Stages of a Card’s Life

Stages of a Card’s Life

This Is Your Life

THEN THERE WERE TWO

Only two giants are still standing in the greeting-card business. Hallmark and American Greetings Inc. garner 45% and 40%, respectively, of the $7.5 billion greeting-card market.

A WOMAN’S HEART

 

Only two giants are still standing in the greeting-card business. Hallmark and American Greetings Inc. garner 45% and 40%, respectively, of the $7.5 billion greeting-card market.

SOCIAL EXPRESSIONS

 

Cards no longer are the only calling at American Greetings. Printed gift-wrap brings in 17% of revenue; party supplies, balloons and seasonal knickknacks, another 23%.

A Card Is Born (Day 0-60)

COUNTING CARDS

Marketers monitor the movement of rivals’ cards into and out of in-store racks. A typical rack incorporates 1,500 cards.

COLOR CODE

 

Cards in the market are studied for new types of designs, use of color, changes in text messages. American Greetings writers then can apply new approaches to an existing database of 200,000 card designs and messages.

CAPTURING THE MOMENT

As soon as the design, layout and text of a new card are finalized, the results are entered manually and by digital screening through the Ancept Media Server and stored on an IBM Content Server.

A Card Is Approved (Day 61-161)

TESTING, TESTING

Managers show new cards to focus groups, conduct customer polls and ask psychologists to predict consumer reactions. (Psychologists also study how social trends affect consumer response to colors and designs of new cards.) American Greetings creates 20,000 new card designs each year.

PULLING IT TOGETHER

Before managers begin to sign off, American Greetings will pull information on its current inventory of cards from a JDA Software Group data warehouse, and cull sales reports on existing cards from a MarketMax retail planning and analysis package. The goal: Identify greeting card trends and ensure a card’s salability.

CHOSEN FEW

Even with testing, a new card must be OK’d by a designer, design department chief, product management team and, finally, through consumer test-marketing. Of 1,000 cards that reach a final design stage, 700 make it to your local store.

A Card is Made (Day 162-242)

ALIGNING INTERESTS

An approved card is sent to the digital graphics department, which turns electronic files into a set of specifications for colors, text presentation and paper alignment. Roughly 35 billion characters of information are created each week on new cards.

THEY KEEP ON TRUCKING

American uses software from Atlanta-based Logility to enforce shipping rates it has negotiated with trucking companies. American Greetings manufactures and distributes 2.4 billion individual greeting cards each year.

MEET THE PRESS

 

American Greetings used an “expert system”—Isaac’s Blaze Expert package—to rule over its productions schedule and manufacturing operations. That helped the company cut $7 million out of the $999 million it spent in 2001 on material, labor and production costs.

A Card is Sold (Days 243 – 303)

RACK ‘EM

Merchandisers deliver cards to stores, fill racks and input sales data using handheld scanners and clipboards. These frontline warriors may restock a store three times a week during holiday periods, adding “slots” for hot sellers.

FIRE AND FORGET

 

Using laptop computers and handheld assistants, this infantry sends sales information instantly into headquarters. Store managers just count the greenbacks and coins in the till.

TRADING PLACES

Used to be that all retailers paid for their cards first, then settled up with American Greetings when unsold cards were carted away. Now, big retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target let American Greetings hold the inventory, and pay only after a card’s bar code is scanned at the checkout counter.

A Card Dies (Days 304 – 365)

FIELDS OF NEGATIVITY

Piling on the points may be a good objective in basketball or football. If it’s a long time since a greeting card was reordered, though, such “negative points” will get a card pulled off store shelves.

THE 20% RULE

 

Some decisions are no-brainers. If a card is outsold by 80% of its compadres, it gets tossed in the trash bin.

FORGET ME NOT

 

The “other” 8% of card buyers—primarily males who send cards only on “corporate” holidays like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day—could be an untapped pipeline of sales, but many forget to buy their greeting card until it is too late. Stimulating the memory of the 8% club, says American CEO Morry Weiss, remains one of the industry’s big challenges.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Baseline.