interactions help break down prejudices about the elderly and build bridges between generations.

In short, the Grandparents Day Foundation is committed to improving the quality of life of the elderly and connecting generations. And all thanks to a simple product: a flower.

Want to know more about this? Visit the Grandparents Day foundation's website.

What are the Cialdini principles?

The Cialdini principles, often used in the field of persuasion and marketing, are a set of six psychological principles identified by Dr. Robert Cialdini. These principles are:

Reciprocity: This principle suggests that when you do something nice for someone, they are more likely to reciprocate. In floristry, offering a small bouquet as a gift or token of appreciation can work wonders.

Commitment and Consistency: People tend to stick with decisions they have publicly committed to. In a floral context, getting customers to commit to their floral choices, even in a small way, can boost their likelihood of making a purchase.

Social Proof: People often look to others for guidance. If a florist can showcase happy customers or positive reviews, it can influence potential buyers.

Authority: Demonstrating expertise and knowledge in the world of flowers and arrangements can instill trust and make customers more likely to buy from a particular florist.

Liking: People are more likely to be influenced by people they like. Building a friendly and approachable brand can go a long way in the floral business.

Scarcity: The fear of missing out can be a powerful motivator. Limited-time offers or highlighting the uniqueness of certain floral arrangements can tap into this principle.

Unity: This principle emphasizes the idea of shared identity or belonging. In floristry, it can be about creating a sense of unity with your customers, making them feel like they are part of a floral-loving community.

Wing Cheung profile picture
Wing Cheung

Wing Cheung is the founder and digital strategist at Synerflow. Within the B2B marketing domain, he has a proven track record on both the client and agency sides.

For more than 15 years he has been helping companies develop and implement online marketing strategies internationally. Common themes are marketing & sales alignment, the use of channels for interaction with DMUs, and achieving results within complex purchasing processes.

Cheung's passion is to make complex issues simple and understandable for everyone. In addition to being a professional idiot, he is also a father, avid museum visitor, a Burgundian, and can often be found on his bicycle. His life motto: "Either we find a way, or we make a new one!"



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