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I’m Afraid of Hallmark Stores

May 11, 2011

“Birthday’s were invented by Hallmark to sell cards.” – Ron Swanson, NBC’s Parks & Recreation

Hallmark has received a bad rap as the “inventor” of several holidays with the intention of selling more greeting cards.  Although I’m not a fan of the phrase “they’re a victim of their own success” for Hallmark it may be true.   The quote above wouldn’t have been funny (or even used) if people didn’t think it was true.  That’s why I think their latest campaign is a great idea.  “Life is a Special Occasion” urges people to view every day as special and use Hallmark cards and products to build stronger relationships.

According to Hallmark chief marketing officer Lisa Macpherson, their target audience is “moms and grandmothers.”  Hard work and planning has ensured that the look and feel of their stores communicate to their customers. They have succeeded.  I’m afraid to walk into a Hallmark Store.  Their stores make me feel incredibly uncomfortable and I don’t find the way-finding very intuitive.  If I need to pick up a card for a special occasion, I’ll go to Target or the supermarket before I’d walk into a Hallmark Store.  Which is sad considering I live in Kansas City, the home of Hallmark.

I’m a stay-at-home dad (SAHD). I cook the kids’ breakfast, pack their lunches, take them to the doctor, help with their homework, vacuum, do the dishes, laundry, clean the house (sort of – it’s really not a strength) and volunteer on the PTO.  Lately there are a lot more fathers at home like me.  After doing a quick search online, I’ve discovered there are anywhere from 158,000 to over 2 million stay-at-home dads in the United States.  The numbers vary greatly in large part because there is still a stigma in the U.S. that the woman’s place is in the home and the man is climbing corporate ladders.  Rose Kreider, a family demographer with the Census Bureau said that the bureau’s definition of a stay-at-home parent is based on a 1950s stereotype of a breadwinner-homemaker family.  That’s not really a reliable measure of today’s economic climate.  However, it is believed that roughly one out of five stay-at-home parents is a father.

Unfortunately like most other companies, Hallmark is guilty of ignoring the SAHD market.  Of course it’s by design.  Companies aren’t going to risk time and resources developing products and marketing to an undefined segment like SAHD.  With the creative talent and technology they have available, I believe Hallmark is in a unique position to launch a new brand that targets dads.

The kids’ grandparents each live 3 hours away so they don’t get to see them as often as any of us would like.  There are several products that Hallmark could develop under a new brand that would assist me and the grandparents in showing how “Life is a Special Occasion.”

1. Movie Storyboards
I’ve been using my iPhone and Flip to record the kids’ activities and email them to the grandparents (which they love).  Programs like iMovie are great for editing and include a feature I really like which lets you build movie trailers.  The trailers give you a storyboard to help edit so the images flow together at appropriate lengths and have background music.  Hallmark could find an audience in creating some movie storyboards that are slightly longer and more flexible than the iMovie trailers.  Have the program available on a cloud with a simple solution for sharing and downloading the movies and they’re driving traffic to their site and potential additional sales.

2. Digital Cards and Story Books
To be honest, Hallmark may already do this, but I’m not aware of it (again, I’m not their target audience).  The kids love to draw and tell stories.  Combine them into a program where either I can either scan/take a picture of their creation and load it into a custom-made card.  If it’s a story, let me load their illustrations and text into a book platform.  There’s a site a friend used called Kerpoof Studio (www.kerpoof.com) that does something similar.  Once it’s created, let me send it to the grandparents who will view it on either their iPad or iPhone (yes, the grandparents are tech-savvy).

3. Milestone Creations
There are several viral videos floating around the internet where a dad (yes, a dad) took a picture of his daughter each day before school and compiled them to show how she changed throughout the year.  Great idea to make every day an important occasion.  Let me set up an account for each child and take photos each day or week.  If I haven’t been back, shoot me an email to remind me.  Then give the option to build other products around the photos like a “first-day of school” compilation where I have photos of each year they were in school or a “missing teeth” album, or a “bumps, bruises & scrapes” montage.  I think you get the idea.

My point is that as a stay-at-home dad, I’m looking for creative ways to share the experiences of my kids with our family and friends.  The resources currently available are targeted toward moms and grandmothers (both in style and content). There is a real sales opportunity for the companies able to engage this emerging market.

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