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Design Of The Times

Greeting cards reflect the changing face of America.

If you're wondering what's happening in America, turn your attention to the greeting-card aisles. Industry stalwart Hallmark Cards is branching out into lines that extend far beyond your run-of-the-mill birthdays and anniversaries.

"People are ready for new things," says Rachel Bolton of Kansas City, Missouri-based Hallmark Cards Inc.

To that end, Hallmark now offers cards addressing such concerns as job loss, drug rehabilitation, terminal illness and suicide. Don't think anyone wants to talk about such weighty matters? According to Hallmark, so-called "alternative cards" bring in nearly one-third of industry sales.

"The time is right," says Bolton, point-ing to the results of detailed research Hallmark's Creative Advisory Group conducts on societal trends. "People want [these cards]."

Of course, that doesn't mean there isn't still a lucrative market for more traditional greetings. "If you look at the spectrum of people, you always have those who are on the leading edge and those who are ahead of the pack," observes Bolton. "We've got to [cover] that broad spectrum." Especially when you care enough to do the very best market research.

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This article was originally published in the April 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Design Of The Times.

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