Keeping us Connected

Hallmark Cards Australia

Hallmark has been keeping us connected for over one hundred years. The story began in 1910 when a young man from Nebraska started selling mail order postcards out of a Kansas City YMCA. Joyce Hall didn’t have much money, but he did have a vision – and the work ethic to see it through. Today, his humble startup sells products in over 100 countries and Hallmark’s greeting cards, gift wrappings and other personal expression products have been translated into more than 30 languages.

Across the globe, it has become a brand synonymous not just for greeting cards but for enduring quality and integrity. “Whenever you ask consumers what card brand they last purchased, they automatically think of Hallmark,” Ms Daniel points out.

What is the secret behind this phenomenal success? “It sounds quite simple, but it is all about understanding our consumers and their needs, it starts with insight,” Ms Daniel explains. “The cards need to reflect the myriad emotions and relationships of our consumers. In order to speak to the individual needs of a broad spectrum of consumers, Hallmark offers an incredible variety of cards upwards of 3,000 unique skus.”

The company’s insightful, heartfelt offerings are made possible by an employee base that truly believes in what they do. “Our corporate vision is that we will be the company that makes a more emotionally connected world by making a genuine difference in every life every day. And the people within this business truly believe that.”

Meeting the evolving needs of millions of consumers also requires constant innovation. “It is about always bringing something new to the category.” For instance, Hallmark captured consumers’ attention – and their hearts – when it introduced music cards to the market a few years ago. Feedback was impressive and immediate. Ms Daniel even received emails from newsagents describing the impact to the individual customer. One email told the story of a husband who was looking for a card for his wife, and was thrilled to find a card that sang the song Stand By Me. “They were going through a tough time, and he wanted a singing card because his wife loved music and he can’t sing; he wanted the card to do that for him. I just thought that was lovely. It reminds us why we do what we do.”

Most recently, much excitement has been generated with both mums and kids through innovative licensed kids’ cards that deliver much more than your standard card. In addition to the ever popular sound and music cards, the new products include a card that becomes a night light, cards with lights and push buttons and cards with attached toys. “Kids are absolutely delighted when they receive these cards with extra enhancements, and parents feel more connected than ever,” says Ms Daniel.

Armed with an ability to help consumers connect, Hallmark feels confident that sales will stand strong against the barrage of modern technology. “There are some things that you can’t do by email or text or on social media. We know that card giving is still really relevant and important. Our research shows that, when consumers were asked which way of connecting adds the most value to their lives and is the most meaningful to them, they still say that sending cards is something truly special.” In fact, Australians give about 10 greeting cards a year per capita. “So we are really confident that there will always be a role for cards to play.”

Hallmark is still looking for ways to stay relevant to consumers through the changing times, however. “What we also realise is that the digital landscape allows our consumers to connect with friends and family more often and in new ways,” Ms Daniel says. “We therefore have an opportunity to engage with them in more ways than ever before bridging the gap between offline and online experiences.”

The Hallmark team has been working on two new initiatives to meet this goal. The first is an app that allows consumers to send a personalised physical card from their mobile phone or tablet. “The HelloYou 🙂 app allows consumers to send quality Hallmark cards that they can now personalise with a photo as well as their own sentiment,” Ms Daniel shares. “Moreover they can access this when convenient to them, expanding the opportunities they have to send a card and capture those special moments both big and small.”

The second advancement is the new website hallmarkhelper.com.au. The colourful website utilises cheerful, easy to understand graphics to profile the card’s recipient, then matches the recipient’s personality and the occasion to the right card. “It helps them see what the range is like and gives them an idea of what they can find in store before directing them to a Hallmark Alliance retailer. This assists them in narrowing their selection before they visit a store.”

The website was launched earlier this year as an experience that not only helps simplify the card shopping experience for consumers but also supports the newsagent industry. “The newsagent industry in Australia is coming under increased pressure with declines in traditional magazine and newspaper sales,” Ms Daniel points out. And yet, research shows that consumers still strongly associate newsagents with the purchase of greeting cards; in this category, newsagents enjoy an edge over the big national retailers. Hallmark would like to promote these independent shops as an ideal destination for greeting cards, “to help them capitalise on this leadership position.”

The Hallmark Alliance trade partnership program was developed to do with this in mind and the Hallmark Helper website is only one element in a suite of tools to drive individual store performance. Through this program, the company works closely with retailers to “create destination experiences for the Hallmark brand,” within their shops. “The stores that are part of the Hallmark Alliance program have signage that earmark them as a place where consumers can find really great greeting cards,” Ms Daniel explains. “They also have additional unique and compelling retail execution elements within their stores that differentiates them.”

Once in store, consumers will find a range of cards that help them say it beautifully and Hallmark offers them further assistance to do this with the introduction of Hallmark Helper Advice Cards. “Once they have purchased the greeting card, we have little ‘advice cards’ in our stores that will inspire and help them to write ‘thank you’ and ‘I love you.’” Consumers consistently tell us that it can be difficult for them to find the right words and we want to help them with that. So when [the consumers] hand over the card, they know that they have said what they needed and wanted to say.”

From simplifying shopping and card selection to aiding communication, “we want to help consumers connect in a much easier way than they have ever before,” Ms Daniel summarises. “We are really taking a look at all the things that we can do to add value to our consumers’ shopping experience.”

From innovative firsts and tech-savvy initiatives to consumer advice and support for independent retailers, Hallmark is making it easy to stay connected. And, consumers continue to respond to Hallmark’s signature style and quality by consistently choosing the brand over competitors. “We know that the Hallmark brand has always resonated with consumers,” Ms Daniel remarks. “We are a part of the most integral moments in their lives and they trust us to help them find the right way to express their emotions. It’s an honour to be a part of this and is the privilege we have for working with such an amazing brand.”

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July 20, 2018, 9:01 AM AEST