By Katie Hendrick Vincent
Last week, thousands of New Yorkers stumbled upon a sunny surprise: a wall of sunflowers erected outside Starbright Floral Design in Manhattan. Beside the display, the shop’s chalkboard sign offered passersby a free flower in exchange for a selfie on social media.
“We gave out more than 2,000 sunflowers during the four days the wall was up,” said Starbright Senior Partner Nic Faitos. “Every day, we saw a line of people waiting to snap a picture. It really worked to create a buzz!”
Faitos’ inspiration for the wall came from reading a recent issue of the Society of American Florists’ Wednesday E-Brief, which included a story about landlords in the United Kingdom investing thousands in flowers to create Instagram-friendly pubs to boost traffic.
“You never know where you’ll find your next idea,” he said. “I saw that and thought, ‘I gotta do that!’ Then the wheels started turning about how to make it work in New York City.”
Faitos chose the sunflower wall because the big yellow blossoms convey summer, “which will be over pretty soon,” and because he’d noticed a rush of Instagram photos taken in sunflower fields around the state. “The ‘sunflower selfie’ seemed to have gone viral,” he said.
Two Starbright employees spent a full day constructing the wall, which went up late Thursday afternoon. Starbright suspended its daily name game for the wall’s duration, telling passersby they could “take their pick” (of flower) if they “take a pic” (and post it).
The shop’s sign suggested using the hashtag #sunflowerhour, “but most people ended up using #sunflowerwall, #flowerwall or #sunflowersnyc,” Faitos said. Fortunately, most people tagged Starbright Floral.
Kara Liebowitz, an outgoing Starbright employee, stood near the wall, greeting visitors and talking up the shop.
Faitos took dozens of photos and videos in front of the wall — some with his staff, some with strangers, and “quite a few with pets,” he said — and shared them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. “All these posts got significant views and engagement,” he still.
Still, the shop’s own posts “were just a tiny fraction of what was seen on social media,” Faitos said. “There was one woman, someone who’d worked for MTV, who posted a selfie and got more than 7,000 likes. It’s hard to track just how far this went.”
One stat Faitos knows for certain: the shop netted 84 new Instagram followers last week. “Typically, we get 10 to 15 a month,” he said.
On Monday afternoon, the Starbright team tore down the wall, a process that was broadcast on a Facebook Live video. “I tried to use very subtle political innuendo, like ‘We’re tearing down the wall!’ to get people’s attention without being too controversial,” Faitos said. During the demolition, they gave away the remaining sunflowers on display and captured strangers’ joy in receiving free blooms.
It’s too soon to know what new business will come as a result of the sunflower wall, “but I consider it a hit in terms of getting our name out,” Faitos said. Furthermore, it boosted staff morale. “I kind of thought when I brought it up that they’d think, ‘What’s Nic’s idea now?’ but they fully embraced it and were excited to see all the people stop by.”
Faitos plans to do similar “pop up” promotions every six weeks or so, “as long as the weather holds up,” he said.
Katie Hendrick Vincent is the senior contributing editor for the Society of American Florists.