The Mediocre Middle and Florists
Seth Godin nailed it today with Radiohead and the mediocre middle.
For the record, Radiohead is a popular band that has decided to take the gutsy move of allowing fans to choose how much to pay for downloading their latest album.
Godin mentions how the latest deals by both Prince and Madonna also shun the traditional record labels, industry hierarchy and middlemen.
Here's where his post hits home in the floral industry:
Most industries innovate from both ends:
- The outsiders go first because they have nothing to lose.
- The winners go next because they can afford to and they want to stay winners.
- It's the mediocre middle that sits and waits and watches.
The mediocre record companies, mediocre A&R guys and the mediocre acts are struggling to stay in place. They're nervous that it all might fall apart. So they wait. They wait for 'proof' that this new idea is going to work, or at least won't prove fatal. (It's the impulse to wait that made them mediocre in the first place, of course).
So, in every industry, the middle waits. And watches. And then, once they realize they can survive the switch (or once they're persuaded that their current model is truly fading away), they jump in.
The irony, of course, is that by jumping in last, they're condemning themselves to more mediocrity.
In the retail florist business, the 'outsiders' (outside the traditional wire service cookie-cutter flower shop mold) are mostly the smaller companies who've established themselves by promoting their own brands and offering unique, quality consumer experiences at the local level. They earn loyal customers and great word-of-mouth buzz for being remarkable. Florists like the Bonny Doon Garden Company (featured in Amy Stewart's Flower Confidential), Eddie Zaratsian of Los Angeles' Tic-Tock and Altanta's Foxgloves and Ivy are delivering sumptuous, original creations that don't get dumbed down or diluted in value by the sameness created with national order gatherers.
On the larger 'winner' scale, take a look at the offerings from Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio-based Oberer's Flowers. Gorgeous and original with exceptional values for local customers, Oberer's continues to be a leading US florist by innovating and evolving outside the cookie cutter mold. While other top-volume floral companies, closely branded with national wire services, are seeing decreases in local volume and closing stores, Oberer's is expanding and staying a winner.
Like the recording industry, many in the middle of the flower business are waiting and watching, fearful of leaving a wire service focused model and unsure they can break out their own brands on a local level. But the waiting comes at at very high price and the later the jump, the more likely the cost will become insurmountable.