Sending your very best

Sending your very best – Greeting Cards

If Greeting cards are Band-Aids for broken relationships, then it may be time for their makers to find some better adhesives.

The nation’s purveyors of social expression have no formal mechanism for tapping the national mood or figuring out the relationship needs of Americans. Industry giants Hallmark and Gibson admit that the greetings they proffer are not the result of a very scientific process. In fact, they rely more on a random blast of staffer intuition than on national surveys, focus groups, or mall interviews.

“We try to hire all types of people – old, young, single parents, an married couples” – to write cards that express the way people live and communicate, reports Sally Groves, Hallmark’s creative director.

Years into the flowering of the recovery movement, the company recently launched its “Just for Today” line, which targets those recovering from various addictions. It is the brainchild of a staff writer moved by his own experience as a recovering alcoholic.

Consumer requests and follow-up surveys indicated that people were looking for a way to support those freeing themselves of dependency. But Hallmark never consulted a staff psychologist. That’s because, like other card companies, it doesn’t have one – even though its business is devoted to deciphering the American psyche.

If given a chance, however, professional keepers of the American psyche would offer greeting-card makers the following advice:

* Get hip to the modern household and its diversity of relationships. California psychologist Carole Lieberman would like to see more cards for divorced couples on good terms, and cards addressing step- and half-children, parents, grandparents, and other kin affected by a break-up.

* Get specific. Today’s greeting cards virtually ignore AIDS, cancer, heart disease, and mental illness. Greeting cards might be a tasteful, non-offensive way of connecting to and acknowledging people isolated by disease in a hospital or at home.

* Trash the sugar-coated prose. Most cards err on the side of pretense, either too stiff or too flowery. Recipients don’t know what to make of modern card-style poetry: “Is it friendly love, marry me love, or just a cute joke?” asks Lieberman.

Gibson Greetings may have an answer. Their new “Life As We Know It” line includes cards that express four different intensities of love. Says Laura Guder, head of product development: “People just don’t have time to write love letters any more.”

COPYRIGHT 1992 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group