It’s all in the cards: What’s driving the greeting card industry forward?

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It’s all in the cards: What’s driving the greeting card industry forward?

By Carol Radice - 11/15/2017

Time-tested and generations approved, greetings cards continue to be one of the go-to ways people choose to express themselves. Despite having other options, consumers still prefer to note such occasions as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, births and deaths by giving traditional, store-bought greeting cards. 


This news may come as a bit of a surprise to some in the industry who, just a few years ago, predicted the category would take a different course. 


According to some, social media — once considered a prime threat to traditional greeting cards — is actually helping fuel interest today. For instance, people are acknowledging more life events than ever before because of reminders generated through such platforms as Facebook. However, instead of using social media as the only way to send well-wishes, it appears that many consumers are still heading to the store to purchase a card, as well. 


That doesn’t mean card publishers don’t have to work harder than ever. Industry officials said that on-trend content and cutting-edge designs from both established brands and newer entrants are all helping to keep the category relevant. Cards with hand lettering, textures, 3-D graphics, audio and LED lighting are popular with consumers as are cards featuring positive messages and customized content. 


“Our digital world has consumers touching things that are so smooth, our fingers are hungry,” said Megan Baucco, associate manager, marketing communications at Cleveland-based American Greetings. “Texture and dimension fill a need, as well as deliver on the artisanal elements consumers enjoy.” 


Consumers also are looking for clever and unexpected new ways to say things, and observers have said this is especially true for affirming messages. Even when a person is acknowledging something difficult, they want positivity to be the prevailing feeling the recipient is left with, Baucco said. 


While the idea of wellness is something drug stores always have been well-versed in, it is developing in new ways in the greeting card aisle. American Greetings officials said that consumers have become more proactive about and focused on aspects beyond their physical health — creating a trend around total wellness. They said greeting cards can help create or strengthen the emotional connections that consumers have an underlying need for in their relationships — more so than many digital forms of communication.


“Relationships have a significant impact on the mental and spiritual aspects of wellness, and that is a key focus for greeting cards,” Baucco said. 


New Consumers, New Needs 


And, experts predict that as long as social expression companies continue to keep up with ever-changing consumer preferences, future growth opportunities will be limitless.


Millennials, the oft-referenced “experience generation” are on the lookout for the next epic moment in their lives. This group wants greeting cards that represent their values — progressive, fun, casual and open. 


“Increasingly, millennials view cards as keepsakes, and are open to spending a little more to purchase cards, featuring quality materials and a sophisticated handcrafted feel,” said Amy McAnarney,  vice president/general manager of chain drug at Kansas City, Mo.-based Hallmark Cards. 


The company’s Signature line features distinctive, detailed and dimensional designs coupled with warm, genuine messages that it said speak directly to the millennial consumer. 


Multiculuralism Matters


As wtih other categories, greeting card companies are looking to offer products for increasingly diverse shoppers. Research shows that millennials are 46% multicultural, and even if they’re not, they’re likely close to someone who is. Hallmark’s selection offers its customers an opportunity to celebrate and mark a wide variety of holidays and occasions. 


McAnarney said. Hallmark plans to expand the Signature line with premium Hanukkah cards this holiday season; dimensional gift card holders; new Signature childrens’ birthday cards with detachable toys and games; a Signature Spanish collection; and expanded premium gift wrap and stationery, as well as new captions and price points.


In addition to its Mahogany line, celebrating the African-America spirit and culture; its VIDA line, which honors the heritage of Spanish-speakers; and its Tree of Life line, which has helped Jewish families connect with one another during key holidays and milestones, Hallmark recently launched an Asian-inspired card line.


Today’s modern family also requires card makers to create product that speaks to every family’s unique makeup, with cards featuring multicultural families, blended families, single-parent households and same-sex couples to mark anniversaries, weddings, and a new baby, among many other holidays and occasions.


Keeping it Fresh 


For greeting card companies, innovation means providing an opportunity to share an unexpected, delightful experience with family and friends.


American Greetings’ Cheeky Wishes is a new line of funny birthday cards, featuring animal characters. With a tug on the tail, each character moves and sings to a popular song. Its Wishes Uncorked line plays off the message-in-a-bottle concept and features upbeat music, delicate lights and whimsical illustrated moments tucked inside a bottle. American Greetings’ Costume Critters line was created to appeal to the pet lover in all of us, and features adorable photos of pets singing and dancing to their own theme songs.


For Father’s Day 2017, Hallmark introduced virtual reality cards. These cards leverage one of today’s top trends and combine it with a card and a warm, authentic message. Hallmark’s engineers invented a pop-up viewer that makes the technology accessible to less tech-savvy consumers. 


The company has plans to release a new sound card format in 2018, with the launch of Vinyls at Valentine’s Day. Each Vinyls card will come with a 45 rpm record, featuring songs from Bruno Mars, Aretha Franklin and INXS.


Company officials said both of these innovative cards help extend the life of a greeting card, make the moment of exchange more memorable and something consumers want to share with their friends and family.


McAnarney added that Hallmark’s premium brand, Signature, is innovative in this way too. 


“By creating beautiful, distinctive, dimensional designs, Signature cards are little works of art that people want to display in their homes or share on social media,” she said. 


The Signature team also is developing childrens’ cards that come with detachable elements that kids can play with, wear or build. This holiday season, for example, Signature is introducing a Hanukkah card with a buildable dreidel. 


Designer Greetings recently refreshed its Locally Yours line to meet the latest trend in customized products. Retailers can customize the verbiage by placing the name of a person, a specific town, state, school, landmark, etc., on the card for a personalized statement.


Carving Out a Niche


Boutique handmade-style cards are popular, said Dawn Garvey, CFO at Designer Greetings in Edison, N.J. In a world where everything is so impersonal, Garvey pointed out that this line of cards prov